By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
“I’m having lots of fun and things are starting to click,” Joy Fisher told us recently in describing developments at Clodico, Inc.
Now well into its third pivot since being founded less than a year ago, the local start-up was recently selected as one of nearly 40 companies to participate in the prestigious Charlotte Venture Challenge later this week in the Queen City.
The company’s President and Chief Executive Officer is a true fan of the business model canvas process. Prior to joining Clodico, she championed it as part of her duties at the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus.
The business model canvas process, which requires discussions with potential customers and validation of the market, has been a major driver behind the evolution of Clodico.
When we first profiled the start-up last September, the company was developing a new line of environmentally-friendly disinfectants that quickly kill the bacteria and viruses plaguing hospitals. They include both clostridium difficile (C. diff) spores, a cause of deadly gastrointestinal illnesses, and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a dreaded strain of staph bacteria.
Both of these have become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat infections, so there was clearly a market if the product could meet very stringent requirements.
“We had to prove that we had a 99.9999 percent kill rate for C.diff in one minute,” Fisher said, emphasizing the four decimal points. The test results came back at 99.99 percent.
“We were really close, but not quite there,” she said. While Clodico has not given-up on meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirement, the company decided to pivot, this time exploring the chemical sterilant market to serve customers such as dentists and biotechnology companies.
“The customer discovery process told us that cost was a primary driver, despite the fact that our chemical was much better for both users and the environment,” Fisher said.
So, Clodico made its third pivot to its current focus in a non-healthcare and, therefore, unregulated area.
The newest and very promising opportunity is serving used car dealers who struggle with the issue of odors in the vehicles they are preparing for sale. The most prevalent problem comes from previous owners who smoked in the automobiles.
Fisher said there are two treatments currently available – one that is usually a temporary solution and the other that is both expensive and harmful to the environment.
She describes the first as “fragrances that mask the odor on a temporary basis” and the latter as “ozone generation machines that are bad for the environment, expensive and not always successful.” The cost of the ozone-based treatment can be as much as $100 per vehicle.
“Our product works one and done on all but very bad odors,” Fisher says, adding, “If not the first time, almost certainly the second time.”
By following the business model canvas, Clodico found its new and very significant market opportunity. The company is testing the product with seven dealerships across the Southeast, and the results are very positive. Fisher cited one retailer who had been unable to sell a car until he used the product. The vehicle sold the next day.
Clodico has found a contract manufacturer and is “… is in discussions with outside capital groups that have expressed an interest in what they are doing.” The goal is to have odor product samples to distribute during the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo in early November in Las Vegas.
For an individual who always wanted to be an entrepreneur, it’s been an interesting journey in shifting from a product to address the deadly C.diff problem to a focus on eradicating odors in used cars. Her commitment to the business model canvas process and the willingness to pivot have taken Clodico a long way in less than a year.