SM: What was your next step after Agristar?
GK: I started my own consulting company and pursued other interests such as painting. I essentially took a break from the business world for two years, which let me think about what I wanted to do next. During that period I started developing innovative technology, some of which is being applied now.
SM: What year was this?
GK: It was in the mid ’80s, and I stayed that way until 2001.
SM: Were you still in Texas?
GK: Yes, I had a small lab in Orange. It was just a research and development lab, so I just tinkered and worked on things.
SM: How did you support yourself during those years?
GK: By selling paintings. I have a bit of a reputation as an artist, and I have sold a lot of work in my career.
SM: What kind of art do you create?
GK: I do very large acrylic abstracts. I have literally sold them all over the world. If I wanted to retire and have another career I could be an artist.
SM: That is fascinating! I have talked with a lot of entrepreneurs and have never heard that one before.
GK: I certainly do not fit the box.
SM: What kind of research were you doing in your lab? Did it lead to patents?
GK: I was doing a lot of work on high density vertical growing systems. I have some patents there. I worked on understanding the process that plants use to move nutrients through the plant. I was developing new processes and techniques for tissue cell cultures.
SM: Did you have a commercial market or idea in mind that you were trying to address with your research?
GK: I was looking for specific answers that would have commercial applicability. However, when you are doing research you see something and go off on a tangent. On occasions that can be more valuable than the directed approach was. I was not under a gun to create so I could let my thought process be somewhat flexible. Being creative for commercial applications is very difficult to do, mainly because of deadlines.
SM: What was the breakthrough you had during that time that led you to start Valcent?
GK: The first product we put on the market was another skin care system. It was not related to plants at all. The genetics of my family led me to have very bad skin. I finally reached a point where my dermatologist said we needed to do chemotherapy, which involved putting chemo on the face and all my skin would fall off. I really did not want to go through that and I thought there really must be a better way. I had the time to delve in and find that way. I began to understand our skin, how it works, and how to take care of it. Out of that came a skin care treatment that let me avoid medical treatment for six years. That ultimately resided in a product of value.
SM: How did you get to market with that product?
GK: We did a full 30-minute format infomercial and a direct marketing campaign.
SM: What was your segment for the direct marketing campaign, and how did you reach that segment?
GK: We were shooting for women aged 35-55. We went to some experts in direct marketing and had them guide us. We ended up with a very sophisticated infomercial. We have now been in the market for one year and have had very good sales off of it. We are getting ready to spin that out into version two, which is a slimmed-down, improved version.
SM: What kind of sales did you do in year one?
GK: We spent less than $1 million in marketing and have done over $2 million in revenues. Our second version we think is ready to be rolled out into the retail market.