News Column

Entrepreneurs Share Success Stories

May 2, 2014

Katie Byard, The Akron Beacon Journal

Small-business owner (file photo)

May 02--Most businesses measure success by dollars and profits.

It's often different for small startups. Success for them can mean surviving until they can show a profit.

Take Vadxx Energy LLC for example. This area company, whose focus is turning waste plastic into liquid fuel, has been around for several years and has no customers -- yet.

"We haven't sold anything," acknowledged Russell Cooper.

But he notes, the company, with a pilot plant in downtown Akron, has persevered and lately scored a big win: attracting millions of dollars from a private equity company impressed with Vadxx's technology and business plan.

This allowed Vadxx last month to break ground on a $20 million commercial plastic-waste-to-energy plant in southeast Akron, on East Waterloo Road.

Cooper, who has been busy talking with potential customers -- major oil marketers -- will be among four speakers presenting their entrepreneurial journeys for the open-to-the-public "Success Stories" program.

It will be at 7 p.m. May 14 at the Hudson Library & Historical Society.

The program has proved to be popular, with entrepreneurs each spring telling their stories at the library, as part of the library's annual Entrepreneurship Series.

Speakers will include Ric Navarro of the early stage company in Akron called Intellirod Spine (formerly Orthodata Inc), which has developed a device relating to spine fusion surgery.

Intellirod, with offices on White Pond Drive in West Akron, also is not turning a profit. The company must first get FDA approvals. To do that it will run trials, or tests, implanting its medical device in sheep, and then later testing it using humans. The device tracks the progress of new bone growth following lumbar spine fusion surgery.

The company began at the University of Kentucky several years ago, and Navarro, an Akron area native with experience in spine implants, came on board in 2011. Navarro, Intellirod's president and CEO, moved the company to Akron last year.

Intellirod met with success in attracting money last year, pulling together $1.1 million from investors, including Akron BioInvestment Funds LLC, which is operated by the city's nonprofit Akron Development Corp., but does not use city cash for investments.

Soon, Navarro said, Intellirod will close on a $1.6 million loan to be made through the state's Third Frontier program.

The Intellirod medical device "needed to get out of academia [at the University of Kentucky]," Navarro said.

"The device was an innovation that needed spine expertise" to attract investors. The company now has six employees.

Persistence helps

Cooper, with Vadxx, said persistence is key. "If you're looking for weekly or monthly satisfaction, it [being involved with a startup] can be a very frustrating business. But year to year, you move the ball down the court."

The plan is for the $20 million-plus Vadxx plant on Waterloo Road to melt 20,000 tons of plastic a year, using a patent-pending process to turn it into energy -- liquid fuel.

The shell of the 25,000-square-foot building should be up sometime in October, and the equipment should be installed by the first quarter of next year.

The plant, which will employ 18, should be at capacity -- accepting 60 tons of waste plastic daily -- in August of next year.

The plastic that will be melted there will be "post-industrial" waste -- scrap plastic left over from manufacturing operations.

Plastic-to-fuel plants create a "blend stock" that can be used in traditional diesel fuel, much like ethanol.

Laura Bennett, CEO & co-founder of Embrace Pet Insurance in Beachwood, and Jose Vasquez, founder and CEO of Quez Media Marketing in Cleveland, also will be on the Success Stories panel.

To register for the free event at the library go online to www.hudsonlibrary.org and click "Programs & Events/Registration" under the "Adult" tab or call 330-653-6658, ext. 1010.

The Entrepreneurship Series receives support from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.

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(c)2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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Original headline: Area entrepreneurs to tell of success at Hudson event


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Source: (c)2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)