TimberHP by GO Lab was founded in 2016 by architect, Matthew O’Malia, and Chemistry Professor, Joshua Henry. They met fortuitously and started their startup journey with a mission to reduce embodied carbon in buildings, while providing economic opportunity in the communities they care about in rural Maine.
TimberHP began manufacturing insulation made from wood fiber in 2023 as an environmentally-friendly and cost-competitive alternative to traditional fiberglass and foam insulation. Made from wood chips and waste from mills in Maine and the Northern Forest, the product, says O’Malia, solves two problems. One, it reduces embodied carbon in buildings which are responsible for 40 percent of our carbon footprint in the U.S. and, two, it creates a new, much needed market for low-grade wood.
The company also purchased a recently closed paper mill in Madison, ME, and brought back some of the engineering and production staff who were familiar with the capabilities of the relatively modern facility. “Not all manufacturing would make sense for Maine,” said Henry, “but there is a deep connection to the forest industry and an employment base that can make wood products.”
With a business plan, facility, equipment, and a fledgling team lined up, the company began to fundraise in earnest. “We are not a normal start up,” said Henry. “A house is most people’s biggest investment. They don’t want something made in the garage. It has to be vetted and operating at the highest levels. That’s expensive – we had $4 million in engineering costs before we even got to financing – but true projects of social and environmental impact are going to be risky and they need that early stage capital.”
The Flex Fund invested $200,000 in convertible debt (which has since converted to equity) into the more than $130 million endeavor. In addition to manufacturing a low-embodied carbon product and bringing jobs back to rural Maine, the company is committed to being an employer of choice, creating over 120 jobs in administration, sales and marketing, and production. These jobs are offered at competitive wages, including health and retirement plans, paid time off, on job training, continuing education and more. Entry level production positions start at $25 an hour.