INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Pandemic, but no Oil Crisis for Vertoro
Michael Boot, Co-founder & CEO of Vertoro tells us about speeding up the green revolution during the health crisis.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Michael Boot: Thankfully, our (extended) family and closest friends are healthy. We recently invested in a motorhome and take weekend trips all over the country. Interestingly, it doubles as a mobile office for my wife’s psychology practice.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Vertoro.
Michael Boot: I am mechanical engineering by training and have worked on sustainable technologies for over 15 years now. My career path has been two-fold; 1-part as a scientist in academia and 1-part as an entrepreneur. Panos Kouris (CTO) and I (CEO) founded Vertoro in May 2017 as a spin-off from a Dutch public-private partnership involving both industry and academia.
How does Vertoro innovate?
Michael Boot: At Vertoro, we innovate by reverse engineering market needs into the simplest technological solutions imaginable. Our core technology to produce oil from biomass is so straightforward in fact that replacing water with methanol or ethanol in your coffee machine and turning it on would already infringe on our intellectual property.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Michael Boot: Before COVID, I recall our shareholders questioning our nomadic office habits and remote working policy, even in other countries, of some senior management. Until very recently, Vertoro did not even have her own office or labs, instead of making use of facilities and common areas on campus. Remote working, now an asset in COVID times, is in our DNA.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Michael Boot: Not at all. Our team has expanded almost two-fold during COVID. Hiring people you have never met physically, though, still feels a bit strange, though…
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Michael Boot: Whenever allowed, and in a responsible way, we still visit our key customers from time to time. People are 3D animals and solely 2D connections, at least for my generation, are definitively not as strong. So, mostly online meetings with the occasional physical one to keep the bond healthy.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Michael Boot: We were the recipient of several large EU (H2020) grants that add up to about 1M in cash. This certainly helped us reach some core milestones without having to raise new funds through equity.
Your final thoughts?
Michael Boot: Vertoro has to date, fared well through the crisis, and I would like to acknowledge our employees, investors, suppliers, customers, and subsidy providers for all your support.
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