Named one Biofuels Digest’s 50 Hottest Companies in
Bioenergy, Enerkem is one of the leading waste to biofuels and chemicals
companies in the world. The company is based in Montreal and its technology
converts residual materials, such as non-recyclable municipal solid waste, into
clean transportation fuels, advanced chemicals and green electricity.
When Enerkem’s CEO Vincent Chornet started the business in 2000, energy prices
were low and the word “cleantech” didn’t exist. The company’s vision was ahead
of its time as it set to work to pioneer development of a unique process that
would efficiently provide biofuels to the world in an environmentally sound
After achieving three successful years with the technology at a pilot facility
in 2006, Enerkem had the results and proof it needed to move the company
forward, but in what direction and how fast? Vincent met Joshua Ruch of Rho
Ventures when raising his second round of financing. He was looking for a
strong investor who could bring industry expertise, connections, as well as the
knowledge of growing start-ups.
“Joshua’s expertise in growing companies, paired with his understanding of the
industry, has been an invaluable asset to our management team, especially when
we were at the critical point of deciding how to take the company to the next
level,” said Chornet. “Joshua understood the need for cleaner fuels, the new U.S. and
Canadian biofuels regulation and the potential demand for our technology from
the start. He knew we would have to move forward quickly and raise capital in
order to build our sector’s first industrial scale facility if Enerkem was
going to become a leader in the evolving cleantech marketplace.”
That decision was a major turning point for the company. Enerkem
assembled a team of seasoned managers and strong internal resources. Today, it
has more than 80 employees. Chornet relied on Rho Ventures to help Enerkem
understand the right path for this kind of growth. “This is where you can
really judge if a VC firm is good – when to staff and when not to and what pace
you want to go at organizationally – this is one of the hardest things to get right
as a startup,” he said.
Today Enerkem, operates two plants in Canada: the pilot facility in Sherbrooke,
Quebec and a commercial-scale plant in Westbury,
Quebec. It has recently started the construction of the world’s first
industrial-scale municipal waste-to-biofuels plant in Edmonton.
This project has received $23 million from the government of Alberta. In the
U.S. Enerkem undertaking developing of a similar project in Mississippi
for which the U.S. Department of Energy awarded it $50 million in funding.
Additional projects are under development in North America and abroad
Rho remains active on the board and a committed partner. It recently led an
additional financing of $53.8 million. The new funds raised will be used to
support Enerkem's growth trajectory, including initiating the construction of
its second waste-to-biofuels plant.