Every day, it seems that more and more things are coming out of the chemical industry. One such innovation is the development of a bio-based polymer, the functionality of which seems endless. On today’s show, Victoria Meyer interviews Michael Suver, the EVP of Integrity BioChem. Michael has over 25 years of experience at a couple of innovative companies including Integrity BioChem. He shares how this bio-based polymer the company developed fulfills a need in the oil fields, especially in industrial mining. He also touches on the global need for anything bio-based and how people are now looking towards reformulating to get more green.
Listen to the podcast here:
Bio-Based Chemistry: The Rise Of A Green Chemical Industry With Michael Suver
In this episode, I'm talking with Michael Suver, EVP of Integrity BioChem. He’s got a great story and a lot of experience in the chemical industry. Over 25 years of experience at a variety of companies and at a couple of innovative companies including Integrity BioChem. He oversees the commercial development and is helping lead that business into the specialty chemical markets. Michael, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Victoria. It's always a pleasure to speak with you. I enjoy our time together when we can.
Michael, tell us a little bit about Integrity BioChem.
Integrity BioChem is a relatively new organization. It was founded around 2017 to deliver a new bio-based polymer to the oil fields. Jimmy Jett, who is our CEO, came out of “retirement” once he and Dr. Charlie Landis realized that they had developed this unbelievable bio-based polymer. They started to fulfill a need in the oil fields and quickly realized that this polymer was extremely versatile. It started to expand quickly. They brought on a lot of folks. We sit here in 2021 and we have our Oil Field Services Division. We have a Mining and Industrial Division and now we have a Specialty Chemical Division. We have rapidly grown through this pandemic. We're launching a series of bio-based surfactants, which are exciting. The future's bright for IBC, for sure.
IBC describes itself as a technology company. Why is that? What is it about what you guys are doing that lends itself from that perspective in terms of your core?
You've been in this industry a long time. When you had the term specialty in your name and your company, that meant that you had this R&D platform behind you and they would come in and help you formulate. They had these folks running around the country or the globe that would make sales calls with the account manager and understand what the customer wanted was doing. That has gone away. Companies homogenized themselves over the years and that's okay. From my perspective, everything starts in our lab. We develop these bio-based polymer products that are unique to the industry, whether it's the oil fields or especially industrial mining.
It starts with what the customer is looking for, what are their needs, and their wants. We help tailor a completion fluid or an adjuvant or whatever the case may be that could be unique for this customer. Our bench strength in our R&D labs is incredible. It’s led by Dr. Charlie Landis who is a famous man in the oil fields. We have two R&D centers. We have our mining and industrial R&D center located in Tucson. Our Oil Fields Specialty Chemical R&D Center is located in Cresson, Texas, which is our headquarters. Everything starts with what can we do to help our customers deliver their products to their customers.
Since you've joined Integrity, your focus is on moving them more into specialty chemicals in the sense of industrial household and personal care. What does that look like for you?
It has been a fun ride. They were a customer of ours for a few years in my previous role. As they developed this polysaccharide biopolymer, they quickly realize that the functionality of this thing was crazy. Every day, it seemed like they learn more and more things about the base chemistry. They wanted to get into the surfactant business. They made surfactant blends for the oil fields and then started to develop some bio-based portions of the blend with this biopolymer. As we quickly realized, there was a lot of stuff that could do with this polymer.
Bio-based anything right now is hot. People are looking to reformulate to get more green.
As we started to make bio-based surfactants, we realized that the sky was unlimited to where we could take this technology, whether it was in personal care. Folks are now looking to make it free from some of the bad agricultural, HI&I and mining that uses surfactants. It's such a tunable range of biopolymers. It's tunable and compatible that it can make a long list of products. We can make about 68 different surfactants.
The unique thing is we can make a lot of it. The knot to some degree with bio-based chemistry with a surfactant world is you can't make enough to fulfill the emerging need across not only here in America and North America but around the globe. Bio-based anything right now is hot. People are looking to reformulate to get more green. We have taken advantage of our R&D capabilities. We already had the infrastructure servicing the oil fields and the mining. We're taking that same customer service yes attitude and moving it over to our specialty side of our business.
You mentioned scale. Bio-based surfactants and bio-based chemicals have been around for a while. They're gaining a lot more popularity. There's a lot of interest in it. As you point out, scale has been an issue. We're seeing a lot of demand and requirements driven from consumers and maybe some regulatory agencies, depending on where you are in the world, which then comes back to the companies, the formulators, consumer products companies, and industrial companies, etc. want to use. The secret behind all of it that folks in the chemical industry know and maybe the general public who's demanding these don't understand is it's hard to get enough product to satisfy the market demands.
The surfactant market as a whole is ginormous as you know. It goes into every single market around the planet. The one thing that our bio-based chemistry is it’s not fermentation. We're able to make bio-based surfactants on a scale of a synthetic base surfactant. The time to make the surfactant is compatible with making the cycle times compatible with making a synthetic surfactant. That's how we're able to make what we think can fulfill not only our customers’ needs but our future customers’ needs. We can make a lot of it. We talked a little bit about that when we presented at the ICIS show. That was what got a lot of traction because folks haven't been able to figure out how to make enough or have enough capacity to fulfill customers’ needs.
That touches maybe on one of the questions I had, which is as a relative newcomer, how do you or how does IBC gain credibility to achieve growth? They're pretty difficult markets. You've got sophisticated customers who've been around for a long time. How do you gain credibility in IBC?
I've been doing this a long time. I know a lot of folks in the industries that we're servicing now and want to service tomorrow. I reached out and I had conversations with folks that I trust and gained a lot of respect for over the years. I ask a lot of questions. I've been fortunate enough to either work for or with some of the greatest people in our industry and I'm blessed for that. That was a challenge. Servicing an oil field customer is challenging as you can imagine. You've been in that industry.
My challenge to IBC and our employees was to say, “That challenge going into the HI&I market, the detergent market, the personal care market, or the agricultural market, is a lot alike.” You got to service the heck out of the customers. You got to be clear in your value proposition to your customers. Some of the things that I found early on was I wanted to have a cheat code so to speak. We have partnered up with somebody who's in the personal care space. They're a second-generation family-owned business out of Dalton, Georgia, Southern Chemical & Textiles. They're now known as SCT. I am very close to their family as well as some of their executives. We sat down to talk about this new chemistry and they were intrigued by it.
They're launching with our EdenSurf, which is our personal care and detergent line of surfactants. They're launching a series of surfactant concentrates featuring EdenSurf. They're going to call it DEXTERRA. They're going to market that to their customer base. That's exciting for us. That gives us, I wouldn't say instant credibility because you're always proving yourself every single day but what it does do is it gives us some opportunities that we may have not gotten this early in our progression into the specialty chemical world. We'll continue to do that type of relationship. We're excited. SCT is a wonderful company and they make wonderful products into the personal care and detergent markets. We think we're a nice value-add for them and it allows us to expand our footprint much quicker.
You got to service the heck out of the customers and be clear in your value proposition.
There are a couple of things that highlight for me. One, this is still a relationship business. The fact that you're able to come in and leverage some of those relationships helps. It helps you accelerate where other new entrants in the markets may or may not have that ability. It also sounds like with SCT and maybe with other partnerships you can be forging in the future, you're able to extend your reach much more quickly by taking advantage of both their physical capabilities, their resources, and their reach into the market.
SCT, for example, is a solid organization whether you talk to producers that sell them the raw materials, the distributor network they use or their end-user customers. They have the same core values that we have. They're another technology-driven company. I love getting our R&D and their R&D together and then I just leave the room. I have no idea.
Sometimes that’s the best thing.
I give them their way. We both recognize it. It's always an easy out for me but it is neat. Some of the things that we're doing that we can't talk about yet are exciting. We're moving at a fast pace. That's the great thing about Jimmy Jett. SCT allows us to talk to folks that we may not be able to talk to for some time. The whole technology side is unique.
You've been in an entrepreneurial leadership role for several years with PerformanX and with IBC. What have you found to be critical when you come into a new role like this and as a new entrant in the market? This is not your first rodeo trying to enter the market with a new company and new products. What's in your playbook? What's the key to success?
I always tell myself to be genuine and be myself. I pay attention to folks that succeed, folks that fail, and organizations that fail. They get away from who they are, not as individuals but then as an organization. I always try to be who I am. I don't ask folks to do things that I won't do myself. Hard work and showing up is probably the most important thing to start with. We're going to outwork people. We're going to have customer service folks. Whatever company entrusts you and they're going to buy your raw materials to make a product to market to either their consumer or their customers, that's very important that they're trusting you with their dollars to buy your product. I take that seriously.
I talk to not only our employees but our suppliers as well to say, “This is important, the things we're doing.” There's a whole host of people they can buy from. Our new technology, I'm not so sure of that, but there are other bio-based chemistries out there. First and foremost, you got to be yourself. You got to learn from your mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes when we started PerformanX. It was comical if you look back. I'm making mistakes now. You got to own them, fix them, and move on. I don't dwell in the past. I’m looking forward.
My dad was my biggest influencer. He would always talk to me about, “Surround yourself with people that are smart, intelligent, and let them do their thing.” Strong and successful people want to be able to do what they're good at. I see a lot of leaders micromanage. I'm not a micromanager. We set expectations and we're going to meet those expectations or those goals. Communication is another thing that is extremely important. Not only if it's a four-year-old company but a 40-year-old company. You have to have those foundations in place.
Mike, what should we be looking out next for you and IBC? What's coming up that we should be keeping an eye out on?
Strong and successful people want to be able to do what they're good at.
We have launched those bio-based surfactants. EdenSurf is our personal care detergent line. TegraSurf is our oil field industrial mining side with the surfactant equation.
Are those ready for primetime?
Our industrial line is out. We're selling them. We're blending them. We're getting fantastic feedback from our customers, both new and existing. Our personal care of line is ready. We're crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's. As you know, there's a lot more regulation involved. We're working on things like our clean ingredients certification. We're about there with our inking for personal care. That has been an ongoing interesting ride for us. I don't think we're the only ones that happened to that is a great organization. When it's touching skin, you got to have all your I's dotted and your T's crossed.
We are sampling customers, both large and small. We've gotten great feedback. SCT is going to launch that surfactant concentrate for their market space using EdenSurf. We've got a lot going on. I don't think we're going to stop. That's not Jimmy Jett’s MO. We're looking for how do we grow in these spaces whether it's through partnerships, acquisitions, and organic growth. We're going to continue to launch new and exciting products. That's why I'm here. It's fun to be around that. You're going to hear a lot about Integrity BioChem not only in the coming days, weeks, and months but for the years to come.
Mike, this has been a great conversation. If people want to find out more about you or get in touch with you or Integrity BioChem, how do they do that?
I'm on LinkedIn, which has become a great resource. I'm on LinkedIn every day watching podcasts like yours that you put out and others, the whole sustainability piece. We're learning more and more about that. That is a fantastic thing that companies are doing and taking ownership of. We're going to be a part of that. We have developed new websites. We've launched some of it. You certainly can go out to IntegrityBioChem.com and see what's going on with us.
If folks have attended the ICIS show, we did present. We were a big part of Tuesday's event where I presented not only our technology but our vision and what we're about as an organization. That was extremely well-received. I would tell you that I’ve never had to tape a presentation before in my life and it's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. The outtakes, the folks at ICIS said they laughed. Maybe we'll share that with some folks one day. That presentation is out there. You certainly can get a hold of me or customer service. We're ready to go with customers. It's an exciting time to be at IBC, for sure.
That sounds exciting. Michael, thanks for joining us on the show. I appreciated your perspectives.
You have a great show. You do wonderful things for our market space and the chemical industry as a whole. It was my pleasure. I'm thankful that you had me on to tell our story.
Thanks to everybody for reading. Remember to like, listen, share, and keep getting the word out.
About Michael Suver
Michael Suver is the Executive Vice President of Specialty Chemicals for Integrity BioChem. He oversees Integrity BioChem’s go-to-market strategy as well and the day-to-day management of the specialty chemical division. Mr. Suver has over 25 years in the chemical industry, with executive leadership positions in sales, marketing, and operations. He has worked with some of the most respected brands around the globe in the chemical industry.
Mr. Suver previously served as President at Performanx Specialty Chemicals, located in Columbus, Ohio. He began his career at Ashland in 1996 and held various sales, sourcing, and management roles for both the Industrial and Fine Ingredients divisions.
Mr. Suver received a degree in Management Science from Wright State University.