Earlier this year, the ACS GCI held their business plan competition as part of the annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference. There were four finalists, all of which convened in Washington, DC to pitch their companies for the title and $10,000 grand prize. The teams were scored on their business plans and final presentations in addition to a score for social media. The ACS GCI believes that everyone has a stake in the success of innovative technologies that will change the way business is done to be more sustainable. So all semi-finalists participate in a crowdfunding campaign for the competition that not only boosts the grand prize winnings, but helps market their technology and spread the message of how green chemistry can and will change the world.
The winner of the 2014 competition was SioTeX, a start-up firm developing a drop-in replacement for fumed silica, a popular additive for paints, tires, and plastics. Headquartered in San Marcos, Texas, SioTeX will produce and distribute Eco-Sil, an environmentally friendly alternative to fumed silica manufactured from rice hulls, a renewable resource. Lisa Taylor (VP of Sales and Marketing) and Ash Kotwal (VP of Manufacturing) represented the start-up at the competition. Even before they arrived, they had solidified a lead with their social media score (receiving nearly 75% of the crowdfunding votes, directly raising over $2,300). On-site the duo continued to represent their company well, delivering a succinct and well-organized pitch, highlighting their science and business opportunity. Read about their experience at the competition and what has happened in the six months since:
“SioTeX decided to participate in the 2014 ACS GCI Green Chemistry & Engineering Business Plan Competition due to our energy-efficient production method that reduces pollution and utilizes rice hulls as a raw material source. The business plan competition was dedicated to green chemistry and engineering and focused on sustainability-oriented entrepreneurship. This focus aligns with the SioTeX objective of transforming the specialty silica industry through the use of sustainable manufacturing practices.
The competition proved to be a valuable experience by providing additional validation of our innovative technology and further demonstrating the company’s ability to effectively communicate its corporate strategy. Additionally, it was beneficial to network with professional and student members of the American Chemical Society. Their feedback regarding our business plan and presentation was positive and constructive. Other than receiving the Grand Prize, our favorite part of the business plan competition was helping the Green Chemistry Institute raise awareness about green chemistry and engineering through the crowdfunding aspect of the competition. We are so grateful that we were given the opportunity to present our company. The competition helped SioTeX move forward by providing supplementary funding for startup expenses as well as meaningful connections with relevant academic and industry representatives.
Our greatest challenges as a startup company have been related to raising money, establishing the company infrastructure, scaling production, and building relationships with potential customers. To overcome these challenges, SioTeX established an interdisciplinary team that is supported by excellent mentors and consultants. To complete the seed round of investment, it was critical to compete in multiple business plan competitions, establish connections with angel investor networks, and effectively communicate the opportunity that our business strategy provides. When establishing the company infrastructure, we relied strongly on our existing relationship with Texas State University and leveraged it to establish our pilot plant on campus. SioTeX is currently in the process of scaling production of Eco-Sil from the laboratory to the pilot plant. We have found that it requires creativity, patience, and a systems thinking style to reduce variability and produce a quality product.
Following the competition, the founding members of SioTeX have been diligently working to launch our business. Since the competition, we have had several major successes, including completing our seed round fundraising efforts, beginning construction of our pilot plant, manufacturing our first batches of high quality Eco-Sil samples, and establishing relationships with potential future clients. SioTeX successfully pitched our business plan to several investor groups and raised the capital necessary to launch the company. Our technical team has been busy engineering and constructing the pilot plant in addition to producing Eco-Sil samples for our primary target markets. We are conducting initial prospecting within several markets and have received interest from a number of companies regarding qualification testing of Eco-Sil in their formulations. Ash Kotwal, Vice President of Manufacturing for SioTeX, represented the company at the Greater San Marcos Partnership’s Innovation Summit in November, where SioTeX was nominated as a finalist for the Second Annual Burdick Award.
SioTeX has many objectives and milestones outlined for the 2015 calendar year. We will continue to produce samples of Eco-Sil in our pilot plant and increase sales efforts within our initial target markets. We will be pursuing an additional round of funding in 2015 in order to construct our full scale production plant. The technical team’s focus will be on engineering and scaling logistics essential for the successful establishment of our production plant. We will also remain focused on cultivating and developing partnerships with raw material suppliers.
As the producer of an eco-friendly alternative to fumed silica, green chemistry and engineering are essential to our company’s founding principles and objectives. SioTeX is focused on combining green technology, efficient and energy saving processes, recycling, and the utilization of bio-waste to create a valuable product. We recognize the global need and demand for sustainable technologies and the solutions that green chemistry can provide across industries. SioTeX values and incorporates the principles and practices of green chemistry into all aspects of our production process. As our company grows, we hope to continue to improve our efficiencies and sustainable practices. We are very appreciative to the ACS GCI organizers for selecting our company to compete in the business plan competition. SioTeX looks forward to following the efforts of ACS GCI in addition to following the competition entries in 2015.”
If you would like to apply for the 2015 competition or sponsor the next generation of innovative green chemistry and engineering entrepreneurs, visit the GC&E Business Plan Competition website and/or contact Savannah Sullivan.
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