Lauren Zarama, CEO of Inkemia Green Chemicals, talks about the chemical business and how their labs help companies improve their products.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Hey guys, welcome back to the show. Texas Business Radio. We are talking about chemicals today on the show. I’m your host Matt Register. Jay Curry’s the one sitting over there in the co-host chair. We have a very interesting company in that helps find green alternatives to some of the chemicals that are put into products. Interesting company. RND Company. Go in and get your calls in. 844-814-8144 is our 24 hour call in line. That means call in now, call in the middle of the night, I really don’t have an opinion on it. We’re gonna get the experts on here to get those questions answers. What do you think Jay?
Jay Curry: I think this is a very interesting industry. I don’t know much about it, to be frank. I’ve done some consulting in it but not much and I find her story very interesting in how she’s building a company and expanding into the U.S. very successfully.
Matt Register: Yep, Lauren Zarama, is the CEO of InKemia Green Chemicals Inc., in Houston, Texas. Lauren welcome to the show.
Lauren Zarama: Thank you very much, glad to be here.
Matt Register: InKemia Green Chemicals. What do you do and who do you do it to?
Lauren Zarama: So, as you mentioned, we are a first and foremost a research and development company and so, what that means in the space of chemicals is that we are innovating in terms of developing greener chemical products and then also helping customers that have a chemical process to also make that process greener.
Matt Register: Give us an example. We were talking during the break and I found it fascinating how when a company has a chemical product or an additive and Houston is full of companies like this, right? That make every kind of petrochemical imaginable. You can really help them take some of the nasty out of some pretty nasty products. Talk to me about that process.
Lauren Zarama: Correct. Yes. So, what that looks like is that companies are often coming to us, they can be in, like you mentioned, oil and gas, lubricants, agricultural chemicals, paints and coatings. So, no matter the industry, as long as the product is something that is differentiated by the chemistry, that is something in which we can help with. So, what that can look like is let’s say you can have a pesticide product that has inner ingredients for which one of them is undesirable for whatever reason. It could be because it’s come up on a regulatory list, it’s something that’s not performing well enough or it’s something that is toxic and you wanna get rid of it. So, our company would be who you would come to with a list of your desires for that new ingredient. You know, it needs to have these, let’s say, 5 functional parameters and it needs to be green. So, again, it’s all about the performance but then also about making sure that that substance is not harmful and so, we would find that solution.
Matt Register: Well, and that’s something that, as a company, you always want to reduce the regulatory burden on you. Right? You always want to, in a case of a consumer product, steer clear of any kind of consumer, scaring consumers, right? And this happens occasionally right? Where consumers will all of a sudden be scared of a certain additive or ingredient in a consumer product and there may be no basis in science or fact for why that is but you guys can start from, really just, the left and right limit of what does it need to be able to accomplish? Give me some examples of some of the products that you’ve worked on and how you’ve been able to reduce some regulatory burden or some costs out of it.
Lauren Zarama: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question. So, one example would be a skin care formulation, in which one of these solvents that was a part of that formulation was, you know, it has a profile in terms of environmental and human health that wasn’t optimal and so, we were able to take what really is a highly complex product. I mean, these are products that have many different ingredients, all of which perform different functions.
Matt Register: Sure.
Lauren Zarama: And to be able to find that ingredient to replace the solvent that was undesirable, but you also have to not just replace it, but you have to make sure that it’s compatible with the rest of the formulation. That the formulation still performs the way that it should and so this is the process that we go through no matter what industry that product is meant to serve. So, the process that we use for the skin care formulation is somewhat similar to the process that we would go through with finding alternatives for paints and coatings formulations and that’s another good example. We had a case in which another solvent that came up in a paints and coatings formulation was again, of concern. You know, we had VOC issues that were a challenge, we had toxicity challenges and were able to find the right solvent to be integrated into that formulation.
Matt Register: Well, and that saves, not only, you know, regulatory – we were talking during break. I mean, you start transporting the stuff with hazardous materials on it and everything gets a whole lot more expensive, right?
Lauren Zarama: Correct. Yes. Not only does everything get more expensive, but it gets more risky. So, if you have some kind of an accident on the road with these materials or you’re storing them in your facility. You know, people need to be specially trained, people need to know how to handle these materials safely, and so that’s another area in which you know, companies are coming to us for is to try to help them to deal with the operational aspect with reducing the risk of some of the materials that they work with.
Matt Register: We’re talking to Lauren Zarama. CEO of InKemia Green Chemicals Inc. Talk to me Lauren about InKemia because this is a public company in Europe that is just launching in the United States. Tell me about InKemia.
Lauren Zarama: Yeah. Absolutely, I’d be glad too. So, yes, we’ve got about a 20 year history with the parent company based in Spain. So, our headquarters are located in Spain. We’ve got about 44 thousand square feet of lab facilities. So, really state-of-the-art equipment-
Matt Register: Sure.
Lauren Zarama: In terms of, you know, anything from analytical ability all the way to the ability to access some of the most newest state-of-the-art technology. Like, for example, electro spinning, and so InKemia has diversified business activities in the life science space. So, this means biotechnology, this means pharmaceutical active ingredient development – so, drug discovery and development. Pilot plans for both chemical products but also for pharmaceuticals. We also have a biofuels company as well.
Matt Register: Yeah, interesting.
Lauren Zarama: Yeah, yeah, and so the chemistry platform, of course, is what InKemia Green Chemicals was founded upon. So, we took that 20 year history of chemistry expertise. We have developed quite a diversity of green chemicals from which we work from and now we have brought that expertise to the United States to try to add value here as well.
Matt Register: Well, and you brought it to the heart of the Texas Chemical industry, right?
Lauren Zarama: Right.
Matt Register: But with 20 years of background, 20 years of institutional knowledge of chemistry and chemical products, being able to offer that into this industry is something that is special and was a hole in the market. So, who in the world of our listeners needs to pick up their phone and call you and how do they know when it’s time to get in touch, right?
Lauren Zarama: Right. Yes, absolutely. Well, I would say, definitely, anybody who’s dealing with a chemistry challenge of any kind. That is who needs to call us. So, often our conversations are starting in the research and development departments of very large companies. So, when there is a need for a material or a chemical that is unknown at the time, we are very often the person that you call to try to find what ingredient should I use? How do I formulate this product?
Matt Register: Right.
Lauren Zarama: How do I, you know, get rid of this chemical that I’m concerned about? That’s definitely where we can make an impact. So, I would say any industry for which the chemistry is a differentiating factor, for which the chemistry is very important, the chemicals and the choice of chemicals is critical – that’s who we want to have a conversation with.
Matt Register: You know, we talked briefly during the break about companies that end up with chemicals as by-products of what they’re doing, right? And the ability to take a negative, a cost associated with disposing of a chemical and try to find alternative uses for it. That’s also somebody who needs to give you a call because you guys have the brain power to be able to figure out, okay, who can use this and how do we get them to pay us for it, right?
Lauren Zarama: Exactly, and that’s a very interesting discussion. So, right. You’ve got companies that are either having a waste by-product or for example, some of the larger agricultural companies, they’ve got these mainstreams and side streams for which maybe they even know a use but they can get a higher value out of finding a new application.
Matt Register: Sure.
Lauren Zarama: So, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re looking at chemicals, we’re finding new applications, we’re finding new ways to create value out of these chemicals.
Matt Register: Interesting. Fascinating discussion. Lauren Zarama. CEO of InKemia Green Chemicals Inc., in Houston. Inkemiagreenchemicals.com is the website. We’re gonna have a link right there from texasbusinessradio.com, but we are completely out of time and need to go pay a couple of bar bills. We’ll be back with a whole lot more Texas Business Radio.
Sponsored in part by:
In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.