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Recyclebank Lands Major Investment from Waste Management

At the GreenBiz Innovation Forum this week, we've been talking repeatedly about how to scale innovation -- can a big company be agile, resilient and innovative in the same way that a smaller company can?

One relatively small company that took part in the Forum is about to get a big chance to scale its innovative practices.

Recyclebank this afternoon is announcing a significant investment from Waste Management, one that will open up not just a massive national market for its rewards program, but one that will give the company legs to expand internationally for the first time.

"This is going to be step-function scale for the company," Recyclebank CEO Jonathan Hsu told me in an interview this morning at the GreenBiz Innovation Forum. "First and foremost, it makes Recyclebank the winner, go-forward platform within green incentives. Second, it not only provides us scale of operations, but also scale of resources to really expand across all the pillars of sustainability very quickly now."

The investment has three main components:

  1. Recyclebank will roll out its rewards program to Waste Management's 20 million residential customers nationwide, while also working with Waste Management to develop new offerings for small- and medium-sized businesses;
  2. Recyclebank will take over Waste Management's Greenopolis platform -- not just the websites, but the recycling kiosks and partnerships with companies like Pepsi; and
  3. Waste Management will invest an undisclosed sum in Recyclebank -- a sum that Hsu said would triple Recyclebank's 2012 revenues over 2011 figures.

In addition to those prongs on the platform, the partnership with Waste Management gives Recyclebank the ability to expand into Canada and Brazil, marking the group's biggest expansion to date: Recyclebank is currently in 300 communities in the U.S. and U.K.

But the biggest benefit from today's news will be in giving Recyclebank that new reach; at the same time, Hsu said the expansion is also something of a challenge.

"One of the opportunities and obligations for RecycleBank is that most of the partners we're dealing with are Fortune 500 and indeed Fortune 100 companies. They have operations everywhere and they want us to engage with their customers everywhere," Hsu said. "So it's a matter of how to find that comfortable tension so we don't get ahead of ourselves."

We'll have a lot more from Recyclebank in the coming days: Not only will we be writing about Hsu's interview with Marc Gunther at today's Innovation Forum, but Chrissy Coughlin will be interviewing Hsu for her weekly podcast, the Nature of Business Radio, and Hsu hinted at more big news to come from the company early next week.

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