Solidia Technologies CEO Tom Schuler recommends start-ups ‘First, make it good business, then make it green,’ at Global Cleantech 100 Summit
Submitted by Solidia Technologies
On the heels of his startup being named to the Global Cleantech 100 List, Tom Schuler, CEO of Solidia Technologies®, shared his experience leading a startup with a disruptive technology that reduces carbon emissions up to 70 percent in cement and concrete production at the Global Cleantech 100 Summit, hosted this week by Cleantech Group.
“Sustainability is a business imperative, but if your offering is only green, you’re destined to be a niche product,” said Schuler, drawing from parallel experiences in the building materials sector as the leader of a start-up and previously of a giant global corporate business. "I have a particular bias based on my years on two sides of innovation that just being green doesn’t cut it. The only way to rapidly introduce a sustainable technology into the market is first to make it good business, then make it green.”
"To drive innovation to market, you need the right people, a compelling vision, collaborators who give you market insight and credibility, and not quite enough time," continued Schuler. “While start-ups can shoulder levels of risk too destabilizing to large corporations, they usually fail by running out of time. R&D needs to be focused quickly and directed by market insights and hard data, not theories.”
Concrete is the most widely used material in the world. The cement used to produce it is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. “The industry knows this is a challenge they must address, and they have set goals to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint,” explained Schuler. "Our job at Solidia isn’t only to develop sustainable technologies; it’s to make it possible for industry to adopt them.”
Noting the challenge of introducing innovation to an older, traditional industry, he commented, "We are bringing a sustainable innovation to a market that is 2,000 years old. The last time this industry embraced a major product innovation was about 200 years ago with the invention of Portland cement. That we are targeting an industry resistant to change is an understatement."
Recounting the process for creating a relevant and inspiring vision that would resonate foremost with potential customers, he shared, "When I joined in 2011, we had an award-winning technology and a committed board, but we were not ready for prime time. My first job was to align the company around a common vision. First, we kicked the entire staff out of the office for six weeks. We talked to everyone we could get our hands on in the market—cement companies, pre-casters, block makers. I told the many PhD staffers that they could only ask questions and listen…not teach."
Schuler's team came up with a vision that informed its business strategy: "We are a cement and concrete technology company with a goal of making it easy to adopt sustainable technologies by leveraging the market’s existing equipment, raw materials and processes. It has to be profitable from the beginning. And, oh, by the way, it’s also green.
Another milestone in the company's pathway to commercialization that Schuler covered was the importance of forming strategic partnerships: "We needed partners to help shorten our learning curve on technologies that were not core to our offering. They provide market insight, credibility and get us to the market; partners open doors." Solidia Technologies is in active partnerships with Lafarge, the cement giant, and The Linde Group, a supplier of industrial gases, to advance R&D and market their technologies.
About Solidia Technologies®
Solidia Technologies® makes it easy and profitable to use CO2 to create superior and sustainable building materials. Their patented technologies start with sustainable Solidia Cement™ and cure concrete with CO2, reducing carbon emissions up to 70% and recycling 60-100% of the water used in production. Using the same raw materials and existing equipment as traditional concretes, Solidia Concrete™ products are higher performing, cost less to produce, and cure in less than 24 hours. Honors include the Cleantech 100, the R&D Top 100, the CCEMC Grand Challenge, the Katerva Award, and MIT’s Climate CoLab, and a 2014 Best Place to Work in NJ. Based in Piscataway, NJ, Solidia’s investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Bright Capital, BASF, and BP. Follow Solidia at www.solidiatech.com and on LinkedIn and Twitter: @SolidiaCO2.
About Cleantech Group
Founded in 2002, Cleantech Group’s mission is to accelerate sustainable innovation. Core to this mission is i3, an online platform that connects corporates with innovation, at scale, by allowing them to find, vet, and connect with start-ups—efficiently building an innovation pipeline. In conjunction with i3, we offer premium Advisory Services for corporates in need of expertise designing and executing strategies for sustainable innovation, and managing the pipeline created in i3. The i3 platform comes to life at our global Events, which convene corporates and start-ups, along with other players shaping the future of sustainable innovation.
Cleantech Group is headquartered in San Francisco, and has offices in London and New York.
Solidia Technologies® is a cement and concrete technology company that makes it easy and profitable to use CO2 to create superior and sustainable building and construction materials.
Solidia’s patented processes start with an energy-saving cement that dramatically reduces CO2 emissions at the kiln. It then cures concrete with CO2 instead of water, reducing the overall carbon footprint of cement in precast concrete up to 70%.
At scale each year, Solidia precast can eliminate at least 1.5 gigatonnes of CO₂, save three trillion liters of fresh water, reduce energy consumption equal to ~260 million barrels of oil, and eliminate 100 million tonnes of concrete landfill waste.
Solidia's ready-mix applications go even further, offering the potential to transform concrete – the second most utilized material on the planet – into a carbon sink.
Produced using the same raw materials and existing equipment, Solidia products are higher performing and cost less to produce than traditional concrete, and cure in less than 24 hours. Solidia offers industry an easy-to-adopt, rapid and globally scalable response to one of the greatest threats to our planet.
Solidia Concrete for precast is currently available in the US. The ready-mix applications are currently in tests for infrastructure applications.
Based in Piscataway, N.J. (USA), Solidia’s investors include Kleiner Perkins, Bright Capital, BASF, BP, LafargeHolcim, Total Energy Ventures, Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) Climate Investments, Air Liquide, Bill Joy and other private investors.
Solidia’s R&D collaborators have included LafargeHolcim, Air Liquide, DOT’s Federal Highway Administration, DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, the EPA, Rutgers University, Purdue University, Ohio University, and the University of South Florida.
Honors include: the 2020, 2019 and 2014 Global Cleantech 100; a 2020 and 2014 Best Place to Work in NJ; 2020, 2019 and 2018 BP Advancing Low Carbon accreditation; the 2019 Solar Impulse 1000 Efficient Solutions; 2017 ERA Grand Challenge (formerly CCEMC) finalist; 2016 Sustainia 100; 2015 NJBiz Business of the Year; 2014 CCEMC Grand Challenge finalist; 2013 R&D Top 100; 2013 Katerva Award finalist; and MIT’s Climate CoLab shortlist.
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