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Engineering Algae-based Bio Fuel: Valcent CEO Glen Kertz (Part 1)

Posted on Wednesday, Nov 19th 2008

Glen Kertz is a serial entrepreneur and an inventor who holds over 20 US and foreign patents in various fields. He started his first company at the age of 12 and has continued to create new business ventures based on scientific innovation. He has an extensive background in the development of a wide range of other technologies and business in general.

SM: Let’s start this conversation by reviewing your background. Where did you grow up?

GK:I grew up in a small town in eastern Texas called Orange. I had a fairly normal background but always had an interest in greenhouse plants. By the time I was 12 I had my first commercial greenhouse up and running. I started young.

SM: You had a nursery of sorts?

GK: I raised orchids and ferns. I had a full-sized commercial greenhouse that I built over a two-year period. I had a fairly good production facility as well.

SM: When you were 12? What prompted that?

GK: I started it when I was 12. Even at that stage I was very interested in tissue and cell culture of plant material. My father worked for DuPont and helped me gather the materials I needed to put together a small plant cell culture lab. I started by working on orchids, which is when I discovered I could do ferns fairly easily.

I took it to market to help pay for my hobby. One thing led to another and it turned into a commercial operation.

SM: I am assuming you were still going to school?

GK: Absolutely. My parents took it over when I went off to college. They finally retired from that right after I retired from college.

SM: What did you study in college?

GK: I studied plant physiology and molecular genetics.

SM: Your interest in plants goes back very far.

GK: I have always been fascinated by the green things around us at all levels. I was fascinated with a single cell algae all the way to very sophisticated plants. I was particularly interested in what was going on at the cellular level.

SM: What did you do after you graduated from college?

GK: I had a number of experiences. I worked as a chemist for a drilling fluids company to a computer analyst. I did some consulting as well and pretty much stayed in the entrepreneurial world.

SM: What was your first entrepreneurial venture?

GK: I was involved in the creation of a company called Agristar. We manufactured a gas permeable, liquid impermeable membrane for tissue and cell culture work.

SM: How big did that get, and what did you learn from your time there?

GK: I was involved in the company for a couple of years, but it was a bad experience for me. I signed over the patents involved there to the company and I had investors who saw an opportunity, and I woke up one day out of the company. I hit bottom from that experience. I learned how not to do a business deal.

SM: You were the inventor for the patented work and the investors decided to throw you out?

GK: Yes, they threw me out. They saw an opportunity to make a quick buck and this was not a direction I was interested in going. We got into a disagreement, and the next thing I knew I was out of the company.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Engineering Algae-based Bio Fuel: Valcent CEO Glen Kertz
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Great opener… eagerly looking forward to the rest. 🙂

Bob Kirk Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 8:31 AM PT