Swedish Bioeconomy Heros
Lars-Erik Sjögren, CEO of Biosorbe

Company profile

Biosorbe is a natural catalyst for sustainable development

Founded: 2013

Number of employees: 8

Stage: Scale-up

Funding raised: ~€3.2M in grants and equity

Revenue (2022): ~€90,000


Who are you and how did you get involved in Biosorbe?

My name is Lars-Erik Sjögren, and I serve as the CEO of BioSorbe. As a serial entrepreneur with a finance background, I have worked across various industries, including the oil industry, medtech, and healthcare sectors. Initially, I joined BioSorbe as an investor but eventually transitioned to an operational role.

What is your technology and how does it work?

We started by making pulp more hydrophobic to create an oil-absorbent material.

Since pulp has a negative charge, we neutralize it by adding a cation through a simple mixing process, which makes it cost-effective and easy to scale.

While developing our technology, we discovered that we could also create other sustainable products, such as furniture, foams for insulation, and, in the future, medtech applications like filters.

We believe that combining our material with technologies developed by other will be s essential for having an impact. Creating these composite materials will significantly increase the range of applications and advance the entire biomaterials ecosystem and we are currently exploring collaborators to work towards this goal.

What have been the biggest challenges on the way?

Scaling up our process with limited resources presented a challenge, including finding and matching the size of available equipment. To keep costs down, we installed our pilot under a tent and used the heat from the dryer to warm it. Operating the pilot in temperatures as low as -20°C was difficult, but manageable.

In addition to cost, complying with rules and regulations was not easy, and keeping track of them required careful implementation. Finally, breaking into a conservative market like oil absorbent pads, where there are only a few major players, proved challenging as they were resistant to change. However, once you are established in such a market, a secure business can be expected for an extended period.

Did you have some kind of breaking point where you though BioSorbe is not gonna work out?

You always doubt yourself, particularly during the pandemic when securing funding was almost impossible. We needed to raise about 10M SEK for our pilot, but we struggled to find investors. In the end, we got Jula onboard and not the least we got some friends and families to join.

What motivates you to work through these challenges?

As an experienced serial entrepreneur, I’ve learned that it’s essential to believe in what you do and be resolute in that belief.

Nevertheless, having supportive friends within your organization is also critical. For me, that friend is Johan Bennarsten, our chairman, who questions and challenges me a lot but also reinforcing and supporting me.

What has been most important to your success so far?

Succeeding in pilot trials was a significant milestone as it confirmed that the technology was viable and scalable. Initially, the results did not look promising, but we modified the procedure to make it work.

On the other hand, collaborating with the Rottneros pulp mill was crucial for our success, and we are grateful for their support.

When looking at other biomaterials/biorefinery companies, what is unique about BioSorbe??

It’s rare to be truly unique, but we have the most simple process concept, enabling us to scale quickly. I don’t envy companies that have to develop, engineer, and scale complex processes.

What does Biosorbe want to achieve in the long-term (vision)?

We aim to make the world more sustainable one step at a time. Our goal is also to create and inspire synergies that will accelerate the transition towards a sustainable bioeconomy.

My personal vision is to inspire others and set an example. I am happy to see that my sons, who are also have lots of ideas and seems to turning into entrepreneurs, are tackling the challenges we face as a society.

How far have you come in implementing your tech into our everyday life and what could be a first product?

Our initial commercial product will be absorbent pads, which utilize our core technology to prevent spills of oil, fuel, and other hydrophobic liquids.

We plan to launch these absorbent pads in Jula stores early this year, and we will also introduce similar products for use in automotives and boats.

From your experience as serial entrepreneur, can you give us your 3 key learnings for founders or executives of early-stage companies?

Most importantly, it’s crucial to take sustainability seriously because, with all the green-washing going on, any claims made will be held to a high standard.

Secondly, you need to be aware that while developing a technology on a conceptual level may be relatively easy, realizing that technology on an industrial scale is incredibly challenging and takes much more time. Lastly, it’s essential to understand your customers. Engage with them, listen to their feedback, and test your technology or product with them. By having a customer use your solution, you will learn more about how they will use it, as well as potential areas for improvement. You need lots of feet on the ground to be seen in the market, we have solved that by our Distribution and sales partner, Ekman group, who enables us to look and have larger coverage than we could otherwise.

Is there anything you want to emphasize?

I feel more companies should engage in the ecosystem around them and exchange ideas and learn from each other’s challenges and mistakes.

Maybe we can help with that. Thank you very much for sharing insights into Biosorbes journey!