Belfast fashion-tech start-up Responsible invests £1.2m in expansion

21 Feb 2022

Susan O'Kane, Invest NI's eastern regional manager, and Mark Dowds, Responsible founder and CEO. Image: Invest NI

The start-up, which is developing a re-commerce finance platform for retailers, is investing £1.2m to expand its operations and staff.

Fashion-tech start-up Responsible is investing more than £1.2m to expand its business and its headcount. The company has already hired 11 new people and is looking to fill a further two roles at its Belfast headquarters.

Responsible received £98,000 from Invest NI towards the creation of these jobs and the expansion of its operations. Invest NI will also assist the start-up with strategic business advice and support to protect its intellectual property.

Susan O’Kane, Invest NI’s eastern regional manager, identified the business as a “high-potential start-up with vast potential in the dynamic sustainability sector”.

Responsible’s expansion follows the closure of its $6.6m (£5m) seed funding round last month.

Founded last year, Responsible aims to promote sustainability in fashion by incentivising brands and consumers to buy, sell and trade clothes. It has created Buy Back technology, which involves partnering with fashion brands directly to include them in the resale of used clothes and facilitate consumers’ return processes.

The start-up is based in Belfast’s Weavers Court. It founder and CEO is Mark Dowds, who also set up a co-working space for local innovators and entrepreneurs called Ormeau Baths.

According to Dowds, his experience developing the co-working hub opened his eyes to the skills in the region.

“I’ve seen first-hand the high standard of talent on offer in Northern Ireland through the development of Ormeau Baths. I knew that this type of talent would be vital to our success, and we decided to base our HQ in Belfast, over New York, London or Amsterdam,” he said.

He first approached Invest NI last year for support in setting up Responsible. “We have a zero-waste ambition for our business and need to be at the cutting edge of sustainable innovation if our business is to reach new markets in Great Britain and Europe. With Invest NI’s support we will establish an innovation hub here in Belfast that will help us unlock growth.”

Responsible has also availed of funding from Techstart NI, which is part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance suite of debt and equity funds. It is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014–2020.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.