In July 2021, BLOCK71 had the opportunity to do an interview with one of the BLOCK71 Indonesia community startups, Mycotech Labs or MYCL. We invite Ronaldiaz Hartantyo as Chief of Innovation Officer MYCL to share his insightful journey in building collaborations between MYCL and various brands. In this article, we will get to know about MYCL as well and explore tips for collaboration with other brands.
Curious yet? Let’s dive in!
Get to Know MYCL
MYCL is a biotech company based in Bandung that focuses on growing sustainable materials using mushroom technology. Adi Reza Nugroho, Ronaldiaz Hartantyo, Robby Zidna Ilman, M. Arkha Bentangan L, and Annisa Wibi Ismarlanti came together as gourmet mushroom producers in 2012. Inspired by tempe, the traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans, they use a similar concept to create a sustainable material from agricultural waste with mushroom mycelium.
MYCLteam started their experiment with the Growbox, a DIY mushroom kit that you can grow anytime and anywhere. Afterward, they did a lot of research and then found out that mushrooms are not only gourmet, but can also be used in materials. Their first creation with mushroom mycelium is a building material, but over time, mycelium can also be used as a leather-like material, and they see the potential to enter the fashion industry.
Creating sustainable materials as an alternative choice
Each year, almost one billion cows are killed. They are being hunted for their skin. Then, leather is a kind of bioproduct from the livestock industry, which contributes as much as 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. That's a big problem! Starting from the concern that the leather material is quite volatile and there aren't many sustainable and functional alternatives materials yet, MYCL has the ultimate goal to solve the problem.
With a mission to provide sustainable materials from renewable resources at affordable prices, MYCL utilizes organic materials as building materials. Their first project was to build a pavilion called MycoTree. The installation was on display at the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in collaboration with ETH Zurich. They chose building material as their first interaction with mycelium because most founders have backgrounds in that field. Then, with some research and exploration that they have done, they finally develop their business into the fashion industry. They believe that the fashion industry can provide MYCL to achieve its market strategy with the existing opportunities.
Now MYCL has MyleaTM, a leather-like material, which can be used for various products, such asjournals, shoes, wallets, bags, watches, and other fashionable products. MYCL hopes that their product will soon be available in the market and provide choices by providing light leather material that is more sustainable, affordable, doesn’t use heavy chemicals, volatile organic compounds, and doesn’t kill animals.
To make this product, MYCL works with local mushroom farmers to cultivate mushrooms. The manufacturing process uses a continuous process from seedling to growing. Mycotech uses mushroom mycelium as a natural adhesive. First off, they create a growth medium made from agricultural waste. Then they spread the mushroom into the medium until it is covered and wait until it’s ready to harvest.
The surface will be peeled off and become the leather material that they will use. The process of growing mushrooms takes about two months. Now, they can make up to 2000 meters of square feet and are still trying to increase the production load because of the high demand.
Collaboration with several brands
MYCL has a long-term strategy to reach the global market. For them, collaboration is one of the strategies to achieve this. So far, MYCL has collaborated with several brands, both local and international brands, to produce products such as watches, sandals, shoes, journals, and wallets.
In 2019, MYCL collaborated with Pala Nusantara to create Kickstarter campaigns. The collaboration between Pala Nusantara and Mycotech is the world's first vegan watch, called PALAMylea. They won five awards in West Java and Indonesia because of the sustainable concept they highlight from that collaboration. Some of them are Indonesia Good Design 2019, 4th Place Blibli Big Start Indonesia, and the 2019 ASEPHI Emerging Award.
In 2021, MYCL will also collaborate with a well-known local sandal brand, Hijack Sandal. Currently, MYCL is also trying to build a pilot program with several global brands, which is also their long-term strategy to reach the global market.
After developing the product, MYCL immediately validated the market for brands and designers. Evaluation is carried out by the feedback obtained. They make improvements along with their development by focusing on direct inputs from those collaborators.
Through a long journey of collaboration, MYCL got one crucial lesson: focus on metrics that matter based on market validations.
Collaboration Tips a la MYCL
Collaboration is a strategic step to strengthen the business. Seeing that MYCL has often collaborated with various brands and even received awards, what is the primary key to collaboration? Here are some tips from Ronaldiaz. Let’s start!
The first tip is to align expectations between the two stakeholders to build collaboration, don't put your expectations too high.
“We have to know what expectations we can accommodate and what expectations they can accommodate. Everyone has different goals by aligning the expectations. We try to align our goals and bring them in the same direction. So, don't look for a common vision, but look for the intersection,” quoted from Ronaldiaz.
Low expectation leads to happiness.
One of the things that MYCL holds is this slogan, which means that we must know our abilities or where our current stage is, and don't promise things that are beyond our capability. After learning where our minimum and maximum limits are, look for our potential collaborators who will accept us. But, keep in mind, do not lower our bar! That way, all parties will be happy to collaborate.
First Interaction with BLOCK71
From a collaboration with ETH Zurich, which has a laboratory at the National University of Singapore called the Future Cities Laboratory in 2017-2019, leads MYCL to join BLOCK71 Singapore. Seeing how vibrant the BLOCK71 Singapore’s community is in accommodating the startups to generate its MVP and providing access to the market, they decide to be a part of the community as well.
MYCL is based in Bandung, so when the time came for BLOCK71 present in Bandung, they decided to sign in as community members. Quoting Ronaldiaz's statement, he said it’s convenient for them. The building is accessible for the team to go back and forth from their production house to control the product and to BLOCK71 Bandung office to have a meeting with their clients.
Message to All Founders Out There
These days, everything can be obtained easily, quickly, and instantly. Thus, the waiting process becomes less valuable. We want to rapidly achieve our goals and when the reality is far from our expectations, we tend to give up easily.
The key skill that all founders have to possess is focus. There are things we can control and can't control. Let’s focus on the things that we have control over and let the rest unfold as it is. Give it your best!
Whew, what a motivation!
Oh, we have exciting news from MYCL! This year, MYCL will launch their collaboration products with Pala Nusantara and Hijack Sandals. Are you as excited as we are?