This is an excerpt from an article by Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson that can be read in full on Core77's website.

In June, the Green Island, New York company Ecovative "grew" a house. From mushrooms. This is just the latest radical experiment from the materials-production outfit known for using mycelium—or the roots of mushrooms—to create biomaterials for everyday applications like wall insulation and packaging. For the aforementioned house, the company filled the pine tongue-and-groove walls of a 60-square-foot structure with its fire-resistant, environmentally-friendly Mushroom Insulation. "That house is still alive," says Ecovative's 28-year-old co-founder Eben Bayer. "If you were to cut a hole in the wall to run wiring, for example, the material would be dry. If you spritzed it with water, it would grow back and close in around the wiring."



Eben Bayer (left) and Gavin McIntyre founded Ecovative in 2007.
Eben Bayer (left) and Gavin McIntyre founded Ecovative in 2007.

Bayer has a few pieces of advice for young upstarts looking to bring an innovative product to market. First, he says, "whatever you're doing, solve a real problem. Try not to solve a want, but a need. If you are solving a real need, people will be wiling to bet on you."

Second, he says, make sure that you really understand what your solution's core benefits are. "One benefit to our product is environmental— we make a product that's compostable," Bayer says. "Another component is we are able to produce these materials more cheaply in some cases. There are many other benefits to our products, but those are the ones that I got clear on early."

In 2008, Ecovative got the chance to prove its invention's efficacy when it won a 500,000 Euro prize from the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge (PLGC), a Dutch-sponsored competition. Suddenly, Bayer and McIntyre had to go from talking up the idea to actually proving it. "Winning that money meant we had to show the world what was possible, and it was really scary," Bayer says. "They give you all of this money and you better not screw up."

If, like Ecovative, you choose to start a company with environmental stewardship goals, be prepared for what that means. "Making the commitment to be a triple bottom line company is agreeing to play to another set of rules, and you have to realize that your competitors don't play by the same rules," Bayer says. " We can't be as good as our competition; we have to be better because we have added these extra gates that we have to jump over."

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson

Click here to read the full article on Core77