For specialists, it is still difficult to measure the damage caused by the oil spill on the northeast coast. Since the end of August, when the first black spots were detected in Paraíba, the substance has already reached more than two thousand kilometers and 78 cities in the region.
Faced with the environmental disaster and the delay of the Brazilian government in intervening, scenes of volunteers who volunteered to clean up the affected beaches have become common in recent weeks. Among them, Guilhermo Pinheiro de Queiroz, CEO and co-founder of Biosolvit.
In a video released a week ago, he proposed applying the organic oil absorber developed by the company in the affected areas. The leaked material, in an almost solid state, however, made the attempt fruitless. And motivated a new shared recording this week.
If the experience was not successful, the same cannot be said of the journey accomplished by the Rio de Janeiro biotechnology startup in the last two years. Founded in 2014, the company has been collecting awards and participating in innovation events in Brazil and abroad.
The most recent achievement was the Amcham Arena, in São Paulo, last week. The biggest highlight, however, came in May, when it was among the 12 finalists of the competition “Startup World Cup Global Pitch Competition & Conference”, in San Francisco, in the United States.
With this visibility, Biosolvit has ambitious plans. “We are not going to settle for the Brazilian market,” says Queiroz. “Exporting will be a first step. But the company was, in fact, born to be international.”
Initially, he sees more appeal for Biogreen, a line that includes 100% organic products, aimed at growing flowers, such as Xaxim de Palmeira.
This offer replaces tree fern fiber produced from fern, a plant that, at risk of extinction, had its sale prohibited. “Products in this line are in strong demand in countries like France, Germany and the Netherlands,” he says.
In the medium term, however, the biggest bet lies in the Bioblue line, which brings together organic and synthetic products intended for the absorption of any petroleum derivative, on land or at sea. As well as the reuse of collected material.
To get an idea of the potential of this market, taking into account only the oceans, since the 1970s, 5.73 million tons of oil have been spilled around the world, according to the British NGO International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited .
In this aspect, the organic absorber is seen as the one with the greatest potential, due to its innovative character. Proof of this is the fact that the product is one of the main responsible for the attention raised so far by the startup.
One of the examples was the tests carried out by the French laboratory of the Cedre Institute, in 2018, at the request of the compatriot oil company Total. They have proven the gains provided. And they yielded international certification, in addition to patents in Brazil, the United States, Canada and the European Union.
Among other parameters, tests showed that 1 kg of the solution absorbs 22 kg of oil in 15 minutes. In the method traditionally adopted by industries, 1 kg of polyurethane absorbs 12 kg of the material, in twice the time.
The roadmap for the organic absorber to conquer its space in the international market involves structuring this offer in Brazil. Today, in the country, in addition to Biogreen’s portfolio, the operation is centered on other Bioblue line products.
On this front, the company has worked with clients in sectors such as mining and steel. Vale, Petrobras and CSN are some of the companies that have already adopted, for example, the startup’s synthetic solutions.
This portfolio is produced at the company’s factory located in Porto Belo (SC). Part of the resources to build the unit and finance the operation so far came from a contribution from BMG UpTech and Bossa Nova Investimentos, through Conecta, BMG’s acceleration program.
“Biosolvit was not in our thesis, as we invested more in software companies”, says João Kepler, a partner at Bossa Nova. “But Guilhermo is an entrepreneur far above average and they are solving a real problem. Let’s go ahead with the company.”
On this path, the next step is precisely to start producing the organic absorber on an industrial scale. “In a period of three to six months, we will be ready to fly”, says Queiroz.
The fuel for this new phase came with a new contribution, made in September by MCLC4, family office of Laércio Cosentino, founder and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Brazilian software company Totvs. Considering the previous round, Biosolvit has already raised, in total, R$ 17 million.
The new injection of resources is the result of a long-standing partnership. Queiroz and Cosentino had known each other since 1999, when the first became a Totvs franchisee in the interior of Rio de Janeiro. Over time, he also started to manage other franchises in São José dos Campos (SP) and Baixada Santista.
Around 2012, Queiroz, now 44 years old, understood that, sooner or later, he would have to “pass the baton to someone younger”, as franchises required extreme dedication. In search of a plan B, he decided to invest in a canned heart of palm factory for export, a segment in which his father had worked for all his life.
When visiting factories to understand this market, he discovered that only 3% of the palm was used. And it began to look for alternatives to give some use to waste as well. The research took him to Wagner Martins, a student at a college in the region who was developing an oil absorber from the properties of the palm tree.
Together they founded Biosolvit. And, looking for resources and breath to structure and run the operation, they started to participate in events, awards and programs aimed at startups.
“As we gained visibility, I understood that it was time to tell Laércio about the company,” says Queiroz. “I was afraid of the reaction, but he was amazing and asked how he could help.” The initial partnership, restricted to mentoring, soon evolved into the entry of the former “boss” into the operation.
The arrival of the new partner expands Biosolvit’s perspectives. And, by all appearances, it will boost the company’s appetite for more innovation. “We have five new projects underway,” says Queiroz. “Our flagship will always be the next product. We are, essentially, a research and development company.”