Checkerspot Co-founders Charles Dimmler (left) and Scott Franklin worked together for over a decade before founding the materials innovation start-up in 2016. By understanding the genetic code of microalgae, they are creating new classes of performance materials.

Berkeley-CA-based Checkerspot, Inc., a materials innovation company, has closed its Series A financing for $13 million. The round was led by Builders VC, and included Breakout Ventures, Viking Global Investors, KdT Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Sahsen Ventures, and Godfrey Capital, among others. Jim Kim, general partner of Builders VC, will join the Board of Directors.

A 2018 graduate of the Illumina Accelerator, Checkerspot’s innovation platform integrates biotechnology, chemistry and fabrication. The company’s focus to date is on two classes of materials: polyurethanes and textile finishes, each of which is derived from novel triglycerides (oils) from microalgae. Biotechnology and industrial fermentation processes enable Checkerspot to deliver these unique materials not previously accessible at commercial scale.

The company’s initial commercial progress has focused on high value consumer applications, including a performance textile wicking finish now marketed in partnership with Beyond Surface Technologies. Through other commercial relationships, the company is set to expand into additional industrial verticals where performance materials can competitively differentiate products and brands. Last year, Checkerspot and DIC Corporation announced a Joint Development Agreement to create a new class of novel, high performance polyols.

“Checkerspot is differentiated in its approach by focusing on more rapidly bringing to market high value materials with unique properties presently unavailable with traditional manufacturing processes. At Builders we partner with companies that are developing real solutions to modernize antiquated industries. Checkerspot’s approach of integrating biotechnology and materials science, then demonstrating the value of rapid prototyping and applications development, is exactly that. We fully expect that Checkerspot’s platform development and expansion into a wide range of industries will usher in a new way of thinking for how product designers apply and source performance materials,” said Jim Kim of Builders VC.

“Driven by consumers, many brands recognize market demand continuing to increase for new materials and ingredients that deliver novel performance and are also more sustainable. Suppliers to these brands are responding. We’re pleased to welcome new investors that share our conviction on how we are prioritizing our market entry points, demonstrating our capabilities and creating value quickly,” said Charles Dimmler, CEO and co-founder of Checkerspot.

“We are breaking new ground at the intersection of molecular biology and materials science, and this financing will allow us to continue to build out our existing materials and products while at the same time allow us to further expand the application of these materials across multiple industries. Fundamentally, we see microalgal triglycerides as scaffolds upon which to build entirely new classes of materials,” added Scott Franklin, CSO and co-founder of Checkerspot.