"It’s only a matter of time before the price of oil starts to increase and alternative energy starts to take meaningful market share, which means that now is the best time to invest."
In 2011, Virginia Klausmeier saw there was a dire need to develop bio-based materials for the future, a belief that drove her to start her own business. After completing an education in chemistry and bio-engineering she decided to blend these two disciplines with business and Sylvatex was launched. The role of founder is one that always offers opportunities for development and learning. And as Virginia tells us, from deals with corporates executives to innovation in the laboratory, every day is different. Now with a team of ten, Virginia provides an insight into the Sylvatex story as well as her own personal journey and one bio-based aspect of a very special day!
Emily O’Dowd (EOD): Thanks for the time today, what do you enjoy most about working in the bio-based industry?
Virginia Klausmeier (VK): I genuinely believe we are working at the front end of a booming economy. Although the recent low oil prices have impacted a lot of new businesses, there is more demand coming from commercial markets as well as a change in attitude from the consumer. It’s a very exciting time! When I think about the bio-based industry I often compare it to the first invention of computers – as soon as more people understood its transformative benefits it created a huge snowball effect – and now we can’t imagine a world without them! We can map this development onto the bio-based space as the invention of the computer is like the innovation of the bio-based world just in a different cohort. This helps us visualise the stage we are at in the bioeconomy. I think Sylvatex in particular is at a really good position because we can be the ones navigating change and bringing success very early on in the industry. Soon it will be so obvious to everyone how intrinsic the bio-based world is for our continued development in large industries.
EOD: To what extent has competition impacted your position in the market?
VK: Sadly I don’t feel worried by competition at all – or for the moment anyway. Fortunately, we adopted an early business model approach which gives us a real advantage. This means that both our technology and business model are innovative and commercial which reduces the risk for us.
EOD: What are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced?
VK: I think some of the difficulties we have encountered have been looking for one specific opportunity to commercialise. We have a lot of different applications for our nanotechnology platform with many providing a healthy return, but the first market and best early commercial partners is where we are spending our time navigating.
EOD: How do you predict the industry will change over the next three years?
VK: In my opinion we will begin to see some big economic trends for new high-tech solutions. But bio-technology will provide the answer for our world energy needs which are constantly growing. There will soon be a greater demand for applications in safer chemistry and I can’t wait for the boom to come!
EOD: What single change do you think would help the bio-based industry?
VK: Money markets follow positive results and we need more of these positive acquisitions. There are strong positive signals across the industry but now international global companies like BP need to step up their contribution to the industry. However, we are beginning to see them branch out. When the money is placed and there is greater funding then it will prompt more movement in this space. It’s only a matter of time before the price of oil starts to increase and alternative energy starts to take meaningful market share, which means that now is the best time to invest.
EOD: What advice would you give for someone wanting to begin a business in this field?
VK: Firstly, it is important to work with technical companies early, talk to the industry and decide exactly how your business model will work alongside these companies. Secondly, don’t expect to become an expert in three years, so ensure that you have a five year plan in place.
EOD: What is your favourite bio-based product on the market?
VK: I use a lot in my house! In fact, almost everything I own is non-plastic. All my make-up and cleaning products are as natural as possible. Therefore it’s difficult to select my favourite! But next week I’m getting married and I have selected a sustainable dress - it’s not 100 percent bio-based but it contains a lot of upcycled marine plastic!
EOD: That must be an industry first! Thank you for your time today Virginia, myself and the team at Bio-Based World News wish you warm congratultions on your wedding!
Meet Virginia plus Patagonia, IBM, P&G, Yulex, the US Department of Agriculture and many more American brands at this year's Bio-Based Live in San Diego in September.
Our last 5 minutes with... Reyna Bryan, Director of Strategy, Elk Packaging. Bio-Based World News brings this popular feature to our readers every week. If you would like to be interviewed about your own bio-based/sustainable business then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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