The 2022 Chemical Ventures Conference, organized in conjunction with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Chemical Society, was held at the Innovation Space in Wilmington, Delaware on August 9th and 10th. This unique two-day conference brought together people in both the chemistry and materials science industries and provided many opportunities for startups and investors to connect with each other. Executives, entrepreneurs, and investors from all over the country gathered together in-person at the Innovation Space and virtually through Slack for pitches, panels, and networking.
“CVC is a once-a-year opportunity for chemistry and materials science startups and investors to come together in same space and make the critical connections needed to move the needle on disruptive products and services. The programming and speakers are phenomenal, but the networking is where the real magic happens.”
Marcie Reilly, Director of External Engagement & Partnerships, the Innovation Space
Panelist Wendy Papakostandini answers Troy Wilford’s question about the investor community, “When do you become the bottleneck and how can startups respond to that?”
The first session of the day focused on “Addressing Unique Challenges and Opportunities for Chemistry and Materials Science”. The panel was chaired by Troy Wilford, Director of Commercialization Solutions, University City Science Center. Some key takeaways were:
- “The first yeses are a statement that we did something right. Have a product someone is willing to pay for.”
– Birgitt Boschitsch, Co-founder & CEO, SpotLESS Materials Inc.
- “Do your customer work to iterate your product to meet your customers’ needs.”
– Lan Wang, Co-Founder & Director of New Chemistry, Versogen
- “What are skill sets you need to achieve your milestones? Avoid the shiny resumes early on. Be very strategic and focused on the right person you need now.”
– Wendy Papakostandini, Director of Talent, Anzu Partners
- “There is a lot of capital for good startups, but you need to stage your milestones to achieve and show progress over time.”
– Chuck Paul, Vice President Technology, Henkel Adhesive Technologies
So grateful for the opportunity to represent @spotlessCoating as a panelist in this year’s #CVC2022 alongside Troy Wilford (@UCScienceCenter), Wendy Popakostandini (@anzupartners), Chuck Paul (@Henkel), and Lan Wang (@Versogen1 )! pic.twitter.com/fCziY3Yv01— Birgitt Boschitsch (@BirgittMB) August 10, 2022
The day continued with startup pitches from Phycus Biotechnologies Inc., Låkril Technologies Corporation, FiberX Incorporated, Sironix Renewables, and ConvIOT Inc., followed by half an hour of reverse pitches.
Sironix Renewables makes its startup pitch to the CVC 2022 audience.
Attendees had the chance to chat with each other during lunch and tour the Innovation Space during the following startup networking break.
The afternoon session began with keynote speaker Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of Lanzatech, discussing “Bending the Carbon Curve.” This talk was followed by another round of startup pitches by Adaptive Surface Technologies, Folia Materials, Berkm, Zero Valent NanoMetals, and SAS Nanotechnologies.
In the final panel for the day, speakers spoke about “What corporates look for when they invest in and work with chemistry and materials science startups?” Notable insights included:
- “Tap into corporate to help you scale up your startup and collaborate.”
– Jay Amarasekera, Senior Technology Manager, North America, SABIC Ventures
- “Understand what the end game is for both the corporate as well as the startup.”
– Ed Greer, Corporate Technology Scout, Ventures & Business Development, Dow
- “A founder who knows how to pull together a coalition of investors is an important component.”
– Neal Okarter, Investment Manager, BASF Venture Capital
- “The person who created the technology is likely not the same as who will make the company a going concern.”
– Sara Olson, Principal, FMC Ventures
The first day then concluded with dinner and a startup networking reception which provided an opportunity for materials science and chemistry entrepreneurs and business leaders to make meaningful connections while enjoying good food.
“What I enjoyed most about the conference was networking. There were lots of opportunities for chatting with people – dinner, receptions, breaks.”
Ed Greer, Corporate Technology Scout, Ventures & Business Development, Dow
During the Q&A portion of the panel, Sara Olson and Neal Okatar provide guidance on the types of questions an investor may ask if they are interested in a startup.
The discussion question, “What angel investors and VCs look for when they invest in chemistry and materials science startups?”, resulted in these key takeaways:
- “Three things we look for are sales, sales, sales as we look to invest. These leases know how to close a deal.”
– Jeff Davison, General Partner, Activate Venture Partners
- “We write check size from $20k to $12m at Rhapsody.“
– Jessica Freyer, Principal, Rhapsody Venture Partners
- “I look for an unfair advantage for companies I look to invest in.“
– Glen Gaddy, Partner, Robin Hood Ventures
- “We don’t invest in technologies, we invest in products.”
– Christian Theriault, Partner, Material Impact
- “Technology will interest us but market product fit and needs of the market are more compelling.”
– Mark Vreeke, Co-founder, Chemical Angel Network
Christian Theriault discusses the importance of syndication during the “What Angel Investors & VCs Look For When They Invest In Chemistry & Materials Science Startups” panel.
After a lunch break, the conference resumed with a discussion about “Lessons Learned from Successful Tough Tech Ventures: What to do and not do” moderated by Judy Giordan, Managing Director, ecosVC. The panelists shared their advice for science entrepreneurs, including:
- “You need good people. Build a team with complementary skill sets. Take a breath as you go from pre-revenue to commercial. Do you want to cross that chasm? If you do cross to commercial, set realistic expectations with your team and investors.”
– Craig Carra, CFO, MOBILion
- “It takes partners in a whole lot of dimensions to be successful. You need ‘A’ players not like you to be most successful.”
– Erica Nemser, CEO, Compact Membrane Systems
- “Listen, respect individuals you are working with, build relationships. There is a long timeline to market and you need others in the value chain. Be sensible, have KPIs but be daring.”
– Bryan Tracy, CEO, Superbrewed Food
“I thought the conference was great and have been telling everyone about it.”
Neil Washburn, President, Material Advice
This year’s Chemical Ventures Conference was not only insightful, engaging, and productive for startups and investors in the chemistry and materials science industries, but it also saw the beginning of exciting new relationships and motivation to turn ideas into fruition. We look forward to more meaningful events at the Innovation Space in the future!
The conference would not have been possible without support from our sponsors:
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