Team Zeolytic from Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship Place Second in Pitch Competition
Four students from the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the C. T. Bauer College of Business placed second at the Baylor New Venture Competition in February.
Students Chris Holly, Jared Beale, Nick Brannon and Torri Olanski comprise Zeolytic Technologies, Inc., a company that helps to separate chemicals in the production of gasoline.
“At Zeolytic, we produce a certain active ingredient that refineries need to produce gasoline, and we make this active ingredient, but we make it last two-and-a-half times longer in industrial processes,” Beale said. “This brings a huge reduction in the associated costs with that chemical for refineries, allowing them to make gasoline in a cheaper way.”
This active ingredient is called the zeolite. With the aid of the product’s inventor, UH Chemical Engineering Professor Jeffrey Rimer, Zeolytic will synthetically produce these zeolites to strain gasoline for refineries.
“The cool thing about this technology is, as complicated as it seems, it’s an everyday chemical,” Holly said. “If you look at certain types of kitty litter, if you look at detergents … they actually use it to clean up oil spills. It all boils down to this chemical called zeolite.”
Zeolite is effectively created by crystallizing aluminum and silicon, which poses little foreseeable threat to either the environment or humans.
“The chemical is extremely safe. People have even been known to put the chemical in juice cleanses,” Brannon said. “[Aluminum and Silicon] are two elements that are extremely abundant in the natural environment, so those resources definitely won’t be exhausted any time soon.”
The Zeolytic team prepared for the competition over the past two semesters with the help of WCE faculty, staff and alumni, empowering them to face the challenges of both entrepreneurship competition and of maintaining a business model in their company.
“One thing that’s great about the Wolff Center is they train their students to truly be able to depend on themselves for problem-solving skills,” Beale said. “All of our projects are very intense — they require a lot of work hours — and a lot of the questions have to be answered ourselves, by digging … and building relationships in industries that you don’t understand to solve a problem that you don’t quite have a grasp on yet.”
The contest judged strongly on how valuable business propositions would benefit humankind. So Holly, Beale, Brannon and Olanski huddled together with all of the feedback they had received and reconfigured their business model, patching the gaps to create a more seamless presentation.
“The crazy part is that we were competing against graduate school programs from across the nation,” Holly said. “We were onstage competing against Ph. Ds, MBAs — there was probably a law student or two. And to be able to walk away saying that we presented a better business plan, or were able to convince the judges that we were that much more investable, is just awesome to me.”
At the end of the weekend, Zeolytic took home second place and a check for $15,000. The team used some of this funding to create the corporation, and the rest will go toward product development.
But the competition season for Zeolytic Technologies, Inc. hasn’t stopped yet. Next, they head to the invitation-only event California Dreamin’ at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. There they will compete to win up to almost $100,000 in awards, which they hope will further develop the company.
“Anything we’re working on in the future is going to go toward finishing product development, scaling up the chemical processes, hiring employees…” Holly said. “I love the idea that we’re probably going to bring on people from UH — the business school, the engineering program — to help us get this off the ground.”
Zeolytic Technologies, Inc. is working diligently to prepare for the upcoming competition. The team continues striving to improve their presentation, and hopes remain high for the result of the California contest.
“We’ve talked to people in charge of refineries, oil and gas, major companies — heck, we’ve even talked to a couple competitors,” Holly said. “(We’re) fixing all the small things that could possibly turn someone off to investing in this opportunity and figuring out how to make it the most investable business possible.”
By Trey Strange
Business of Research
Each year, WCE students work with the university’s Division of Research to develop commercialization plans for technologies developed at the university. Over the past 13 years, Bauer teams have had 30 podium finishes in national business plan competitions.