After three years of intensive R&D and winning numerous national and international recognitions, Lam’on, the startup that has developed biodegradable laminating film for the printing industry, attracts its first investors. The two business angels Sasha Bezuhanova, a former senior executive at HP and board member of the European Insitute of Technology, and Svetozar Georgiev, co-founder of Telerik and Campus X, are joining the company’s board and investing €150k into its further development.
“We’re extremely happy that these are the two new ‘members of our team’ given their expertise and experience,” comments co-founder Angela Ivanova. The funding will be used for certifications, finalizing their patent registration, purchasing materials, and equipment. The company is currently finalizing several pilots with Bulgarian print houses and is preparing to start exporting in the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK later this year. A new product will also be launched later in spring.
“Lam’on has tremendous market potential and is entering the market just at the right point. Their product is a true innovation for the printing industry – especially for luxurious magazines that are not recyclable now, but also for the packaging industry. Not least, we are happy to join a team of truly passionate founders and help them structure the business,” says Sasha Bezuhanova. Together with Svetozar Georgiev, the two business angels hold a bit over 10% of the company.
From the own problem to a solution for the industry
In 2017, the photographer Angela Ivanova and the illustrator Gergana Stancheva joined a project that aimed to create a completely biodegradable children book. They started looking for recyclable alternatives to make it glossy (usually done by laminating) and ended up purchasing degradable laminating film from Taiwan. As the material arrived, it turned out it was indeed the right type of film, however, there was no way to stick it to the paper. There was no glue layer, and with the conventional one, it would mean that it again couldn’t be recycled. Ivanova and Stancheva then decided to step out of the project and dedicate themselves to the development of a solution for this printing industry issue. So, Lam’on was born. The two went through the idea stage accelerator CliemateLaunchpad and received initial funding of €15K to develop the idea. Around this time, they managed to attract also their third co-founder Philip Ublekov, a researcher at the Institute of Polymers of Bulgarian Academy of Science.
To create the desired material and glue, the newly formed team of three ran various experiments and finally decided to base the new laminating film on polylactic acid, which is basically made out of cornstarch and other ferments. Ublekov also developed a formula for a water-soluble glue that would make the separation of paper and laminating film easy, which according to Ivanova is the more significant innovation of Lam’on.
Since 2018, the biodegradable laminating film of Lam’on is out of the lab and the team has run numerous tests with Bulgarian partners – both producers and potential clients from the printing industry. A great advantage of the product is the fact it could be produced in normal production sites where the conventional laminating film is made too, explain the co-founders. In the next months, another product that imitates glossy lack lamination will be also launched.
Last year, the Bulgarian startup was among the top 10 global finalists of the social entrepreneurship contest Chivas the Venture and won $30K.
The past year, alongside running tests and pilots, the three founders spent in active sales and negotiations with partners in Bulgaria and throughout Europe, and they will soon be ready to start planned production. “Many of our potential clients, also outside Bulgaria, were surprised to find out there’s an alternative to the toxic and non-degradable laminating film used in the traditional printing industry. The product was received well, as this industry is aware of the problem,” explains Ivanova. According to her, the laminating materials segment is almost monopolized in Europe, and this has been the reason for many printing houses to not really look for more eco-friendly alternatives so far. The team is now also thinking in the direction of food packages, aiming to certify its product in the near future.
Own production site is what the team is planning for 2022 and they will start equipping it as soon as early next year. Up until then, the co-founders are planning to purchase a small-scale production machine and further develop their product line adding different variations of the basic laminating film.
“I believe that Lam’on has the potential to be an important player in the European printing and packaging industry for the years to come, and I’m proud that such an innovation is coming from Bulgaria,” Bezuhanova shares her expectations.