On Wednesday, July 15, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI) hosted the final round of the 2015 Green Chemistry and Engineering Business Plan Competition. Three semi-finalists arrived at the 19th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference (GC&E) in Bethesda, MD to present their business plans to a panel of expert judges and compete for a $10,000 prize. The day was much anticipated after months of preliminary activities which included an executive summary round, a business plan round, and a social media round.
With the intent of enabling new technologies and providing entrepreneurship-related educational opportunities for the green chemistry community, the ACS GCI put out a call for executive summaries from early-stage green chemistry and engineering companies. From more than a dozen applications, the three semi-finalists were selected:
- IBEX: Dedicated to the development of bionomic products in the areas of Agriculture, Environmental Remediation, Bio-Industry, and Human Health
- SustAnalyze: data-driven software that speed up the development of sustainable chemicals by increasing efficiency of chemical R&D processes
- Verdant Applied Sciences: advanced chemical recycling technology, where automation makes recycling practical in any lab.
The semi-finalists were then provided a free subscription to Business Plan Pro and a free webinar on the software led by Dr. Dan Daly, the Director of Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs. With this new toolbox, the teams then had to complete a full written business plan and prepare a twelve minute presentation for the in-person final round.
In an effort to raise awareness of green chemistry and emphasize the important role chemistry plays in all of our lives, the third and most unique component of this competition was the social media score. We ran a crowdsourcing campaign called “Change the World with Green Chemistry,” which allowed for anyone in the world to have a stake in this competition. This platform enabled individuals from all backgrounds to learn how these new technologies are changing the world and then vote for the one(s) they want to see come to market.
The teams were well-practiced and ready to present to the expert judges: Dr. Dan Daly, Dr. Rajesh Mehta (Program Manager at the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research Program), and Nareg Sagherian (Chief Commercialization Officer, Policy Advisor, and Investment Officer for the Small Business Administration). After watching all three presentations, grilling each team with hard-hitting questions, and individual feedback sessions, the judges deliberated and selected Verdant as the grand prize winner!
"The contest is very true to its stated goals of supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in the green technology space. Many business plan competitions that are springing up attempt to impose geographical or financial terms that may not be in the best interest the business' growth," said Matt Miles, Founder and Director of Research & Development of Verdant. "The steps requested were all very beneficial to the development of the business as the contest moved forward, beginning with the pitch video, and then developing the full business plan, and promoting the business on social media, and finally preparing and delivering a presentation with valuable feedback at the end. Each of these added value to the business that carries forward beyond the victory or loss of the competition. Without the competition, I would not be quite so far along."
Verdant has developed a programmable solvent recycler. The company’s pilot product enables complex mixtures to be separated for the first time. Whether it’s hazardous chemical waste, wastewater, or other outputs, the chemical industry and academic labs are constantly managing solvent mixtures (and are often sent for incineration). Currently, the Verdant prototype saves the user over $40 for every gallon of common laboratory solvent recycled. The company was created by Miles, a graduate of Northern Kentucky University who has guided product development from concept to implementation. Alongside Miles, Nathan Kinsmann serves as an engineer overseeing manufacturing and operations and David Abdon as the head of sales and marketing.
"With the completion of the industrial scale pilot, the next steps involve demonstrating the machine in front of some interested parties," said Miles. "While the concept was envisioned as a stand-alone recycler, some manufacturers have expressed interest in incorporating the technology into their existing architecture. The initial revenue from licensing this technology to firms who can put it into immediate use would allow us to secure in-house means of production, and to develop programs which will expand the types of hazardous waste which it can separate and recycle."
We look forward to watching Verdant and the other competing companies develop, and to preparing for next year’s competition which will be hosted at the 20th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in June 2016 in Portland, OR!
Thank you to all who participated in the competition! And a huge thank you again to our three judges/panelists who helped review the applications and make the day a huge success.
If you would like to participate in or sponsor the 2016 competition, email Savannah Sullivan (email@example.com).
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