GMS Surface Tech, which produces green and odour-free surface cleaners, has received commitments of about $600,000 in a $700,000 second round of funding that it hopes will fund expansion in the U.S.
The company, which was started by chemistry professors at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., is raising $400,000 in equity investment, mostly from outside the region, said Chief Marketing Officer Joe Menchefski in an interview. The company has secured $140,000 in support from NRC-IRAP and is hoping to finalize the remainder of the raise with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Menchefski expects to close the round this month.
GMS Surface tech makes industrial cleaning products that are so green that you can drink them. In fact, Menchefski does just that during sales pitches, just to show how safe the products are.
“I spray the products in my mouth during presentations,’’ he said. “It’s so people understand that this is the safest thing in schools and hospitals. There’s absolutely nothing that is safer.”
The company makes four odour-free, biodegradable cleaning products, including white board, screen and lens cleaners. The company owns the IP for the latest two, while the earlier product patents are held by St. FX and licensed to GMS.
Unlike other cleaners that contain harsh solvents and alcohols, GMS’s are free of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
Schools and hospitals are GMS’s main costumers because of concerns about having harsh chemicals and odours near patients and children.
Alberta is a leading market because of its strict regulations on the VOC content of cleaning compounds. It is also selling in other parts of Canada, especially the Maritimes and the Greater Toronto Area.
Gerrard Marangoni, a professor in the St. FX chemistry department, had the idea for a specialty cleaning products company when he heard students complain about the smell in the classroom created by whiteboard cleaner. He teamed up with Kulbir Singh, another St. FX prof, and Menchefski, who held an independent liaison contract with the school. Menchefski is also the CEO of Sydney-based Billdidit, a design-and-manufacturing concern best known for drumming products.
In 2009, the new company received $25,000 from Innovacorp’s Early Stage Commercialization Fund, which allowed GMS to build a website and roll out its first product, a whiteboard cleaner.
The company raised $150,000 from private investors and received a $142,000 loan from ACOA in 2010.
GMS now hopes to expand in the U.S., and also to expand its line of products.
“Our goal is to duplicate the success we’ve had in Canada in other markets, like the U.S., and later on Europe,” said Menchefski.