Belfast start-up Responsible raises €5.8m in funding round led by Barclays

Nextdoor chief executive Sarah Friar also among backers of Belfast-based company

Responsible, a start-up that has developed a technology solution that allows upmarket fashion brands to buy back previously worn items from shoppers, has secured $6.6 million (€5.8 million) in funding from backers that include Barclays bank and leading Silicon Valley tech executive Sarah Friar.

The Belfast-based company is the brainchild of Mark Dowds, a former EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist who in 2012 established Trov, which is believed to have been the world's first on-demand insurance platform. Mr Dowds is also co-founder of Ormeau Baths in Belfast, a co-working space that is home to a large number of start-ups and is a venture partner at Anthemis Group, and chairman of Techstart Ventures.

The seed round has been led by Barclays’ Sustainable Impact Capital initiative and Techstart Ventures. Other participants include Ms Friar, the Co Tyrone-born chief executive of Nasdaq-listed Nextdoor, who was previously chief financial officer of the Jack Dorsey-founded fintech, Square.

Responsible, which was founded a year ago by Mr Dowds and Mitch Doust, employs 25 people. It is seeking to address the problem of sustainability in the fashion world by partnering with brands to give customers the option at check-out to sell items back at the end of their life for a predetermined price that is redeemable as credit.



Among the brands that have signed up to the platform are Raeburn, Côte&Ciel, Kuyichi and Kings of Indigo. Mr Dowds said a number of other brands would be announced as partners in the coming months.

Responsible has a warehouse in Belfast where it manages the logistics surrounding the resale of items. The start-up intends to use the seed funding to establish a presence in the European Union.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Dowds said the fashion industry manufactures billions of items every year, but currently only 5-7 per cent of these clothes are sold for a second time.

“Brands at present have no control of their products in the secondary market so partnering with us gives them that. It also encourages better loyalty and allows them to gain financially from the resale of items. In addition, brands are further motivated to partner with Responsible because of forthcoming EU legislation to promote the circular economy,” he said.

Ms Friar, who has emerged as a strong angel investor in Northern Irish-based start-ups, having recently backed both MedAll and Cloudsmith, said she was excited to see another company from the North stepping up with a global solution to help the planet.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist