What does the name 'Vyld' mean and how do you pronounce it?
'Vyld' is pronounced "wild". And the name says it all, because we also want to contribute to more nature connection with our products. The "V" stands for "vagina" and shows "love and peace". The "y" stands for "why" and shows that we care about more than just beautiful products.
What does 'Algaeverse' mean?
'Algaeverse' describes our vision of a universe of sustainable algae products that helps establish a regenerative economy within the boundaries and cycles of the living world, and that contributes to greater global equality.
I don't menstruate at all, what does that have to do with me?
Vyld is not just about developing better period products, but specifically about contributing to ocean health. By linking menstrual health and ocean conservation, we can contribute to at least 12 of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
I don't use tampons - will there be other products made from seaweed?.
We are starting with tampons because we feel that improvement is most urgent there - after all, they are in contact with one of the most sensitive parts of the body for many hours. In the future, we plan to include all other types of absorbent products, from panty liners to pads to diapers to incontinence products, and maybe beyond!
Why use seaweed at all?
Because seaweed is one of the most sustainable materials around and a regenerative resource - its controlled cultivation doesn't harm the oceans, but can actually help them. Seaweeds grow super fast and as a zero-input-crop, without fresh water, pesticides, fertilizers or land resources. In the process, algae bind large amounts of CO2 and nitrogen and produce more oxygen than trees. For tampons, the absorbent seaweed fibers are great because they are naturally white and do not need to be bleached. More on why seaweed is so great in our little video.
Isn't the seaweed then missing in nature when harvested?.
Seaweed can be grown and harvested in such a way that the main part of the plant is preserved and the algae grows back well and quickly in the same place. And that is, after all, a very important point for Vyld - we want to implement controlled seaweed cultivation as a marine reforestation measure.
Why is controlled seaweed cultivation good for the environment?.
Growing seaweed in marine permaculture helps stabilize existing ecosystems. Algae provide nursery, food and habitat for fish and other animals. They reduce greenhouse gasses and clean the ocean by fixing large amounts of CO2 and nitrogen. In this way, they counteract ocean acidification and thus also save coral reefs. They also produce large quantities of vital oxygen. Their controlled cultivation can therefore be an active contribution to addressing the climate crisis. Vyld is part of a global movement to build such marine permaculture, with the goal of establishing large-scale seaweed cultivation in a healthy way and not repeating the mistakes of landbased agriculture.
Why is algae cultivation good for the people, too?
By promoting controlled seaweed cultivation, the living conditions of coastal communities are improved. Various pilot projects have been able to demonstrate that new income opportunities related to algae cultivation tend to benefit womxn and can thus contribute to gender equality.
What kind of algae do you use?
We work with marine macroalgae, more specifically brown algae (Phaeophyceae). Because different brown algae contain the polymers we need for the 'Kelpons', we're not limited to one species - and that's pretty awesome, because theoretically we can use algae sourced as regionally as possible anywhere in the world.
Where does your seaweed come from?
For our first prototypes, we used seaweed from the North Atlantic - and it is also our long-term goal to contribute to the establishment of a European marine permaculture and to also use European seaweed for the European market. However, since the European algae industry is still in its infancy, we will initially source our algae from other seas such as the Pacific. Since we are not limited to one species, in the long run we can hopefully use the respective local species for the different markets.
Doesn't seaweed bind many heavy metals like mercury? What about the high iodine content? And what about microplastics?
In fact, algae have a kind of filtering function and can bind heavy metals. But since we don't use the whole biomass for our fibers, but only an extract, our 'Kelpons' don't contain any pollutants. The same is true for iodine, which many algae naturally contain in high concentrations - our 'Kelpons' have no increased iodine concentration.
Why is seaweed suitable for menstrual products?.
Algae and seaweed fibers are traditionally used in medical applications because of their absorbent, anti-inflammatory and hypoallergenic (i.e. they hardly trigger any allergies) properties. Due to the particularly silky surface structure of the seaweed fibers, our 'Kelpons' are especially easy to insert even without a plastic cover around them. In addition, we were able to prove in the lab that the vaginal microbiome reacts better to seaweed fibers than to conventionally used materials.
So how does an seaweed become a tampon?
Seaweed is harvested from the ocean, then dried and ground. An extract is obtained from the powder in an environmentally friendly process. The naturally white extract can then be spun out into a fiber - much like viscose, only without all the chemicals. So the fibers are completely naturally silky, smooth and absorbent. The remaining components of the seaweed can be used for other things - for example, to make vegan seaweed burger patties or as fertilizers.
What is the problem with conventional period products? There are already cup & co, right?
Yes, fortunately there are already some more sustainable alternatives, like period panties, menstrual cups, and organic cotton tampons! And it's great that menstruators finally have a wider choice (by the way, many people also combine different products). However, cup & Co do not work for everyone (keyword: vaginal birth) and especially not in all situations (keyword: access to running water). Unfortunately, many of the products still contain plastic and are therefore neither good for the human body, nor for the environment. In addition, many users experience an unpleasant feeling of dryness with conventional tampons, especially during insertion and/or removal. Since menstruation is a completely natural process, the products for it should also be natural! Btw - marine sponges are natural, but dead animals, and therefore not our thing.
How did you come up with the idea of making products out of seaweed?.
During her training as a marine guide, some kind of ocean ranger, Ines learned about the incredible potential of seaweed. A healthy, sustainable rawmaterial that has long been used in various areas, such as food and medicine. At the same time, as a menstruator, she was not really happy with existing period products. With Vyld, she can combine two topics close to her heart: Gender equality and ocean health.
Are you doing anything about period poverty, too?
Period poverty, the fact that many menstruators are financially unable to handle their menstruation safely and hygienically, is a global problem - also in Germany and other countries in the Global North. We believe that access to period products in public places should be as free as access to toilet paper. That's why we also support initiatives that want to realize this political goal.
Why do you always talk about menstruators and not just say women?
We use this inclusive wording because not all women menstruate and not everyone who menstruates is a woman.
Why isn't the 'Kelpon' green?
Because we use an extract for the 'Kelpons' and not the whole seaweed, the color pigments don't get into the tampon fibers in the first place. The extract is naturally white-beige and therefore we don't need to bleach the tampons - a little gift from nature. And of course it makes sense to use white menstrual products because the color of the menstrual fluid can indicate health issues. But maybe someday there will be a green "limited edition" - then of course colored with dye from seaweed :)
Are the 'Kelpons' vegan?
Of course! Our 'Kelpons' are not meant to harm anyone, including non-human animals. In fact, by sourcing the seaweed from controlled cultivation, we are actively creating habitats for non-human animals. And because we don't need pesticides, we don't contribute to the mass extinction of insects.
If the 'Kelpon' is biodegradable, won't it dissolve inside of me?.
The biodegradability of the 'Kelpon' is very important to us, and we expect them to be degradable in a few weeks, both on land and in water. However, since the 'Kelpon' only stays in the body for a few hours, you don't have to worry about it dissolving there.
Why can't I buy the 'Kelpons' yet?
We are still in the middle of product development - after all, the 'Kelpon' is the world's first tampon made from seaweed! Because we want to develop really good products, we want to involve menstruators in the product development from the beginning - that's why the goal of our crowdfunding is the production of the first beta version 'Kelpons', ready to be tested by our community.
How much will the 'Kelpon' cost when it goes to market?
Our product, being a real technological innovation, will be more expensive than the average tampon at the beginning. In the long term, however, we are sure that we can achieve price parity with conventional tampons, or even be cheaper - on the one hand, because controlled seaweed cultivation will grow and supply chains will become established, and on the other hand, because the other raw materials will become more expensive as a result of climate change, because they rely on large quantities of fresh water and fertile land.
What is Steward Ownership and why are you doing it?
Because we as a company want to grow as sustainably as our seaweed, we started Vyld in Steward Ownership. This means that instead of growing as fast as possible like a "normal" startup in order to then be able to sell the company for as much as possible ("exit"), we also focus on the long term in our business model - and have legally binding commitment to this in our articles of association. Vyld as a company owns itself and is not an object of speculation.
Steward Ownership has two core principles:
1. self-governance - the "steering wheel" of the company, i.e. the voting rights, always lie with the people who actively work in the company, not with (external) investors.
2. profits serve purpose - profits generated by Vyld cannot be privatized, because they are means to pursue our mission and not an end in itself to make investors (or us founders) rich; they are therefore not distributed to shareholders, but reinvested in the mission.
A charitable foundation has a veto vote that would prevent any change in the bylaws that could undermine these principles.
What are the payment methods for the crowdfunding?
You can give your support via direct debit (you only need your IBAN), credit card or Apple Pay. Due to legal requirements, Startnext unfortunately cannot offer Paypal (yes we know, sad).
How does crowdfunding work?
A crowdfunding campaign has a fixed start and end date - within this time window the project can be supported. Our campaign runs from 9/5/22 to 9/30/22.
It works on an all-or-nothing principle, meaning only if the 'start level' is reached, the money will be paid to us. If the start level is not reached, the supporters will get their money back.
Of course we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts if you support our work - that's what the 'rewards' are for. But only if the start level is reached, the supporters can get their rewards - so it is super important to reach the start level quickly (50.000€).
Our goal is 100.000€!
Kelpons will be added to EVERY reward!
(Provided that we reach the 100.000€ with your support.)
Because only when we raise that together, we can realize the production of the first 'Kelpon' beta-version batch - and you get your test packages!
Crowdfunding lives on the fact that many people (the 'crowd') participate and thus together move something big even with smaller contributions - like a school of fish that together can drive away a shark.
So please forward the campaign to people who care about ocean health and/or gender equality as much as you do - every support counts!