A biotech company offering sustainable ingredients for the environment

Maria Isabel Gaviria and Maribel Montoya, the two entrepreneurs behind Fungi Life.

Maria Isabel Gaviria and Maribel Montoya, the two entrepreneurs behind Fungi Life.

Photo: Courtesy of Fungi Life

“Fungi Life is an innovative biotechnology company recognized by UNICEF for its leadership in addressing the climate emergency. We use fungi to create biosurfactants from agricultural waste. Biosurfactants are biological ingredients that allow different compounds such as water and oil to mix, and for this reason they are used in many industries, from detergents, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to the oil industry. These innovative biosurfactants offer environmentally friendly solutions, as most surfactants currently available on the market are synthetic chemicals that have negative effects on human health and the environment.

We are three co-founders and we are currently in the validation phase of our minimum viable product that is applied to increase the sustainability of the oil sector. We have carried out field tests in alliance with strategic companies of the sector in an important oil zone located in Patagonia, Argentina (Vaca Muerta), applying our biosurfactant to decontaminate waters and soils affected by oil production, reaching the highest efficiency of 90%”, says Maribel Montoya and Maria Isabel Gaviria, the two entrepreneurs behind The life of mushrooms. We talked to them in 23 questions for entrepreneurs and their businesses and here is his story.

1. How old am I? What did I learn?

Maribel Montoya Alvarez, 31, Biotechnologist, M.Sc. Biological sciences.

Maria Isabel Gaviria, 37, Biological Engineer, MSc, PhD in Environmental Engineering.

Sebastian Trabalon, 32, systems engineer, MBA.

2. What was my idea and when was it born? What have I created?

The idea was born from academic research in 2016 in which we used different fungi to clean up pollutants in the environment. During this process, my current partner Maria Isabel and I discovered a strain that has the ability to break down used motor oil. We advanced the project to understand more about this biological process and its potential industrial application, which led us to consider it a potentially profitable business model. From this and after receiving capital from the Argentinian accelerator GridX in 2022, together with our partner Sebastian, we created The life of mushroomsa biotech company offering sustainable ingredients to the industry.

3. How did I make it a reality and put it into practice?

It all started with research in academia and some business accelerator programs that provided training to refine ideas and launch businesses. In these programs, we discovered the potential of what we were developing and the impact it had on the environmental challenges facing the world as part of the Sustainable Development Goals and the need for an energy transition. In 2022, we conducted a process with the accelerator specialized in biotechnology projects GridX from Argentina, and it was in this program that we potentiated the business model, identified market opportunities and formed a founding team with the inclusion of a third partner to start developing as launch.

If you’re looking for more stories about entrepreneurship, the creators are here. in Entrepreneurship and Leadership with Spectator.

4. Where did I get the money to start this and how did I pay for it?

The money for founding the startup was taken from the GridX accelerator, they invested in the stage presperm.

5. What am I achieving with my venture? What am I changing with my idea?

We are transforming the matrix of industrial production by creating biotechnological solutions that have better performance and can replace synthetic chemical ingredients in the products we use every day. We want to reduce our carbon footprint and restore pollution to ecosystems, ensuring greater environmental sustainability. In 2023, we are participating in Entrepreneurship with Global Impact programs in the UK and Spain. In addition, we were selected by UNICEF as one of 24 innovative climate projects, and we attended the World Climate Summit (COP28) in Dubai, which highlights our global impact.

6. Am I happy?

We are happy because of The life of mushrooms We impact society and the environment through science, contributing our knowledge to achieving a transition to a more sustainable world.

7. Would I sell my enterprise, my company?

We are currently in the process of product development and validation, as well as establishing strategic alliances that allow us to enter the market. We did not plan to sell the company, but continued to grow, being a global supplier and the future “Changes the game» in the industrial sector.

8. How hard was it for me to start a business?

Starting a science business is difficult, you have to have a lot of resilience, little funding and few investors who see the impact these solutions can bring. The learning curve was steep and it took several years to get the resources. It is necessary to strengthen the scientifically based ecosystem of entrepreneurship and deep technology, especially in Colombia and Latin America.

9. Have I achieved my dream? What am I missing?

Yes, I am on my way to fulfilling my dream of impacting the real world through innovation and scientific development. As a team, we feel very motivated, we aim to be agents of change, promoting initiatives aimed at helping the environment and confronting the climate crisis. We must be able to successfully enter the market and become a company with global influence.

Don’t overlook: A Dutch entrepreneur who makes cheese with farmers from Guatavita

10. What now? What’s next?

We are in the process of developing our first biosurfactant based formulations. To achieve this, we are building alliances and actively seeking more funding. We hope to be able to scale our processes according to market demands, expand our work team and start developing other products in our portfolio. We want to do The life of mushrooms is growing organically and we hope to enter the market in the medium term.

11. Can my business scale?

Yes, it is highly scalable and replicable.

12. To grow, would you get investment from a stranger? Would I give you some of my company?

At this time, we propose to obtain investment resources from venture capital (VC) funds and private investors, which are strategic funds that can increase the projected growth, especially in biotech startups that have extensive processes that require resources. We are aware that with this capital we can negotiate a stake in the company, but our aim is to continue to control its decisions. We would not give a part of the company to an individual or foundation without a strategic analysis.

13. What would you never do again?

Don’t trust my ideas. I think everything we’ve done up until now has contributed to our learning and brought us to where we are.

14. Who inspired me? Who would I like to follow?

Many teachers and people who, from their position, do things to change the world and generate solutions that are more balanced in favor of the environment.

15. Have I ever failed? Did I think about throwing in the towel?

I don’t think we’ve failed so far, we’ve had tough times and limited resources, but it’s allowed us to rethink the solution and make it more and more affordable and viable.

Visit the section Entrepreneurship and leadership from The Spectator

16. Do I belong to any community that helps me on this entrepreneurial journey?

Internationally, as a team, we are part of the GRIDX portfolio. My partner Maria Isabel is a student of the program Innovation Leaders Scholarships from the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK, who supported us with training, networking and applying for UNICEF recognition. For my part, I am a student of the Talent Bridges program of the Madrid City Council and BIDLab.

17. Is what I’m doing out of scope? Could it affect new generations?

The life of mushrooms directly impacts the three Sustainable Development Goals: clean water and sanitation, responsible production and consumption, and climate action. Working on these aspects is essential for the health and well-being of future generations. In addition, with our products targeting the oil market, we hope to support the transit process to have zero emissions while achieving a safe energy transition and restoring degraded ecosystems.

18. How do I see myself in 10 years and how do I see my enterprise, my company in the future?

We hope that we will be able to have a profound impact on the production matrix of society. In addition, we would like to have manufacturing facilities to serve the markets in Latin America, the United States and Europe, either directly or with alliances. Likewise, we hope to have more products in our portfolio and a stronger working team.

19. What role did my family and friends play?

Both have played a very important role, I have always felt supported and motivated by them and this is a key factor in furthering our personal goals and as a company.

Your interest: They are looking for 5,000 entrepreneurs to teach them how to analyze data for free

20. I did it. Would you help other entrepreneurs achieve this?

Of course. I believe it is necessary for more people because the world needs radical change, because of innovation and because of the conviction of wanting to do things differently in order for that change to be achieved. And in general, the process of opening a business generates many emotions, it is always good to have the support of a person who already knows how each of these stages passes.

21. What role did my team play? Who is this?

My current work team consists of my two partners: María Isabel Gaviria (Ph.D.), with whom I develop the scientific line, and Sebastian Trabalon (MBA), who is responsible for business development. My partners are a fundamental part of the startup, and the success of Fungi Life was due to teamwork. Our roles:

Sebastian Trabalon, CEO, María Isabel Gaviria, Chief Technology Officer and Maribel Montoya, Chief Research and Development Officer (CSO).

22. What is my personal seal? What sets me apart from the rest?

My personal distinguishing feature is my passion for mushrooms and care for the environment, I think it was a combination that, together with my team, united us in a common goal: to start with The life of mushrooms.

23. What have I learned from all this?

I learned how to manage change, be patient, think globally, deal with disappointment, and understand the importance of having a support network and assertive communication.

If you know stories of entrepreneurs and their businesses, email us at Edwin Bohórquez Aya (ebohorquez@elespectador.com) or Tatiana Gomez Fuentes (tgomez@elespectador.com). 👨🏻‍💻 🤓📚

Check Also

A start-up from Valencia that improves the well-being of employees of companies such as Balearia, Consum or AirEuropa

At first glance, it may seem that Balearia, Osborne, Consum, Mercedes-Benz or AirEuropa have nothing …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *