When he became CIO of Eastman Chemicals in February 2000, Roger Mowen started a venture capital group dedicated to investing in emerging technology companies that would help the chemical giant stay ahead of the competition. Mowen’s investments fit into five categories: online marketplaces, trading communities, value-added services, business process applications infrastructure and general contractors, companies that help build other companies. In each case the investment was between zero and $5 million. Here, in alphabetical order, are Mowen’s investments as of the end of January, with his commentary.
Asera A general contractor that integrates a client’s existing applications. “A large company like ours doesn’t use those kinds of offerings broadly. So we wanted to put pressure on our own organization to consider them for jobs, and we felt like an equity investment in that kind of new model would help convince our organization to use this kind of option.” Mowen thinks that Asera’s ASP model is particularly well suited to the chemical industry and that “they have a strong management team.”
ChemConnect This online chemical marketplace was Mowen’s first investment. “We actually knocked on their door before they even thought about equity from the brick-and-mortar side. We believed that we needed to have a portfolio of options and one or two investments in different marketplaces with different models. And we thought that the ChemConnect model fit us best because we have a broad range of products, some specialty, some commodity. Where a marketplace like Chem Match is more in the commodity business, ChemConnect has a broader offering, and so we thought at the time that they were the best in breed to serve our broad product offering.”
Commerx A general contractor that builds online marketplaces, most notably Plasticsnet.com. “We wanted to have on play in the plastics and polymer business, and there weren’t many in that space. At the time they were the best available. Again, we have a chemical business and a polymer business and so ChemConnect was more of the chemical side even though they also do polymers. Plasticsnet was to serve our plastics or polymer business. It was to help our polymer guys learn from the marketplace and use the solution.”
e-Chemicals A supply chain value-added service provider that connects the systems of raw materials providers, chemical manufacturers, channel intermediaries and chemical purchasers. “At the time we made the investment, their business model was really that of a virtual distributor.” With $800 million globally in the distribution business, including $300 million plus in the United States, “we wanted to have for our businesses not only classic brick-and-mortar distribution but also virtual distribution. This model has morphed several times, and they are one of the [investments] that has struggled.”
eCredit.com A Web-based business process company that provides real-time credit and financing services. “What we do is we say we need a digitized solution for the finance industry, and then the VC’s responsibility is to go out and find them. We are utilizing that solution in our credit area today.”
Moai Technologies A business processes application company that provides negotiation software. “It is the technology we use on the Eastman marketplace, which is part of Eastman.com. We’ve done more than 100 auctions.”
Patent and License Exchange An intellectual property marketplace with subscriptions from approximately 450 companies, universities and research centers. “We have a group that licenses polymer and chemical technology. We do that in a physical form today.” The patent and license exchange “allows us to put that information online and access it globally 24/7. We can get a lot more reach. We have a business in licensing now and this is just another channel to our customers. We looked at three or four, and this was in our opinion the best in breed for the chemical industry.”
Sequencia Corp. A business process application supplier that automates the inclusion of new products and processes into the supply chain. “We have a lot of batch manufacturing operations in Eastman chemical?you know we make a lot of stuff. This technology helps us efficiently use batch chemical operations, so there is less inefficiency in the manufacturing of different formulas.”
SESAMi.com An MRO marketplace for the chemical industry in Asia. “We have a large plant in Singapore?it’s about a $300 million investment. We have a partnership to offer MROs to our facility and offer that capability to other customers off of Singapore, which is one of the largest chemical complexes in the world. There are probably $20 billion worth of chemical investments on that island. All the big names are there.”
WorldWideTesting.com A value-added service provider that tests bulk commodities in 142 countries. “We sell products to customers, and they want to be assured that the product, the specification and the quality are exactly what we say it is. So there are labs out there that do that. And this is a digital offering that makes this information available to customers. So we can utilize this; it is kind of like ShipChem [see below].” The CEO, Mowen adds, is a former Eastman employee.
Yantra A business process application for transaction management. Mowen turned to Yantra to build an extraction layer, which transports information between different types of databases, for Eastman.com. “We have a large product with them right now on Eastman.com. So we had specific things in mind, and we just think that the Yantra folks had a brilliant management team and great set of capabilities.”
In addition to its investments, Eastman has also launched three ventures.
Asia Biznet A consultancy aimed at assisting institutions and companies in the chemical and chemical-related industries to manage investments that provide e-business solutions in the Greater China region.
PaintandCoatings.com An online marketplace for the paint and coatings industry. “Our largest business as a company is in paint coatings. We doubled the size of that business from $600 million to more than $1.2 billion in the last three years, and so we’re doing ventures with VerticalNet to facilitate our participation in the paint and coating business.”
ShipChem.com A virtual logistics provider for the chemical industry, which is already up and running with a few modes of transportation. “ShipChem is one of our ventures that we incubated and moved out as a company. Their first customer is our whole logistics spend, which is $400 million a year. They can then go to others and say, ’We were successful with our first customer, we’d like you to join.’” Eastman spun off ShipChem in February 2000.