Meet Aislatum. This Mexican start-up is one of the 25 nominees of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2018. Founded in 2013, Aislatum aims to reduce climate change by cooling cities. The start-up has developed a paste that, when applied to rooftops, reduces buildings’ internal temperatures by up to 12°C. After a series of pivots, Aislatum is currently developing its product into a transport-friendly powder, which not only blocks the sun, but also functions as a waterproof coating. Having treated some 50,000sqm of rooftops in Mexico, founder Simon Galico chatted to us about how he hopes to expand the business, and in doing so, reduce energy consumption.

"We tested our product and the results were amazing: electricity bills were reduced by up to 30%, and inside temperatures significantly reduced

Please introduce Aislatum
“When we got into energy efficiency, we found the problem with cooling buildings is outside, not inside. We therefore developed a technology that we’ve been working with for the past 3.5 years: a paste, that when applied to a surface, makes a thin layer of air bubbles. Because it’s white, it’s like a mirror to the sun. On rooftops, it blocks the sun, reducing heat inside.”

I understand the product has evolved - how did that come about?
“We’ve tested our product in five stores of a big Mexican retailer, Muebles Dico. The results were amazing: electricity bills were reduced by up to 30%, and in-store temperatures significantly reduced. After this we tried to do real business with them. But they have a budget, and didn’t see this as a priority - a waterproof coating was more important to them. It came down to return on investment: without coating, they have a huge problem with customers and products. If they don’t isolate temperature, they just pay more electricity. So we developed a coating-isolating product that not only blocks the sun, but also keeps water out.”

What global impact could this product have?
“In Mexico, more than 85% of electricity comes from burning gas. On an electricity bill, the main consumption is air conditioning. If you stop heat from entering, air conditioning is used less, and that directly impacts global energy consumption. While every city is different, our product applies everywhere because it works on all surfaces. However, right now we face barriers to global expansion.”

What are those barriers?
“The coating market is concentrated in three big companies: DuPont, Sherwin-Williams, and in Mexico, Comex. It’s very hard to compete with them in coating products. But by focusing on isolating, we have a strong competitive advantage. But because the product is in a bucket, and 90% water, it’s expensive to export. So we’re developing a powder, not a paint, to mix with any coating product of your choice.”

What additional steps is Aislatum taking to achieve global reach?
“I'm thinking about alliances with big companies that understand what we’re doing and give value to what we have. In Mexico, we are doing good business: our net margin is around 40% but our business is not expandable, due to the cost implications of exporting the product in a paint form as opposed to a powder. We are currently achieving a linear expansion, but that’s not what I’m looking for. We want to be a million dollar company! One step we’re taking to achieve that is that we no longer apply the product ourselves, We did before, and as such, it was more a service than a product. Now, we send it to the customer and it’s easy for them to apply themselves. This way we can focus on product development. In terms of the wider industry, the big companies are offering coating with isolating. I’m offering isolating with coating. That shift makes the world of difference. The three main players have solutions, but with 50% less temperature reduction than ours. They give 4-6°C reduction, but with our products it’s 11-12°C. But if we can develop a powder, then we're not competing: you just buy the coating and add our product.”

How could the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge impact Aislatum? 
“A lot of contests don’t pay a penny, so with their grand prize of €500,000, the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge made sense. Plus I really admire supporter of the contest, Richard Branson! Our product is expensive to develop: we’ve already spent a lot on R&D, and we want to invest more to take us to exponential growth. We have good hopes of winning the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2018!”

  Aislatum product photo2 small

Aislatums isolated, sun blocking paint applied on a rooftop