M&A moves

Houston chemical company divests new tech arm to PE

Merichem Company has created a new business unit that's been acquired by a private equity firm. Photo via Getty Images

A New Orleans-based private equity firm has announced the acquisition of a Houston chemical company's technology business unit, the business announced today.

Black Bay Energy Capital acquired a portion of Merichem Company’s business — including its Merichem Process Technologies and Merichem Catalyst Products, which will collectively be renamed Merichem Technologies. Merichem's caustic services business, which handles spent caustic for beneficial reuse, will be maintained by the company.

Cyndie Fredrick has been promoted to CEO of Merichem Technologies. She previously served as Merichem's senior vice president and general manager of Merichem Process Technologies. She's joined by CFO Rene Campos, Senior Vice President of Technology Jeff Gomach, and Senior Vice President of Catalysts William Rouleau, who are all former managers within Merichem.

“The Merichem Technologies team has successfully deployed highly engineered and patented technologies, chemical catalysts, and mechanical solutions to various end markets including liquified natural gas, midstream oil and gas, refining of traditional crude and renewable feedstocks, biogas/landfill/RNG production, geothermal energy production, and chemical manufacturing," Fredrick says in a news release. "Merichem Company has been a fantastic steward of this business for decades, and the entire Merichem Technologies team is excited about our new partnership with Black Bay and the ability to pursue new avenues for growth.”

Additionally, Merichem Company's CEO Kendra Lee will join the Merichem Technologies board. Lee's grandfather founded the company in 1945, and she told EnergyCapital last year that she hopes to continue the legacy of the company, which designs and fabricates equipment for sulfur removal.

“Our reputation has always stood on the principles of proven performance, unsurpassed expertise, and an uncommon commitment to our customers," Lee says in the release. "This divesture is a major milestone for Merichem Company as we continue to execute on our strategic vision, further cementing our leadership position in caustic services.”

Black Bay focuses on the energy and specialty chemical sectors, but the Merichem Technologies acquisition brings a new sulfur-treating platform to the firm.

“Sulfur treatment is a critical path item across many industrial applications around the world. Hydrogen sulfide, mercaptans, carbon dioxide, and other related impurities must be dealt with to ensure environmental compliance, sustainable operations, and a saleable end product," Tom Ambrose, partner of Black Bay, says in the release.

Trending News

A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

---

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Trending News