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David Pasin built his business with new ideas and talent for picking the right people.
Business in Vancouver’s “How I did it” feature asks business leaders to explain in their own words how they achieved a business goal in the face of significant entrepreneurial challenges. In this week’s issue, David Pasin, president of TBF Environmental, talks about how his company has created several innovative products that are safer and more environmentally friendly than conventional solvents.
“There’s a huge gap in the market for green solvents, particularly for ones that work.
“We looked at some of the offerings out there, and they all have drawbacks: they either evaporate too fast or too slow … or they dry too fast and leave a residue.
“We had a customer approach us a while ago and ask us if we had a replacement [for] methyl ethyl ketone (MEK).
“The customer that approached us was a multinational company who manufactures cans for food and beverages … if you look inside a tomato can, you’ll notice it’s [painted] white. [The type of paint used is] very hard to clean, it’s very hard to handle, it’s very odourous.
“They were looking at replacing MEK because it was too dangerous in terms of flashpoint, because of a variety of toxicity issues.
“I did [a lot of] research and quickly realized there weren’t really any alternatives that were effective. So I spent about a year and a half developing a product and then I hired a really brilliant chemist to come on board to help finish the product. We spent about a year working on it.
“What we found was [our product, TergoSol] had greater stability, it was compatible with a bunch of different things, it was safer, it was far lower odour. [Workers] weren’t getting sick on the line.
“I started pitching [TergoSol] to different paint companies and, lo and behold, one of the biggest paint companies in the world was in desperate need because they had to comply with [stricter environmental] regulations in one jurisdiction in Texas.
“I like coming up with new ideas, and I have the good fortune of being able to pick the right people to work with me to help develop those types of things.
“In this case with TBF, I contacted the University of British Columbia’s and Simon Fraser University’s chemistry departments. They have a co-op program and I looked at probably 30 different applications and I knew what I was looking for. When you’re formulating something you have to be somewhat artistic as well as scientific.
“The [master’s student] I chose played in a band, wrote his own music, spoke several languages, so he fit the bill perfectly. He thinks very outside the box. We had to approach this not from a standard chemical point of view: we looked at what everybody else has done and what worked well and didn’t work well.
“We developed a computer model and put in all the parameters of all the solvents we were looking and the solvents that had failed or weren’t working very well. You could manipulate them to combine whatever type of outcome you were looking at and see if they would work. We came up with about 25 possible solutions and we whittled it down to four, then three, then two, then one.”
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How I Did It: David Pasin
TBF Environmental Introduces VOC-compliant alternative to Mineral SpiritsNovember 18th, 2015