citybiz+ Zenkai Sports, Whose Advisers Include Ex-Under Armour Exec Matt Shearer, Raises $1 Million

Zenkai Sports, a maker of natural and sustainable sports apparel whose advisers include former Under Armour executive Matt Shearer, has announced a $1 million funding round.

The Portland, Ore., firm was founded by former pro hockey player Doug Lynch and apparel industry veterans Raj and Akhil Shah, Indian-origin entrepreneurs who immigrated to the United States from Kenya.

“The human body is the ultimate technology, and we are harnessing the power of sweat to boost performance,” said Lynch, who serves as the company’s CEO. “We created Zenkai because we didn’t see an option in the apparel industry that benefits both humans and the environment.”

Zenkai uses 92% biodegradable materials and has developed patented technology called Filium to build fabric from activated natural materials that requires less frequent washing and boosts performance through increased thermoregulation.

Ex-Lacrosse Pro

The Canadian-born Shearer, 49, is a former lacrosse player with a decade of performance in the National Lacrosse League and Major League Lacrosse. For two seasons in the 1990s, he turned out for Baltimore Thunder in the NLL, guiding it to the playoffs in 1998. Shearer also played for the Canadian national lacrosse team for 10 years. Ahead of his retirement from the sport in 2007, Shearer began building up a career in sports apparel, joining Under Armour in 2001.

Shearer is credited with launching Under Armour in Canada, introducing the brand in the country and building partnerships with Hockey Canada, the NHL and other sporting leagues to drive growth. In later years, he led Under Armour’s growth in other global markets such as Mexico, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. When he left Under Armour in 2020, after a nearly 20-year career, he was senior vice president for North American operations, overseeing a region that clocked $3.5 billion in sales.

Currently, Shearer is a partner at CEO Coaching International, which trains and mentors CEOs to achieve extraordinary results.

Sustainability + High Performance

Zenkai, founded in 2018, has patented technology called Filium to create fabrics that require less washing and boosts performance by keeping athletes cooler. Its apparel is 92% biodegradable and even its packaging is compostable.

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“We are passionate about the environment and the future of the planet,” said cofounder Raj Shah. “We invested years of research and millions of dollars to develop Filium, which we believe to be a better, more sustainable performance technology.”

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Besides Filium, Zenkai has engineered a plant-based fabric of ultra-soft Pima cotton that meets sustainability standards. Its core technology complies with bluesign standards for production of sustainable materials, and its factory is certified Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex for containing no harmful substances. Zenkai’s high-performance apparel is used by athletes in the NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB, NWSL and MMA.

Lynch played professional hockey for 15 years, before retiring in 2015. He built a hockey consulting firm, Doug Lynch Hockey, which was acquired by ProSmart Sports Enterprises. Besides Shearer, Zenkai’s strategic advisors include Chris Overholt, former CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee.