Episode 7 – Advonex: Revolutionizing the Cosmetics Industry with Plant-Based Materials


Petroleum is a major problem for climate change, and it’s one of the hardest ingredients to replace. To tackle this issue, Advonex has developed a plant-based version that looks and acts exactly like Petroleum – and today’s leading personal care companies are taking notice.

About Advonex and Founder Chad Joshi

Advonex International develops and sells sustainable ingredients for lubricants, cosmetics, personal care products and other markets. Produced using a patented process, their ingredients exceed their Petroleum counterparts, their competitors, and are doing it at a fraction of the price. Recently, Lubrizol’s personal care division partnered with Advonex to add to its portfolio of sustainable ingredients. Advonex founder, Chad Joshi, caught the entrepreneurial bug during his studies at MIT and was one of American Superconductor’s early hires. When asked about what led to his success, Chad said, “I think certainly curiosity. Because I was curious to understand what the difference was between plant-based materials and Petroleum, that led me to ask, “How do we make them more alike?” The other part is talking to people about what the issues are, then its about finding the science that can solve that problem.” Learn more about Advonex on their website.

About Host Patrick McGuire

Patrick is a creative entrepreneur, team leader, and Altitude Accelerator board member who has focused on the sales and success of companies including: HR tech, fintech, sports tech, Software-as-a-Service, cannabis (CBD / THC), nutrition, health and wellness, fitness corporations, and business of all sizes with a love for helping business grow and scale from $500k to north of $50m. With an entrepreneurial mindset focused on team-building, his ethical leadership delivers win-win solutions for his companies and clients.

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Patrick McGuire (00:00)
Hey, it’s Patrick. Before we start at the time of this recording, we went through a bit of a name rebranding from RIC Centre to Altitude Accelerator. With that in mind, we hope you enjoy the following interview. Welcome to the Startups Transformed Podcast. I’m Patrick McGuire, your host, board member and advisor at Altitude Accelerator, where we help startups scale to new heights. We chat with phenomenal tech business leaders who’ve climbed their way to success within their industry. Our guests delve deep into the lessons they’ve learned along the way so that you can get a head start on your next big idea.

Patrick McGuire (00:44)
Got something cool, got something exciting, something lean, mean, green and fast. For those that like to ride bikes like me, we talked about plant based lubricants, as well as personal care and hygiene products. This is going to be really cool, because it is something that I really love, something I enjoy, something that I personally, I’m very aware of. So we’re going to have a conversation with our friend Chad Joshi, and we’re going to talk about Advonex. Thanks a lot for joining me on this session.

Chad Joshi (01:14)
It’s my pleasure to join you.

Patrick McGuire (01:16)
Advonex International develops and sells sustainable ingredients for lubricants, cosmetics, personal care products and other markets. Produced using a patented process, our ingredients are delivered through performance that exceeds their Petroleum counterparts, their competitors and actually doing it at a cost effective price. Now, Chad, that was pretty corporate and dry. But tell me, what is it really all about at Advonex?

Chad Joshi (01:41)
Petroleum is a major problem for climate change, and it’s probably the hardest thing for us to replace because it is so convenient. But the idea is if we can’t, wean ourselves off of Petroleum, we’re not going to be able to solve this climate change problem. And so we said, all right, where do we start? Because it’s such a big industry. We decided we were going to start trying to figure out some way to make molecules that looked exactly like what came out of Petroleum, but were plant based.

Patrick McGuire (02:11)
I love it.

Chad Joshi (02:13)
That’s the technology we’ve developed. Is we can take plant based oils like the cooking oils that you use and turn them into something that looks exactly like what comes out of Petroleum. And Petroleum engineers can’t tell the difference.

Patrick McGuire (02:27)
The fact that you say they can’t tell the difference. I mean, that’s because they’re looking at the chemical bond and structure, and then they look at viscosity, right? And they’re like, okay, so it’s no different. Like, you guys have hit a huge milestone.

Chad Joshi (02:39)
That was really the breakthrough that our scientists did. They developed a very simple method by which you can make these materials. Now you can get very complicated, but then it will become very expensive. So you need to do that rate balance between getting it what they call fungible, meaning interchangeable with Petroleum and doing it in a cost effective way. That’s what we have been able to do well.

Patrick McGuire (03:06)
And don’t confuse that with nonfungible tokens folks. I know that’s all the rage right now, but fungible, viscosity oil base plant product. It’s a little different, obviously. So, Chad, that is a big, hairy audacious goal to just say we’re going to figure out how to replace chemical oils and lubricants with plant based ones that are good for mechanics, good for humans, for people, for personal care products. What actually led you down that path?

Chad Joshi (03:36)
Well, once you replace Petroleum or have something that can replace components that you get from Petroleum. Now, basically, a huge market opportunity is open to you. And the real question is, where do you start? And we decided to start in personal care simply because that industry really cares about what people put on their skin, in their hair and on their bodies. They want clean, they want natural, they want plant-based materials. They want to get away from Petroleum. And Petroleum has a bad connotation in that industry.

Patrick McGuire (04:14)

Chad Joshi (04:15)
It’s also an industry that is very much open to innovation. There are thousands of new ingredients being put into that industry every year, so they understand something new and are willing to do the testing that’s needed to make sure that it’s safe and effective. The innovation is there. The desire and willingness to pay a slight premium or better quality cleaner ingredients is there. It was the right industry for us to go into.

Patrick McGuire (04:47)
Yeah. Many years ago, this is a personal side of things. I come from the fitness, nutrition, personal nutrition side of the world. I believe what you put in your body fuels the machine, you got to put better fuel in. But I took that another step, Chad, that said exactly what you’re saying is I got to do something else exterior wise. It just a general natural movement that the whole world is. So now I’m pretty much coconut oil, hemp extracted oil, even with CBD in it as well, for making me feel good stuff.

Patrick McGuire (05:17)
But you’re right. That industry is huge. In fact, I saw some crazy reports talking about the personal care products specifically tied to the CBD in personal care or hemp extracted products to help with that. It was $379,000,000,000 by 2027.

Chad Joshi (05:33)

Patrick McGuire (05:34)
You picked a pretty good market to go after.

Chad Joshi (05:36)
But I will tell you the other industries that we’re going after or even bigger, if we are able to succeed in the personal care industry, the other industries will see that we’ve got the capacity to meet their needs. The automotive lubricant industry is about ten times larger. They produce more in one day than all the ingredients in personal care in a year.

Patrick McGuire (05:59)
Even if you kind of fail and have a fraction of a fraction of a percentage, you’re a huge, smashing success.

Chad Joshi (06:04)
You’re right.

Patrick McGuire (06:06)
Wow. Very excited for you. Just going to back pedal a little bit. You’ve got some awards, some accolades. Can you tell us about some of the Honourable mentions you’ve got going out there for everything you’re doing.

Chad Joshi (06:16)
Yeah, certainly. We got involved with the Society of Cosmetic Chemists many years ago. It’s a trade organisation that focuses on the chemistry of ingredients that go into that industry. They have wonderful programs and are always looking for something new. Through that, we were able to get nominated for innovative ingredients back in 2017. The following year, we got recognised by Bio based World News for having the innovation of the year. We’re also recognised by the Sustainable Beauty Awards. Lux magazine gave us an award for fashion and beauty, and it just sort of cascaded.

Chad Joshi (06:57)
All of a sudden, we were getting into some of the big, prestigious brand names that were looking for new ingredients.

Patrick McGuire (07:05)
Clearly, the market is changing and they’re open and they’re rewarding people that are innovators that are working hard like yourself and your team at Advonex. Let me sort of backpedal a little bit more into your personal side of things. Where did you come from and where is it taking you?

Chad Joshi (07:20)
Well, where I come from is a very complicated story. But let’s just say that I got an education at probably one of the best technical universities, MIT.

Patrick McGuire (07:29)
Not bad.

Chad Joshi (07:30)
And everybody at MIT gets education in entrepreneurship, whether they want it or not. That’s just the structure of the school. What happened is I happened to be doing research in superconductivity. And at the time I was doing the research, the so called high temperature superconductors were discovered and everybody was flooding to the magnet lab at MIT to test their materials. So I was getting news of the new materials that are being discovered before the press got it because they were doing the testing in the laboratory that I was working in.

Chad Joshi (08:10)
And so all of a sudden I happened to get into American Superconductor as one of their early hires. And that was it. I got bitten by that startup club. And ever since then, I’ve been involved with the early stage companies for the last 35 years.

Patrick McGuire (08:29)
Incredible. But what inspired you to do this startup in lubricants versus technology, chips and superconductors?

Chad Joshi (08:37)
Well, I understood enough chemistry, basically enough to be dangerous. So I just asked questions and I surrounded myself with chemists who could help me figure out what was the issue. If I ask enough questions, I can usually drill down and get to the core issue. And then we did some brainstorming. My co founder and I just sat around in a bar. We were having a couple of beers and I said, all right, how do we get basically the oxygen out of the biological materials? Because if you take the oxygen out, then you have something that looks like Petroleum.

Chad Joshi (09:18)
So we brainstorm and we came up with an idea of how to do it. It was an old chemical process using electricity, but we tweaked it so that it worked more efficiently.

Patrick McGuire (09:32)
It’s really great to see that you made a personal pivot for a personal desire to get a result that is not just good for you personally, but for the entire world. So entrepreneurs, remember, it’s okay to pivot if you’re happy in one place doesn’t mean you won’t be happier somewhere else. Chad, when did you guys found this company? When did you lock it down as they were doing it?

Chad Joshi (09:53)
Well, we actually incorporated the company in 2012, but didn’t get started until a year or so later because we were searching for a place to do it and then ended up in Kingston, Ontario.

Patrick McGuire (10:07)
Not a bad place to be.

Chad Joshi (10:09)
Yeah, it is. It’s a great town. It’s a University town. As you know, Queens University is there. So there was a lot of young, energetic people, lots of technical innovation going on as well as good culture there. So I was able to get there and was able to find the resources at Green Centre Canada to help us get started and do the proof of concept.

Patrick McGuire (10:34)
Amazing. And there are. Queen University, great BCom, great engineers. A lot of smart people going there. So that’s pretty cool. In fact, we’ve had a couple of engineers on the podcast for Startups Transformed as well as some other ones that are coming from Queens and they are engineers. So you picked a good place to call home for a while you kicked it off. Now 2015, you guys discovered something about the waxing liquids, things that were going on, even going to cosmetics. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Chad Joshi (11:04)
Yeah. We were doing this electrochemistry process. And when we started using natural feedstocks rather than stuff from the chemical manufacturers, we found out that we were making this wax that actually turned out to be a very high quality wax.

Patrick McGuire (11:25)

Chad Joshi (11:25)
And so I said, all right, well, I wanted to make liquids, but I’ve got this wax. What do I do with it? So I started asking around, who cares about wax. And that’s how we stumbled into the personal care industry.

Patrick McGuire (11:40)
Wow. This is cool.

Chad Joshi (11:42)
So again, we were looking to replace lubricants and fuels and stuff like that. And all of a sudden, we get handed this wax. And there was another pivot. Even within the industry we were in, we were trying to find our way to the market. And the wax turned out to be excellent for things like lipsticks, mascara. So all sorts of personal care cosmetics. And that’s where we got into the personal care industry.

Patrick McGuire (12:15)
Wow. Going through that, finding that new pivot, and it’s okay to pivot anytime you need to. Folks, don’t forget that. But who sort of led that change to say it’s time to drive in this direction, but we’re going to still steer the ship this way, too. Who made that change decision?

Chad Joshi (12:31)
Well, we had to. We were making so much wax. The idea was all right. When you’re handed lemons, figure out how to make lemonade and in wax, make lipstick.

Patrick McGuire (12:44)
Isn’t this awesome? I mean, it’s so good to know that you’ve got a plant based solution that can change the world in so many different areas. Where do you find all these plant based sources to create waxes? Like, are they coming from a type of plant, or can it be done with everything?

Chad Joshi (12:59)
Well, we use seed oils. You think about seed oils. You may think about peanuts, but seed oils come from soybeans, canola, from mustard and a whole host of other plants create a large amount of oils. And we can use any of those oils to make our products. We can switch them or we can mix them. They all work.

Patrick McGuire (13:27)
So that’s pretty sustainable for your future as a company. To make that small change to pivot from a type of product to another type or from a source seed oil to another source seed oil. It won’t be changing your whole business model, right? That’s exciting for everybody, including yourselves, I’m sure.

Chad Joshi (13:45)
Yeah. We love that flexibility is we can go to the market and purchase whatever is the most available feedstock at the time.

Patrick McGuire (13:55)
This is crazy. I love it. You stumbled into some good stuff. You stumbled in more good stuff. You stumbled into some more opportunities. You got this wax sort of handed to you as one of your buy products are the ones that became a phenomenal primary product for you guys. Not everything is that good, chad, let’s get real about this. Was there something that was a bad decision or a bad time for the business that you guys had to address?

Chad Joshi (14:19)
Well, let’s see. There were several.

Patrick McGuire (14:23)
We’re both entrepreneurs. We know it’s not all good.

Chad Joshi (14:27)
We started down the path towards building business in the personal care space, and we would go talk to companies. And our ultimate goal is we are looking to build production capacity because that’s really what’s going to make this company successful. We can do stuff in the laboratory, but that’s not really not going to help until someone order tonnes of our materials and to order tonnes, you have to show them you have the capacity before they place the order.

Patrick McGuire (15:03)

Chad Joshi (15:04)
So we were looking for partners to help us build capacity. And we started down the road with a very large chemical manufacturer. I can’t say who it is because of nondisclosure agreements, but they were very interested in what we were doing. And we said, all right, let’s focus on this one partnership, and we kept talking with them, negotiating. Things dragged on and on and on. We didn’t get a close. And then all of a sudden they asked for one thing that was a little too much. And I stepped back and looked at it and said, this is not a good deal for the company.

Chad Joshi (15:52)
And I ended up having to pull the plug on that partnership.

Patrick McGuire (15:56)
And that was definitely my next question is, who had to make that tough decision, Chad. Sorry you did it. But probably the right thing to do.

Chad Joshi (16:04)
If you go into a win lose situation, you can’t fix that.

Patrick McGuire (16:09)

Chad Joshi (16:11)
You got to have a win win on both sides. The interesting thing is that almost immediately after we finished pulling the plug on that, we started building another relationship because we knew the right kind of people that we wanted to do business with. And that’s what culminated in our announcement back in April of our partnership with Lubrizol.

Patrick McGuire (16:36)
Yeah. Tell us about that.

Chad Joshi (16:37)
Yeah. Well, Lubrizol is a Berkshire Hathaway company that is involved in supplying chemical ingredients to a whole host of markets. So they do personal care, home care, lubricants, they do ingredients for industrial manufacturing. There’s a whole host of markets that they supply ingredients. Their personal care division came to us and said, We’d like to try some of your ingredients. So we sent them some samples. They liked it. And they said, Well, can you make this? And we made it and sent it to them. And then they asked for something else, and we made it and just kept feeding them stuff, whatever they wanted.

Chad Joshi (17:25)
We were able to produce using our ingredients. And then we were talking to them about this partnership.

Patrick McGuire (17:31)
Now I’m going to call it something for the entrepreneurs and the founders out there is that throughout this conversation, I picked up something with Chad, and that is one. Always be curious. I believe in selling through curiosity. I believe in asking questions or Ryan Levesque calls of the ask methodology. And you can go through a whole bunch of other ones with Barry Ryan. He’s selling through curiosity. Always ask questions. Always get to understand their problems and their needs. Chad, you’ve done that pretty good. Even when you’re back looking at Superconductors, you start asking questions about some of the byproducts and the oils that were available.

Patrick McGuire (18:05)
And now I’m hearing the exact opposite is your clients or prospective clients started asking you the questions. So they were selling you on what they needed, and you were always listening. Which is the other thing I try to remind entrepreneurs. Be curious, but listen to what’s going on and the answers coming at you. And Chad, you’ve done a great job at that with Advonex and the company and your team. Just got to make sure that everybody out there understands we have to do both. Chad, curious, but what are some things that have led to your personal or the company’s success?

Chad Joshi (18:39)
Well, I think certainly that curiosity. Because I was curious to understand what the difference was between plant based materials and Petroleum. That led me to say, all right, how do we make them more alike? Because there’s a huge Petroleum infrastructure that you can take advantage of if you have something that works that mixes with it. The other thing is talking to people about what the issues are. Why aren’t you using plant based materials? What is it that is not good enough for you and then understanding that and then saying, all right, well, let’s find some science that can solve that problem.

Patrick McGuire (19:21)
Chad, just thinking of you. What do you wish you could have told the younger Chad, the pre entrepreneur? Chad, what would you have told him when you were getting into this world?

Chad Joshi (19:32)
Well, the younger Chad was really a geek. He liked the science and technology. And I would say, Get your head out of the laboratory and talk to people, learn what problems really need to be solved. One of the challenges with what I was doing back at MIT with Superconductors is that it is a solution looking for a problem to solve. It’s technically very interesting material. It’s phenomenal stuff. But in terms of solving problems for people, making their life better, less so. There are a few places where it has found niche opportunities, but in terms of transforming our lives, it’s not there.

Chad Joshi (20:18)
So I’m looking for more impact.

Patrick McGuire (20:21)
I like that telling young Chad to keep your eyes and ears open, to look for opportunities and to make an impact. Ask questions, be curious and look to make an impact. And, Chad, I think you guys are doing that with plant based products. So many more companies are leaning in that direction. They want to be good for the environment. They want to get rid of a diminishing product. Quite honestly. I mean, Petroleum is definitely diminishing in the world, and eventually we have great solutions, thanks to yourself and your companies, like avenues.

Patrick McGuire (20:53)
So, Chad, we’ve come together through the RIC Centre. How did you find RIC Centre? How did you get engaged with that? This wasn’t by accident.

Chad Joshi (21:01)
No, it wasn’t. When I moved from Massachusetts to Canada, I needed to build a whole new network.

Patrick McGuire (21:08)
Okay, that’s one way to do it.

Chad Joshi (21:10)
So what I did is I reached out to all of the innovation centres that I could find, and I wanted to find people that could help me negotiate and navigate the Canadian business landscape. And that’s how I came to RIC. I’ve been to many of the programs there, and every time I go there, I certainly learn something new.

Patrick McGuire (21:33)
And being an entrepreneur, mentor and consultant, we love when people say that we’re tools like, honestly, I’m a tool, and I’m happy to be that tool if it gets you what you want. What’s got you excited for the future success of the company? What’s got you motivated, energised, fired up?

Chad Joshi (21:49)
I’m looking forward to working with Lubrizol. What we make is not going to be seen on the shelf at your Shoppers. You’re not going to see our products on the shelf. They’re going to be embedded in the products that are there. So that’s what I want to see. I want to be able to go and say, look on the back of these products and say, Here, this is the ingredient we supply to these guys.

Patrick McGuire (22:17)
That is huge.

Chad Joshi (22:18)
Yeah. And get out there into the marketplace and show that we can help make life better in some small way for everybody.

Patrick McGuire (22:27)
That’s right. You don’t have to be the name. When you are the supplier, you’re the ingredient. You’re the reason for that name on the shelf. And it’s a great attitude, supporting others. That’s what I love to do is help others. So you’re helping others to grow their Lubrizol all business or Berkshire Hathaway portfolio in this case. You’re helping lots of other people. Those products are helping people. Yeah. Chad, I’d be really excited about that, too. So it’s fantastic. I got one more question before we sign off.

Chad Joshi (22:55)

Patrick McGuire (22:55)
If given the chance to do it all over again to be an entrepreneur who’s leaving MIT, would you do it again?

Chad Joshi (23:01)
Absolutely. I thrive on this. I thrive on solving hard problems. The types of problems I’m working on are different today than they were 30 years ago.

Patrick McGuire (23:17)

Chad Joshi (23:17)
But I like the challenge.

Patrick McGuire (23:19)
Well, folks, anyone coming over by MIT is definitely doing something right. They’ve got a degree in bcom, if you will. And engineering, in this case, they know business. And this guy says if he got the chance to be an entrepreneur all over again, Chad would do it. So would I. And so would many other entrepreneurs. It’s in our DNA. It’s who we are. And that’s why you look to RIC Centres all over the world. And in this case, Startups Transformed Podcast. So, Chad, on behalf of Startups Transformed, I just want to say thank you so much for sharing your story.

Patrick McGuire (23:51)
I can’t wait to do a follow up and talk all about the Lubrizol success that you guys have.

Chad Joshi (23:57)
Well, it was my pleasure to be here, and I hope somebody got a little nugget out of what we talked about.

Patrick McGuire (24:03)
Oh, we got more than one nugget, my friend. Absolutely. Show notes are going to be killer on this one. Thank you so much. And on behalf of Startups Transformed, I’m Patrick McGuire. Looking forward to seeing your success story and sharing it with the world. Have a great day. Enjoy.

Patrick McGuire (24:22)
Thank you for joining us on Startups Transformed podcast. You can subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. If you enjoyed the conversation, a rating or review goes a long way. Recommend the show to a friend.

Patrick McGuire (24:35)
Find us at altitudeaccelerator.com where we can help you begin your startup journey with access to our workshops, advisors and mentorship opportunities. Be sure to tune in for our next episode.


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