Before Sergie “Serg” Albino and Ian Doromal were co-founders of Altamonte Springs-based startup, ecoSPEARS, they were just family friends. However, that changed four years ago after a chance run-in at the DMV led to a discussion about their careers and sparked a new partnership.
After quickly realizing they had the right mix of skills to complement each other’s work, Serg and Ian teamed up to launch ecoSPEARS, the cleantech industry’s first green cleanup solution for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners – highly toxic industrial compounds – which uses NASA technology to clean toxins from sediments, soil and groundwater.
During a panel session at Synapse 2021, Serg and Ian shared details about how an idea that started with straws transcended into deployable technology with worldwide environmental applications.
ecoSPEARS first began as the brainchild of Serg, who now serves as the startup’s CEO, when he was working as an aerospace engineer at NASA and was an adviser to MBA students in the Rollins College NASA Entrepreneurship Scholar Distinction Program. This is where he was first introduced to NASA’s Sorbent Polymer Extraction and Remediation System (SPEARS) technology, which consists of low-cost and versatile polymer spikes that attract and absorb PCBs through diffusion.
As program adviser, he led the group of students in a project focused on developing ecoSPEARS industry projections, go-to market strategies and future manufacturing opportunities. Based on the results, Serg saw an opportunity to repackage NASA’s technology to serve a brand-new purpose for clean and climate tech. In 2017, he obtained the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell NASA’s technology as an early-stage startup through UCF’s Business Incubation Program.
The problem? He didn’t know what to do next. As an engineer, Serg knew how to deploy this type of technology, but he didn’t know about the entrepreneurial skills or network necessary to build a business from the ground up; until he found himself sitting next to Ian at the DMV.
Ian, who now serves as the startup’s executive vice president, was immediately fascinated by Serg’s idea and quickly partnered with his old friend to handle logistics. He brought 15 years of experience in organizational leadership, startups and strategic sales to ecoSPEARS, and helped refine the business model and officially incorporate the company to what it is today.
According to Orlando Business Journal, ecoSPEARS now expects to grow its staff of 15 people to 25 in 2021, with plans to employ 40 or more people by the end of 2022.