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These two Aussie surfers started Seabin in an effort to clean up the world's oceans – and it just crowdfunded more than $1.2 million in investment

Jack Derwin
  • Australian business Seabin has turned to equity crowdfunding to scale its technology which automatically filters seawater.
  • Started by two Australians Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Thurton, the business has raised $1.2 million and counting from around 1000 small investors
  • The Seabin clips on to marinas and ports, with all of its current units filtering 500 million litres of seawater each day.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

It makes sense that two guys who spent much of their lives in the ocean would want to clean it up.

Together, Peter Ceglinski and Andrew Thurton came up with Seabin, a device that automatically filters seawater from microplastics, oil and rubbish, from the big blue.

"I was fortunate enough to grow up near the water and I think surfing instilled a respect for the ocean and the environment," Ceglinski, who spent his childhood in far north New South Wales, told Business Insider Australia. "It was only when I left Australia that I really started to understand the plastic problem in our oceans."

After studying industrial design, Ceglinski spent years consulting on how to design, manufacture, commercialise, and engineer products. Feeling "disillusioned" with making disposable and overcomplicated kettles and toasters, however, he left in search of a change. It was while making America's Cup racing yachts that he met his business partner Andrew Thurton who had had an idea rattling around his head to clean up the world's oceans.

"Andrew's the inventor but he didn't know how to take the next step and I was like, 'mate, I do this for a living', and it was just this lightbulb moment," Ceglinski said.

Quitting his job in 2014, Ceglinski put his home deposit up to fund the project. From it came the Seabin: an electronic unit that attaches to marinas and berths to filter rubbish from the ocean 24 hours a day.

While there was clearly demand for such a product, it was never destined to be all smooth sailing, despite Ceglinski's yachting experience. The two were running out of money when they decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to see if they couldn't leverage some interested investors. It didn't end well. They were kicked off the platform after a different Kickstarter campaign was exposed as a scam and the crowdfunding platform got paranoid.

"There was this guy who raised $4 million with a thing called the Laser Razor, except it turned out it wasn't a laser – it was just a hotwire," Ceglinski said. "It was embarrassing for Kickstarter and after the backlash they got they kicked off anyone without a working prototype."

While Seabin did find the money it needed to bring a product to market, it was hardly a good introduction to equity crowdfunding, where otherwise private companies open themselves up for community investment. It went on to expand from six countries to 52, moving to France to make it happen. According to the company estimates, its units filter half a billion litres of water and capture 3.6 tons of marine litter.

It's now looking to go bigger again, expanding to all 192 countries with a shoreline, and it's coming back to Australia to capitalise on the momentum.

"If we can bring on seed investment, or the seed capital, we can do an exponential jump and we can really grow," he said.

"We have this massive debt of gratitude to the people who originally supported us and we want to give them a chance to take a financial stake in the business," Ceglinski said, acknowledging the opportunity would hopefully produce both a good return on investment as well as a good turn for the world's waterways.

With Australians able to invest $250 or more, they can buy shares which they will have the chance to sell every 12 months if they wish.

There's clearly a few interested, with the campaign raising more than $1 million from around 1,000 investors in the first four days. With 20 days left, Ceglinski and Thurton hope to raise enough to continue scaling a business that has won accolades and praise from the United Nations (UN), Time and Microsoft.

"Tackling the issue of plastics in our oceans is huge and requires a strong team and passionate following," Birchal co-founder Alan Crabbe said in a statement. "Clearly, Seabin has both, and with 950 plus new owners and [more than] $1.1 million raised so far, the future's looking bright for the Seabin Project and of course our oceans too."