Over the past three months, 5 of our portfolio companies have secured funding, totaling over $27M being invested into impact oriented, nature-inspired startups!

Our Director of Innovation, Jared Yarnall-Schane, sat down with Roger Berry, CEO of Sudoc, and their investors Job Van Schelven of PureTerra and Martijn van Rheenen of Momentum Capital, to learn more about how this new investment will help them scale up their bio-inspired, sustainable chemical company. You can learn more about their technology that mimics cleaning enzymes within our livers by visiting their page on AskNature.

Jared: Congratulations on your recent investment round! Can you tell our readers a little bit about Sudoc and the technology you are commercializing, TAML? 

Roger: Sudoc is a nature-inspired company with a fundamentally more efficient chemistry that can reduce the need for energy-intensive heat and high volumes of chemicals currently used in many industrial and household cleaning processes. Our chemistry was developed by Dr. Terry Collins and his teams in the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University. Our catalysts, known as TAMLs, mimic the active site of peroxidase enzymes found in the human body. The active sites of these enzymes pair with naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide to help cleanse your body of pollutants you ingest. It is an incredibly efficient form of chemistry that the body has evolved over millions of years. Sudoc is using this nature-inspired chemistry in support of two brands, Dot Cleaner for strong cleaning products that use exponentially less chemicals and NEAT for how we sell our chemistry to water treatment systems.

Jared: This funding will open up a new and exciting industry for you, industrial treatment processes. What industry problems are you solving, and what is the impact potential of Sudoc operating at scale?

Roger: Sudoc is transitioning from a start-up to scale-up phase of development. Let me give you some examples. A large company for commercial cleaning used our chemistry in an industrial scale tunnel washer for cleaning hotel linens. Using our chemistry, the company was able to reduce the operating temperature from 150 degrees Fahrenheit to 110, and our performance beat the control in terms of whiteness and was 4x better in terms of textile strength. In water treatment, we now have studies that show we can increase the energy efficiency of an electrochemical oxidation system by 40x. These are extraordinary impacts.

Jared: Funding for ClimateTech startups is coming back (see Sightline Climate’s recent report), but it is still a difficult fundraising environment, and a difficult sector to fundraise in. What attracted you to PureTerra Ventures and Momentum Capital, and vice versa?

Job: Sudoc is one of the most scalable investment opportunities we [PureTerra] have seen in the water space. They have a chemistry that fundamentally changes the paradigm of how we think of using energy and chemicals in a wide range of applications. Efficient treatment and reduction of chemicals used in industries is essential to achieve a clean and sustainable water cycle. Moreover, the wastewater treatment industry accounts for a significant amount of carbon emissions, hence one of the key themes in the industry is to scale nature based solutions to treat wastewater and reduce the footprint. We know the European market in particular is hungry for this type of sustainable alternative to the toxic solutions we use today in so many cleaning and treatment processes. We are proud to be part of Sudoc at this critical scale-up point in its development and we are rolling up our sleeves to help Roger and the team grow.

Martijn: Momentum Capital has worked with Roger before. In fact, we built a very successful business together in the clean energy space. That project was not easy, so we saw how Roger worked under extreme pressure and we know his metal. I can’t tell you how important leadership is in a high growth company so we believe in Sudoc because we know its leadership and its team is top notch. Momentum has also set water as a strategic investment objective. Sudoc is our first water investment and a pathway for us into the sector. Water is just so vital to our civilization so it means a lot to us to invest in solutions that can make our water resources healthier and more abundantly available.

Roger: Expanding to Europe is essential for us given the regulatory environment and popular interest in moving to sustainable solutions. PureTerra is funded by the European Investment Fund. Both PureTerra and Momentum are based in The Netherlands, which we feel is our best gateway to the EU market. This investment just made Sudoc a better company by giving us new people —  Martijn, Job and their teams — to help us grow in Europe.

Jared: What are some milestones you are excited to reach with Sudoc, and what hurdles do you anticipate in bringing it to scale?

Roger: For our first years generating market opportunity was the key challenge. Now we are seeing several massively scalable opportunities so the principal challenges switch to production and execution at scale. Today we are running our first production runs of our sustainable chemical in a full scale production facility. This is a synthetic process that has been run previously at scale so we are confident in our production, but executing at multi-ton scale is the principal challenge now.

Jared: What advice would you give to other bio-inspired founders looking to secure their next investment round?

Roger: Well first of all we must be humble because building a company from scratch is incredibly difficult and there are so many ways to fail and a few ways to succeed. To the extent that I am in any position to share advice, I would say to make sure you are really focused on a need in the market for which people are highly motivated to pay for a solution. Too often start-ups are solving problems that don’t rise to the level of a burning need and therefore their solution may be nice but it isn’t a must have. So, make sure you are focused on burning needs and if you are, investors will see the importance and scalability of your opportunity.

Jared: So what is the burning need Sudoc is addressing?

Roger: Lucky for us at Sudoc, we have a mission that really matters to the planet. Today, we use too much energy and too many chemicals and our solution can reduce the need for both. We are seeing customers that recognize this as a burning need because reducing energy and chemical volume also means saving money and extending chemical performance. For every dollar we make, the planet gets better. It’s pretty energizing to work for that mission.

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