Derek Saltzman and Mason Mincey had to break a few eggs before landing on the right ingredient to help them create high-performance material that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly.
They were surprised to find what they were looking for in a naturally occurring plant: seaweed.
“It was exciting to learn that you can make products in a renewable way that don’t suck,” Mincey said. “We were enamored with the concept of using plant-based material like flax or hemp in our previous startup and carried that philosophy over to what we’re building now.”
The discovery led to the creation of their startup, Soarce, which recently finished a program at Lake Nona’s IeAD sports accelerator.
IeAD program aftereffects
As a result of that program, Mincey and Saltzman recently announced that they are seeking manufacturing space in Lake Nona.
A Lake Nona office would be a far cry from the garage that they first discovered the seaweed factor.
It was there they conducted experiments in an air conditioned, zip-up tent, that they compare – at least aesthetically – to a mini-version of the “Breaking Bad” set.
“Once it worked, it was one of those things where I thought, ‘I know this is not nothing,’” said Saltzman, who along with Mincey was part of the second graduating class the UCF Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “We started to see how this could be a successful company.”
The path to Soarce has not exactly been smooth sailing.
Both Mincey and Saltzman had launched a drone-related business, having studied aerospace engineering at UCF.
However, three years into the business, they had to shift gears.
They didn’t see a future for the company, despite a stint with the popular program TechStars and collaboration with Red Bull.
“It was one of the lower points in our entrepreneurship journey,” Saltzman said. “We went back to the drawing board.”
“It was demoralizing,” said Saltzman, noting that the company had lost a few employees after having already pivoted from the original idea.
Ever since they turned their attention to Soarce, the company has racked up small wins that have them confident in the idea.
In 2020, they landed a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
They have since gone through the Lake Nona accelerator and will soon start at Creative Destruction Lab, a nonprofit based in Toronto.
Mincey said dealing with adversity and still receiving support from communities like IeAD have been encouraging.
“It has been humbling as you start to understand what is really required to build a large, successful company,” he said. “It’s not always just about building good technology.”
Saltzman said the mentors he met at IeAD would be gamechangers for the company.
“Being able to communicate with those who have been there, done that and can tell you where the pitfalls are is life-changing,” Saltzman said. “It’s about being a sponge.”