Chemical Trading is one of the less typical careers one goes into. Not everyone has the superficial idea or the intensive knack for navigating through the complicated chemical sourcing and distribution system. However, experienced entrepreneur, Austin Britts, has been in the business for years, establishing several successful start-ups spanning from CPG brands to technology companies. Austin continues to thrive in the field by offering access to more opportunities and creating growth potential for every member of the chemical distribution industry. Listen in as BluePallet co-founder and current VP of Sales Operations, Austin, joins Victoria Meyer to provide a solution to make sourcing raw materials a lot simpler – from search to logistics and everything in-between.

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Search, Source, Buy: Austin Britts On Chemical Sourcing Operations

In this episode, I am talking with Austin Britts. Austin is the Cofounder and the VP of Sales Operations for BluePallet, which is a startup in the chemical industry. You’re going to learn more about what BluePallet is. He has founded several successful startups spanning from CPG brands to technology companies. He got his start in chemical distribution, working in that space for many years. Together with that and with his experiences at BluePallet, he had some unique insights on chemical distribution, where it is now and where it’s going. We’re going to be talking about that and more. Austin, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here.

I’m glad to have you. How did you get started in chemical distribution? I’m going to go back to that because it’s not a typical spot for people to jump out of college and jump into. How did that happen?

It’s a funny story. It isn’t the typical career path that you hear so much about. When I first told my mom that I was doing chemical trading, she asked me if that was a code for selling drugs. I went to school at the University of Washington. I studied International Trade. My father was always in international trade so it’s something that I gravitated towards. I had a cushy job lined up doing substitute teaching on the island of Lanai in Hawaii. That was my grand plan after college. I’m sure things would have looked much different in my life but things were ruined.

That plan was ruined by a friend of mine in the rugby community who had said, “There’s a chemical trading company that’s hiring owned by rugby players. You may get along with them. They are looking for a sales associate to learn the ropes.” I looked into it and I ended up interviewing with him. I thought, “This is too good of a chance to pass up. It’s something that I’m fascinated by. I don’t know anything about chemicals and I hated chemistry in college but I’ll give it a whirl.” Several years later, here we are. It was a pretty amazing experience.

That was with TRI that you were with?

Yes. That was with TRInternational. They’re headquartered in Seattle but they operate all over the place. I had an amazing experience in the international sector. They started more on the export side and they did an import. In ‘97, when the currency crisis of the Asian Tigers happened, they had to turn around and figure out how to import. They’re incredibly savvy, fun places to work and learn. It was an amazing experience.

Yet, you left and moved on into some other things.

At the time, I had spent ten years there. They threw me into the fire when I started. I give Tony a lot of credit, the owner and founder of TRI, for giving me an opportunity that was probably above my level. It was above my experience but they sat me in the middle of the sales team. I listened to the team make a bunch of calls and learn the ropes that way. I had some great experiences. I helped open a facility that they bought in Chicago. I helped build that up from the ground and helped assist with that. I had these great experiences but I felt like I was getting to the point where I had learned a lot and there wasn’t growth there.

I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I would have this amazing job. I would make good money. I had a lot of freedom. I enjoyed what I did. I loved the people I worked with, but I had this nagging feeling that twenty years would go by and I’d look back and say, “Did I accomplish everything, all the growth and all the experiences I wanted to accomplish?” I got nervous that it wasn’t the case. I ended up taking the leap and of all things, started a performance sunscreen company with a friend who also was at TRI, who later is also a cofounder of BluePallet.

The value of a company lies around customer experience and differentiation; the relationship, the service, the responsiveness, and the uniqueness that each company provides.

TRI and chemical distribution is woven throughout your career.

It is. I still am very close with the folks at TRI. I talked to them a lot. Meg has taken over the business. I know she’s been on your show. She’s an incredible leader and has done an amazing job taking that over and growing it. She’s well-respected. I owe her a lot over the years. That’s for sure.

Did you start this other company then?

The company was a performance sunscreen company. I had read a book called Raising the Bar. It’s the founding story of Clif Bar by Gary Erickson. I was inspired by it at the time. I think Clif Bar was on the bleeding edge of a lot of the best practices for taking care of your employees and providing a great life at work. Before Google and all these tech companies came very famous for providing lunch at work, workout rooms, nap rooms and all these things, Gary and his team at Clif Bar were at the very beginnings of saying, “We’re going to make this an amazing place to work. It’s going to be a fun place to work. We’re going to value family and your time. We’re going to build something meaningful.”

I read the book and it was a shot in the heart of the inspiration of like, “This is a cool thing to do. I would also like to build a product in the outdoor industry,” which is something I’m very passionate about. I love the outdoor industry. I wanted to do something closer to what I knew, closer to sports and to something I felt like I could contribute to, and something very different. A CPG brand and how you think about a brand and the strength of the brand are very different from what is thought about in the commodity chemical world.

That was a hard thing for us to overcome. I’ll be honest. We had this great product and it was well-priced. We’re like, “This is going to fly off the shelf.” It turns out building a brand is much more complicated than that. It took us a long time to realize the value of that and how hard critically you have to think about the brand. It was a great experience.

Is it still in business?

Yes. It is still thriving now. It’s doing great. It’s got a bright future and I’m excited about it.

Tell us about how did BluePallet come about?

BluePallet is very much born out of some frustration in the chemical industry that I had while at TRI. Some pain points that I think are universal across the business are the seed that was planted a long time ago. Kevin and I who’s Cofounder of Zealios and also at BluePallet. We had a friend in town. He’s a good friend of ours from school. We also played rugby together at the University of Washington, which is how the three of us met. He had been down visiting us in the Bay Area. He was up in Seattle at the time. He had cofounded a company called ZeroHero that had built up technology in the event ticketing space. That platform had been built up and it was acquired by Ticketmaster in 2018. It might have been in 2017.

TCSP 37 Austin Britts | Chemical Sourcing

Chemical Sourcing: You have to make sure that people who are receiving that material or paying for that material are people who are permitted and licensed to handle it and handle it in a safe way.

 

Ticketmaster now uses this platform to run all of their NFL distribution and their secondhand sales. They power a lot of their marketplace engines. What’s neat about it is that this product could speak to other marketplaces. It could push transactional updates, pricing updates and availability updates to and from other marketplaces like RazorGator, Vivid Seats and things like that.

After that acquisition, Scott was looking for a new project. He was asking us questions about the chemical industry. The questions were like, “How big is it again? It can’t quite be what you’re telling me it is.” There’s no marketplace solution. We’re explaining to him how a lot of the trade is still done manually with PDF purchase orders and the occasional fax machine.

We started brainstorming. At first, Kevin and I were like, “No, this is going to be impossible. You have no idea how hard this is. You have no idea how complicated and big this industry is,” but Scott can be a very stubborn and driven person. When he gets an idea in his head, he tends to run with it. Long story short, we ended up going down to the NACD annual meeting. He convinced me to fly out there with him. We had a booklet of screenshots of stuff that we could make, stuff that we could use.

It’s a vision board put into a presentation form. NACD was very gracious in welcoming us as a potential affiliate member. We walked around and introduced ourselves to everybody we possibly could and tried to get some eyeballs and feedback on what we could build. It was interesting because half the room was excited and half the room was like, “This will never work.” I remember the first person we talked to said, “Good luck.” I think that was more validating than anything else. Our real pivotal moment was when we met with Terry Hill, who is the former president of Univar. He’s now the CEO of Barentz and the gold standard of respectability, kindness and everything good about the chemical industry.

Tony Rinella was gracious to make an introduction to him. Terry had written a white paper for NACD. If eCommerce came to the chemical distribution space, what would it look like, and what would it have to look like to be successful and not disruptive? We ended up spending some time with Terry and he gave us ten minutes to listen to us. We put some more time on the calendar up in Seattle a few weeks later. I think we are all aligned on what would be good for the industry. Terry was very clear in saying, “I’ve spent my life in this industry and whatever we build or if we decide to do this together, it will have to be good for the industry and not disruptive. This has to be something that’s forced multiplier and not something that’s going to devastate it.”

This has been brewing for a few years before it came to the public.

It has. We’ve been in stealth mode for a few years. It’s been an interesting challenge in that. We ended up raising a little bit of seed money, unlike some other industry participants, all on an individual basis. There’s nothing with a company behind it. They also came from friends and family, a lot of our old rugby buddies, and a lot of our initial network.

We came in and we got the same development team that helped build the product for ZeroHero. We were in development for two and a half years. We spent two and a half years flying around the country, talking to all the people we could talk to in the distribution space who would let us come in and check out their plant, tell us their story, their use case, how they service the industry, what they would need in a product if we were to build it for them.

We were weaving that back into the development of the product. We spent two and a half years listening, years open, trying to hear what the use cases would be in the applications and pain points. We’re taking guidance from the NACD leadership on compliance and safety and things like that, and building it back into the product. It was a little bit challenging because we had to sell the product before it was built. We also had to build the product while we were selling it.

What is BluePallet? What’s your mission? What are you guys doing now for the chemical industry?

You have to spend your time building relationships and driving home those value drivers that make you unique as an organization and make your service great.

BluePallet in its shortest form is what we call a network marketplace. It has network functionality into it but also has marketplace functionality into it. We studied very hard why marketplaces have failed in the chemical industry. There have been several attempts of people trying to make the technology work. We dug deep into it and see where it failed. We saw a couple of key things that were important to address.

First and foremost, shipping hazmat drums and totes of products across the country is a whole different bag of snakes than dropshipping on an iPhone off of a website. It’s very different for many reasons. Safety and compliance are one of the top ones. Making sure that people who are receiving that material or paying for that material are people who are permitted and licensed to handle it, making sure they’re handling it in a safe way.

Also, there’s credit risk associated with that. These are not cheap products. This isn’t something where you can do a chargeback on a credit card. The average transaction value on BluePallet now is $22,000. It’s real money. It’s making sure that piece is squared away, and also the terrorist watch list and sanctions list. There are a lot of things that go into this industry that need to be considered to make a marketplace function. Nobody has done that on the front end.

The other consideration is that we think that distribution is necessary for the chemical industry to function. The mistake that a lot of people have made in the past is that they have looked at distribution as a margin that’s available to be replaced by a marketplace. We think that’s foolish because we think that distribution has a vital function in down packing, next day servicing, understanding use cases, formulation. There are services and use cases that are provided there that the manufacturers and stakeholders don’t necessarily want to handle.

Marketplaces didn’t consider the distribution layer in the past. We think that’s one of the most important layers for this thing to function. One of the use cases where you can apply it to what we’ve built into the product is that a company may be authorized in a regional way to distribute for a certain producer. It’s impossible the two-sided marketplace like some of the other ones that are out there that are very common and everybody knows to gate who on the other side can see that product.

Take for instance if you have the authorization to distribute on the West Coast, Washington, Oregon or California. If you are authorized to sell somebody’s product in those areas, you can’t participate in a two-sided marketplace because if somebody from Nevada comes on and purchase it and it goes out of your region, that violates your distribution contract. It’s not worth sacrificing that to get an extra couple of drums in incremental sales through the marketplace.

BluePallet solves that. If I come in and I’m listing inventory, down to the individual listing or drum, I can say, “I only want this available in California and Washington. Only companies that are either in California, Oregon and Washington, where our shipping the product to California, Oregon and Washington, can see this material.” You won’t even be able to see it in the marketplace if you’re in New Jersey and this is only listed in those areas.

One of the things you mentioned that is there are potentially hazardous products that are moving. Typically, there are generally a lot of pre-approval processes before somebody is allowed to make that purchase from a handling perspective. Some of it is going into the appropriate NDs. There are a lot of rules and regs around it. What prevents somebody from coming onto BluePallet and just buying a drum of something that they did not suppose to have?

I don’t want to say it was a lucky coincidence but the other founding story of BluePallet is us coming into a talented group of people called Velosi, who had built up what’s called in the industry KYB, KYC. It’s Know Your Business, Know Your Customer technology that was based on verifying and validating companies, and also enabling B2B payments between those companies. We realized what they had in their technology is what we needed on our side. At the time, BluePallet was called Ecosystem. The result is a merger of those two companies that we pulled off. What that gave us is our own proprietary technology that we called the TradePass.

TradePass is something that comes on and we do all the verification and validation of anybody upfront. Before you have access to the BluePallet marketplace, before you can list anything or buy anything, you have to go through our vetting and verification process. What that looks like is it’s quite intense, but we’ve made it as smooth as possible. It takes about twenty minutes to go through this. It’s filling out forms and uploading some documentation. What we’re doing is a couple of things.

We’re verifying the ownership structure of the business. If anybody has 25% or more of the business, we have to get the full social security number, home address, and home phone number of that person. We do this for a couple of reasons. One is to make sure that matches up. We run that against sanctions lists and terrorists watch lists. It also allows us to comply with the Patriot Act, anti-money laundering provisions, because our system can move over $6,000. We have to comply with that.

We also capture insurance information and any other documentation as it relates to things with regulatory. If you’re a DEA List 1, any of those permits or licenses that come with that, there’s a spot and TradePass to go and update those. We vet and verify that on the other side. All in all, TradePass vets and verifies over 2,000 data points on every single company that enters our system. We do that every month. Some of those are live but the insurance, for instance, we vet and verify every month as it goes. What that does is that allows us to build this very robust 360-degree passport of every company that comes into our system.

We get credit information. We get terms information. We get a lot of stuff that comes with that. We have our own internal criteria of who can join the marketplace and who cannot. TradePass also gates some very interesting nerdy chemical stuff like the DEA List 1, List 2, DHS chemicals of interest stuff. All of that stuff is built into TradePass. If somebody tries to order something and they don’t have the permit or they don’t have it uploaded on that particular facility, TradePass will block that transaction.

We also have some individual permissions associated with it as well. Anybody who comes in who wants to buy hazmat products or the three lists that I mentioned have to get authorisation from their administrator. They also have to sign the documentation. You’re required to have that on file every twelve months. It sends you a DocuSign where you get it on file. If you leave the company or somebody removes you from it, you have no access to BluePallet.

One of the things that’s interesting and you mentioned some of the unique functions of chemical distribution there. They’re not going away depending on the product. It represents 20% to 30% of products sold. It’s necessary for a lot of ways, but there’s a lot of value that’s provided and that value is around customer experience and differentiation, the relationship, the know-how, the service, the responsiveness, and the uniqueness that each company provides. It seems that one of the risks perhaps in using a marketplace or perceived risk is that you lose that. It ends up getting boiled down again to product and price. Therefore, it commoditizes chemical distribution as opposed to allowing that value differentiation to occur. Are you seeing that? Is that real? Is that happening? How do you get around that?

The theory is real. That’s a threat. We did two things. There are two things I’d like to hit on here that are important in how we thought of this. That addresses the second part of what the market and the network are. The network piece addresses this. We understand that it’s foolish for us to try to get in between every transaction and every person in here. A lot of these companies have been doing business for 35, 40 years. Sometimes way more than that. One of the key things about BluePallet is that you can create your own network and trade zone within BluePallet. It’s a free trade zone.

Let’s say I’m selling stuff through the marketplace. I’m using it to sell, loan, debt inventory or whatever it might be. I’m utilizing the network, the vastness, the numbers that come with the marketplace and the functionality that are great. Also, I discover either a customer is on BluePallet already or that they are a new customer I met at a trade show. They can connect TradePass IDs. They can share TradePass IDs, then it goes to a one-to-one relationship where it’s portable. They can see each other’s inventory that’s listed with the logo next to it.

It becomes more of a portal-like functionality. They can order directly from me. In that case, there’s no markup from BluePallet. We completely get that out of the way. What we do is we charge a connection fee that’s nominal. In exchange, they get that real-time data and TradePass functionality. If I’m using this to manage my customers, I can come in and say, “I’ve made these TradePass connections. I have a hundred connections in here. I have a very robust look at my credit risk, my credit profile, and my insurance risk.”

I can also see leading indicators rather than lagging indicators. If somebody gets hit by a lien or lawsuit, or if their credit takes a dive, then I can at least make a phone call before I ship that product. It was important to call attention to, and this is something that Terry made very clear to us. He said, “This is the next evolution of how you service a customer well.” We had a graphic for this in the very beginning when we were doing our own graphics back at the time. It wasn’t very pretty. If you can picture the evolution of man. It goes to standing up.

We did one that started with a sedan, then a fax machine, then a cell phone, and then there was BluePallet. We think that this is not going to replace anything or salespeople. You’re still going to have to spend your time on building that relationship, driving home those value drivers that make you unique as an organization, that makes your service great. All the reasons that those companies have been buying from you for 60 years.

TCSP 37 Austin Britts | Chemical Sourcing

Chemical Sourcing: There are a lot of things that go into this industry that need to be considered to make a marketplace function. And distribution is absolutely necessary for the chemical industry.

 

This is just a way to provide an extra layer of service where people can log in and self-serve. They can reorder, come in and see your documentation, view it and download it on their own time if they’re up at 2:00 in the morning with a screaming baby and can’t sleep and want to get some work done. They know they can go in and do some self-service there. They can come in and say, “I can place an order. I can track orders.” All those things are another level of service. The salesperson or that relationship is always going to be there.

It’s always going to be one of the most fundamental parts of chemical distribution. It’s building those relationships. This is just another way to make it better. It’s another tool in the toolbox. It’s the evolution of technology that’s going to be there. The other thing that is important to call attention to, and this is something that we try to speak to our distributor customers about, is that Millennials are moving up into positions of authority in the workplace. They crave different technology and workplace behaviors. They want that self-service and tend to want to do their research ahead of time and not talk to anybody.

They want to do their research. They research a lot. They choose who they’re going to work with. They vet and verify. They do a lot of homework. This is a behavior we’ve learned from several studies that are out there in the B2B space. They’re very loyal once they commit to somebody if the service and if the technology is what they want.

As they become higher into these purchasing roles, companies need to think about how they’re going to service those people and provide something that’s going to make it easier and stickier for that person to buy from them. That’s something that we focused hard on BluePallet. It is making sure that we’re democratizing this technology so that people can use this to better serve their customers.

That makes sense. I’ve been preaching this for a long time. The fact that people want to deal with businesses and digital technologies and a digital interface in their business life as seamlessly as they do in their personal life. It’s been hard for the chemical industry to justify the investment. That’s been a real blind spot when I’ve talked to people through the years, even from the time when I worked for Shell and I was doing some eBusiness and eCommerce platforms there.

Even now, people say, “Who’s going to pay for this?” Especially the network piece of it while I’m doing business with the same customers, and so figuring out what the ROI is on it, how they can create value and monetize it has been challenging. I think your point about Millennials, it’s not just Millennials. I’m a Gen X-er. Can I research you online first before I talk to you or whatever? It’s my expectation.

We all have that behavior that’s changing as we become more comfortable with things in our hands and being able to push that button while we’re working hard at making that easier and more native. It’s amazing to see the difference within our own team, the young engineers and how quickly they move through the product. You can also see it when we’re demoing the product and letting people walk through it for the first time. It’s amazing to see how people can gravitate to it, what that shift is and how fast they can use it, especially with the younger generation. It’s wild.

What has been one of the biggest surprises that you and your team have had as you’ve developed and launched BluePallet?

There are a couple of things I would think about. We came in with expectations that the chemical industry was complex and we even underestimated that. Freight logistics and the number of different ways that transaction can happen is very difficult to automate. We’ve tried our best and we’ve done an okay job. I would give us maybe a C+ on our first effort.

We’re having to backtrack a little bit and think deeply about who we partner with on the logistics side and what flexibility we have to build into the system, and back away from automation in a few ways because automation has gotten us in trouble in a couple of times. That’s one thing that’s been surprising. The other thing that we’re pleasantly surprised about is how quickly the acceleration of adaption has been. It’s very much because of some global macro factors.

People want to deal with businesses and digital technologies as seamlessly as they do in their personal life.

Working from home has certainly been a big part of it.

The supply chain shortages are all a five-star use case for why the marketplace should be existing. We’ve seen the adaption happen. I’ve told this to our team who are not all chemical people. I said, “There is no better time in our lives for us to be able to help here, and to be able to raise our hand and say, ‘We have a solution.’” If you are having a hard time finding a product, you may be able to find it here, or you can at least post on the one on board and say, “I need some help looking for X, Y and Z.” Our theory is that it is in the supply chain somewhere, but the supply chain is so opaque in the chemical industry. You never know what is out there and available. There’s no other way to do it at scale than to have that marketplace.

One of the anecdotes we like to tell is one of the first orders that went through the marketplace was between two companies who had known each other for 25 years. It’s not a mistake or anything wrong with what they did. It’s just that it is impossible to know when you’re looking for a product that has it at that very instant at what price unless you’re willing to make 600 phone calls or send out a blast email to everybody you know. You can make that connection instantly through the marketplace if it’s set up correctly.

You can see what’s out there. You can see what’s hidden in the supply chain. I think that’s been interesting to see but to answer your question about what the surprise has been. It’s what I was saying at that first meeting at NACD, 50% are like, “You’re crazy. Good luck”, 50% are like, “That’s interesting. I can’t wait to see you guys try this.”

Now, with the shock of the pandemic, the shortages and the move to remote work, we’ve seen that accelerate. I would say probably 80% of people are like, “This is interesting and fascinating. We want to be involved.” The other 20% are still on the fence. That’s happened a lot quicker than we anticipated. It’s been exciting to see people who are very hesitant and say, “We’re scared of this. This is not part of our plan.” They come back around out of nowhere and say, “We’ve decided this is something we want to be on the forefront of and not be catching up to.” That has been a pleasant surprise.

We talked a little bit about TradePass. You are collecting a lot of data. We know that data privacy and control are important to most companies. You’ve also announced a partnership. Although that perhaps is too strong of a word. You’ve got a business alliance with Alibaba, a Chinese eCommerce giant and yet, the US and China also have very different positions regarding data and data privacy. There’s a lot of tension going on. How do you reconcile this and address these data privacy concerns and the differences between jurisdictions for yourself and your customers?

The first and foremost is building trust and also being transparent with the privacy policy that we have on the front of our website. You can go on and view it at any time. You could read through and see what we can do and cannot do with the data. It’s a great question. People’s data is the most valuable asset that anybody in this industry has. For a good reason, people are very hesitant to give it away. We have strong walls in our data. We protect it very carefully. We’re very aware of how important this is. When it comes to business data and things like that, that is ours.

That’s for our own use. That’s for TradePass’ use. That never gets put anywhere. All that personal and very sensitive information that I told you about is handled very carefully and never stored on a server anywhere. That’s taken off. Vaporize is never stored on any of our servers or any of our partner’s servers. That’s important to call out. We also know that things are more business-related. Price books, pricing and things like that are also extremely sensitive. We will never share any of that information with anybody. We have that. That’s completely your data and we’re building in a ripcord so that if you decide to leave, all that information will also go with you. Your ability to get out and pull out, and that your data is always your data.

We do have plans. We’re going to take guidance from our community on what type of data people would be interested in monetizing or at least accessing. Whether this is labeled pricing trends, heat maps or things that have more commercial value, we have that at our fingertips. We’re doing nothing with it but we will likely use it in some way. We will take guidance from the community saying, “What would be useful? What would you like to see?” We’re making sure that we’re not giving anything away that’s sensitive or that people would feel nervous about having it out there. Anecdotally, we think it would probably be pricing trends stuff, heat maps and things like that.

With regard to the partnership with Alibaba, there’s absolutely no technology connection within it right now. There’s nothing in the works to happen there either. It’s more of a partnership of saying, “Where we would like to be in a few years is similar to how we saw the technology space evolve and the ticketing industry when all those marketplaces can talk to each other.” StubHub, Ticketmaster, those networks talk to each other. We think there’s value in that. We think Alibaba has done an incredible job growing that network and that B2B space.

TCSP 37 Austin Britts | Chemical Sourcing

Chemical Sourcing: The mistake that many people have made in the past is that they’ve looked at distribution as a margin that’s available to be replaced by a marketplace.

 

They’ve done some admirable things, and speaking to their US team has been an eye-opening experience at how serious they take this stuff. We mainly have a loose partnership of saying, “We can have a site here. We can help bring in some leads, qualify people and help grow the network in the United States.” We don’t have any technology connections or API connections or anything like that where any data is flowing back and forth.

That’s helpful. It’s good because it’s data.

You’re right. At a policy level, the two countries have very different takes on that. We realize that’s a sensitive space. We want to make sure that we’re very respectful of that.

At the time that we are publishing this episode, we’ll have announced your SeriesA funding. What can you tell us about that and what does that do for you?

It allows us to keep the lights on. It’s very exciting. We have two of the best partners we could possibly have. When you’re a founder of a company, you have so much to think about and raising money is a full-time job. It is a ton of work and there are a lot of booby traps that you can step in. You want to make sure you pick the right partners for the right reasons.

There’s more that comes with it than just the cash. The cash is great. It keeps the lights on, but you want to pick partners who can be strategic partners to help you push initiatives forward, learn things faster, lend some horsepower to the marketplace, or give some strategic things to us or technology, oversight, engineers, help with onboarding, hiring and finding those good engineers. All these things are things that you have to think about when you’re vetting partners.

We hit an absolute home run we think in landing our Series-A partnerships. We have Vinmar Ventures, a sub-company and an investment company. Vinmar is a large plastics and petrochemical company led by a talented CEO, Vishal Goradia, who’s very forward-thinking, very respected by his team, and very young for his position too. He quickly saw what we had built and saw some amazing value in it. He was more curious than anything. He’s like, “This is exciting. You have put some thought into this.” Vinmar led the round. They’re the lead investor in the round. We left a little bit in the round to make sure if we found a good strategic partner that we’d be able to take them on.

This is the first time. This has been public knowledge but we’re excited. The press release will drop after this is published. We have had great ventures, which is Google’s early-stage AI-focused venture fund, come in and fill out the rest of our Series-A. It’s very exciting. They’re very forward-thinking. They have a lot of resources that they can help us with. They have office hours. We can call on and ask amazing experts and engineering sales all across the business functionality.

The fact that they see and understand the vision, they’re fascinated by the industry, they’re going to be an incredible partner. We’re excited to have them on the cap table. It was hard to keep it buttoned up for so long because we were so excited to tell everybody, especially our team. We didn’t get to tell our team until we had an all offsite where we could see the eyes light up when we told them.

That’s part of this startup journey that everybody hopes to go beyond.

As people become more comfortable with things in their hands and can push stuff out a button, they continue to work really hard at making that easier and feel more native. 

It’s built out of these milestones where it’s like, “If we could get to the Series A,” and then get to the Series-A. You have about 48 hours of peace and then it’s like, “We got to get to work.”

We got to execute on it. What is next for BluePallet? You’ve got a bunch of funding in. You must have big plans. What’s next?

We do have big plans. The immediate roadmap is building the team. Building the team is something that we feel very strongly about getting the right people in the right seats.

Is this going to be a lot of technical developers or more chemical industry people? I think you may be one of the few that have a depth of knowledge that’s in-house at the moment? Am I right?

There are about three of us that came from the chemical industry that is part of this leadership team. We are going heavy on development. We’re in the process of bringing all of that development onshore into our own house. We have been adding developers. It’s a very difficult market to add developers. Finding the right ones, the right expertise and the tech stack that they need has been challenging but Gradient has been helpful with that. They have deep networks in the engineering world.

TCSP 37 Austin Britts | Chemical Sourcing

Chemical Sourcing: People’s data is the most valuable asset that anybody in this industry has.

 

The other half of it is building out the sales team. We have a very talented marketing and digital marketing team. We have a very talented operation and product team. The biggest group is the engineering side. Now, we’re starting to build out our sales team, which is coming together well. It’s nice to have some help on there. It’s been a couple of us shouting from the mountain top for the last couple of years. Now it feels like we have some resources.

This has been a great conversation, Austin. I appreciate you taking the time and learning a lot more about BluePallet than I certainly knew before. I think it will be interesting. Thanks for joining us on the show.

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a real pleasure. I encourage anybody to reach out to us if you’re interested, curious or have more questions because we tend to get into this and people are like, “I have a thousand questions.” We’re all ears. We’re here to answer.

 

 

Today’s episode is sponsored by Palmer Holland – Are raw material supply shortages putting a strain on your production schedule? Make your job easier by partnering with the premier North American specialty chemical and fine ingredient distributor. Their team of technical and logistical experts use their intimate understanding of the marketplace to help you solve your formulation and sourcing issues. Get the support you’ve been looking for and avoid production delays. Visit palmerholland.com to see what solutions are right for you.

 

 

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About Austin Britts

TCSP 37 Austin Britts | Chemical SourcingAustin Britts is a Co-Founder and current VP of Sales Operations at BluePallet. A seasoned entrepreneur, Austin has founded several successful start-ups spanning from CPG brands to technology companies. His 18 years in chemical distribution, coupled with the founding and building of BluePallet has given him a unique view into the exciting emerging technologies that will shape the next 20 years of chemical distribution.