Opportunity Paths for Entrepreneurs: Winning Competitions And Win-Win Partnerships


Changing the world is a tough job.  There’s so much to think about and it’s difficult to do on your own.  As entrepreneurs strive to move revolutionary ideas into reality, there are the usual partners to reach out to: friends and family, Venture Capital (VC) firms, government agencies, your old university professor, incubators and entrepreneurial networks that have expertise to help.  But finding alternative pathways, un-usual solutions, and the right alliances can help save your day.

Most people are familiar with VC.  But what about CV?  No, not curriculum vitae — I’m talking about corporate venturing, sometimes known as external venturing.

Large, global corporations like CertainTeed’s parent company Saint-Gobain have external venturing teams that foster open innovation, sharing, and strategic partnerships.  They have technical and testing expertise through their R&D teams and laboratories, marketing expertise and channels to market, and large- or small-scale manufacturing capabilities.

Saint-Gobain is a global corporation, celebrating their 350th anniversary this year after innovating flat glass design and manufacturing for King Louis XIV’s Hall of Mirrors in France.  Since then, the company has become a Top 100 Global Innovator with presence in 64 countries and Mars.  Yes, Mars!  Saint-Gobain specializes in building materials and high-performance materials like those used on the Mars Curiosity Rover in space.  In addition to internal R&D and innovation, the company looks to work with others for open innovation.

Saint-Gobain’s external venturing team, NOVA, and is comprised of people in North America, Europe, and Asia searching for start-up companies and new technologies that can make a difference in the world.  NOVA also hosts the NOVA Innovation Competition .  This competition provides entrepreneurs the opportunity to compete for cash prizes, free international publicity, feedback from external experts, fast-pitch competition format with a trip to the Greenbuild International Expo in Washington, DC, on November 18, 2015, and potential for a strategic partnership afterward.  Partnerships could take the form of commercialization agreements, joint development, testing, manufacturing, and other ways to help a new start-up company.

Winning isn’t everything.  Okay, yes it is.

The NOVA Innovation Competition is on!  Win a potential partnership with CertainTeed/Saint-Gobain, free international publicity, mentoring, and feedback from respected experts and thought leaders, visibility to investors, and cash prizes.

START. SCALE. SOAR.  Apply to the NOVA Innovation Competition by June 19, 2015 at www.nova-saint-gobain.com.

Free Continuing Education Webinar: Acoustical Ceilings for the Eye, the Ear and the Mind

CTC_TCH_case study_409x240Unwanted noise in interior spaces can profoundly impact the way people work, learn and heal in the built environment. Well-designed interior spaces are key to combating this serious problem. Choosing the right ceiling panel material for a project makes a huge difference in managing the acoustical response of a room.

Studies also show that natural light that is more evenly distributed in a room can increase productivity. Ceilings manufactured with light reflectance properties can have a positive impact on the comfort of a room and decrease electrical costs.

To learn more, join our Building Knowledge Academy of Continuing Education (ACE) this Tuesday, December 16, from 1 – 2 p.m. ET, for a free educational webinar on acoustical ceilings. The course provides an overview of the principles of sound attenuation and light reflectance and can count toward CEU credits.

Robert Marshall, Manager for Marketing Technical Services for CertainTeed Ceilings, who has extensive experience with acoustical ceilings as a private contractor and now in the manufacturing sector, will lead the webinar. During this engaging discussion, you will learn:

  • The main properties of acoustical ceilings, their function and performance, and how they are tied to positive outcomes in healthcare facilities, schools and places of business.
  • How to calculate the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) when determining the acoustical performance of a product and compare acoustical materials as they relate to sound absorption and frequency.
  • The Luminous Reflectance Factor of acoustical materials as it relates to sustainable work environments.

Click here to register.

The CertainTeed Building Knowledge ACE program offers the industry’s most extensive and engaging collection of CEU courses available. Its breadth of educational courses provides architects, specifiers and others in the building industry with knowledge and skills needed to specify products smarter.

We hope you will join us for this informative session.

Greenbuild Attendees to Get an Inside Look at Designing and Constructing a Productive, Healthy Workplace

HQ_LabImagine. You’re the world’s largest building product’s manufacturer. You’ve been in your existing offices for more than a quarter of a century. You’ve identified new real estate and are charged with retrofitting more than 320,000 square feet of office space to create a living lab, model and showcase of your extensive portfolio of industry-leading, sustainable building products.

Want to get an inside look behind the reinvention of the world’s largest building products company’s North American headquarters? Then stop by the Saint Gobain (Powered by CertainTeed and SAGE) Education Lab (Booth #1523) for “Balancing Act: Sustainable office design from multiple viewpoints,” this morning at 10:30 a.m.

The exterior renovations and lobby of the new headquarters are being designed by Bernardon Haber Holloway with the interiors being designed by Jacobs. By leveraging the full range of Saint-Gobain’s portfolio of sustainable products and technologies, the headquarters is expected to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold Certification. The goal is to create a workplace that is energy-efficient, has superior air-quality and moisture management, and makes a material difference in the comfort and health of employees.

Ultimately, Saint-Gobain selected a suburban campus along the Philadelphia corridor that could provide integrated, mixed-use space with significant room for expansion. At the same time, the new Malvern campus remains accessible to the company’s expert employee base, many of whom reside in Chester and Montgomery Counties.

The panel includes:

Lucas Hamilton, manager, building science applications for CertainTeed

Shawn Puccio, senior vice president of finance at Saint Gobain North America

Neil Liebman, principal at Bernardon Haber Holloway Architects PC

Maureen Byrne, manager of projects at Jacobs

Tad Radzinski, consultant, Sustainable Solutions Corporation

Homeowner Trends: Remodeling is In

Screen shot 2014-04-14 at 3.38.39 PMHouzz indicates that the vast majority of homeowners prefer to remodel their home rather than move. In a webinar hosted by Qualified Remodeler magazine, Liza Housman from Houzz — an online remodeling and design platform —  provided an in-depth look into their annual Houzz & Home study, which included the participation of more than 155,000 homeowners. A few key highlights…

  • 91 percent of homeowners said that reviews and recommendations are a top priority in hiring a contractor. A valuable reminder that customer service should always be top of mind!
  • 5 percent of homeowners spent more than a year researching a remodeling project — a sign that remodelers might need to exercise more patience in closing the deal with some customers.
  • Top remodeling projects included kitchen (31%), bathroom (27%), and patio (22%).
  • The highest-ranking replacement projects involved flooring (26%), window and door (21%) and roofing (15%)
  • For kitchen and bath remodeling, more than 40 percent of projects entailed framing or structural work — which definitely caught our attention since any project that guts to the stud is a great time caulk, seal and insulate in addition to aesthetic improvements.

Overall, the survey uncovered great opportunities for growth potential. Let’s get to work!

AIA Convention Takes on the Mile-High City

AIA2013Welcome to Denver! The 2013 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention is ready to go.  Each year exhibitors look for ways to entice attendees to their booth.  This year, the Saint-Gobain family of businesses – led by CertainTeed — is taking a new approach by bringing technical and building knowledge, and solution-based insights such as indoor environmental quality, acoustics and moisture management to our booth that can have a positive impact on the design of buildings in general.

Over the past year, we have offered accredited building science courses via webinar and our online continuing education platform to builders, designers and architects.  This practice is helping to shape sustainable building.  This year we are bringing some of these courses to the AIA Convention through our Learning Lounge.  To complement this effort, the Saint-Gobain booth (2108) is staffed with technical experts across our companies who can offer building knowledge and systems expertise unequaled in the industry.

You can still talk about products, but our Building Knowledge Bar with our experts can take the conversations to a new level. You can also tweet us questions @certainteed and we can hook you up with the right expert to answer your question.

Although our courses are sold-out, we will be blogging and tweeting questions and observations that are raised in the sessions that could apply to a problem or issue you are facing. Just follow #AIA2013.

We hope to see you over the next few days at booth 2108 to share what new innovations are taking place within the Saint-Gobain family of businesses and to be your premier resource for building knowledge.

Changing the Sustainability Game in Philadelphia

GridSTARHouseBackPhiladelphia is making great strides when it comes to sustainability. The world’s largest green building event — Greenbuild 2013 — will attract more than 30,000 building industry leaders to Philadelphia in November. The city has received national recognition for its recycling programs. New codes and tax credits are fostering more sustainable building practices. And, there’s a hotbed of research and innovation underway at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia.

With our North American headquarters just outside of Philadelphia and as a sustainable manufacturer, we fully embrace the city’s push to become “America’s Greenest City”. We have invested time and resources into a game-changing, smart-grid project that can move the needle on Net Zero Energy in construction.

Led by a collaboration of researchers, manufacturers and economic development officials, the GridSTAR Center will roll out in three phases — the GridSTAR Net Zero Energy Demonstration Structure, a solar training center and an electric vehicle (EV) charging station. These buildings are powered by an energy storage system that captures the power and disperses it as needed.

For more than a year, I have been involved in the planning and construction of the Net Zero Energy Demonstration Structure, which will be a hub for CertainTeed Building Science testing and research on energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality. The structure also offers a valuable platform to further understand and optimize how our products work together — including photovoltaic roofing, solar reflective roofing, fiberglass and spray foam insulation, foundation drainage and waterproofing systems, insulated vinyl siding, water resistive barrier and gypsum board.

From a broader perspective, the GridSTAR project is a testament to the power of public-private partnerships. In this case, the project includes a consortium of representatives from Penn State, the U.S. Department of Energy, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, DTE Energy and five leading building product manufacturers.

This truly is a landmark project that will influence how we build and power our homes in the future. If you plan to attend GreenBuild 2013 in Philadelphia, I recommend that you take the tour of the Navy Yard which includes this project. It is truly changing the sustainability game in Philadelphia.

Watch for future blogs on this project as we begin performance testing of the systems.


Are We Entering a Decade of Growth for Remodelers

Rosemary Hayn

Rosemary Hayn

Every two years, The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University publishes a report supported by the companies and organizations who participate on two of their committees; the Policy Advisory Board and the Remodeling Futures Steering Committee.

The most recent report, A New Decade of Growth for Remodeling provides some insights that can help building professionals as they continue to struggle with a sluggish housing market.

If you follow the industry to great lengths, as I do, these reports provide a great deal of factual information from an historical perspective but only a small amount of forecast data.

For example, it is a given that older metropolitan areas have older stock that need energy efficiency upgrades while growth areas in the South and West have newer inventory. The number of remodeling opportunities, therefore, will be more abundant in older parts of the country.

When reading this report the questions one should ask are:  What’s new? What’s different? What do I need to know? 

Here are a few highlights:

  • Green projects will continue to provide important growth opportunities.  The results of the National Green Remodeling survey indicate that important projects where homeowners specified green features increased by 25% over all projects. Tax incentives due to energy efficiency, under the Federal Stimulus, helped support that increase.
  • The share of replacement product systems upgrades that support energy efficiency will continue to grow.
  • Energy efficiency upgrades for new and existing homes offers a huge potential for remodelers.
  • With the economic downturn, immigration has slowed but as the economy recovers, new immigrants will contribute greatly to the remodeling industry over the next decade.
  • Homeowners will continue to invest in small upgrades that provide a quicker payback or have incentives attached to them.  With the reduction in the 2011 Economic Stimulus to $500 the projects could remain very small in scope.

From 2000-2005 there was a  7.3 percent growth rate for homeowner improvement spending, followed by a five year trend showing a -1.4 percent in spending.  The report anticipates a 3.5 percent annual growth rate in home improvement spending which puts the 2010-2015 period in the middle of the two previous five year periods.

Also, in the next five years the number of households moving into 55 – 64 and 65+ age ranges will be preparing for retirement.  If they plan to age in place they will, most likely, need to make renovations to their home to improve the energy efficiency and lower the maintenance needs of the structure such as increased insulation or low maintenance exterior cladding. This will be another opportunity for remodelers.

From 2002 – 2007 there was a 23% increase in specialty contractors and self-employed remodelers but since then, remodelers have struggled due to declines in homeowner spending and the increased competition from builders-turned-remodelers. 

What we don’t know, because the data isn’t collected annually, is how many have survived the economic downturn. Clearly those who diversified their services or moved into niche markets, such as energy efficiency upgrades, most likely, have survived.

Rosemary Hayn is Manager, Market Research and Planning for CertainTeed Corporation

How the Customer of the Future Will Affect the Home Improvement Industry

Rosemary Hayn

Rosemary Hayn

I recently attended the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) Conference in Chicago, Illinois.  HIRI is a membership based, independent, not-for-profit organization of manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and allied organizations in the home improvement industry.  Its mission is to be recognized as the primary authority for effective, useful information about home improvement products and services in North America.

One of the sessions shared results of a study on consumer trends conducted with HIRI and The Futures Company a leading consumer research company.  The purpose of this study was to provide building professionals with consumer lifestyle wants and needs for the home.  The survey group included 26 – 41-year-olds. The results provide food for thought for manufacturers, retailers and building professionals in selling to the changing consumer:

There were five key trends that emerged from the survey:

  • More savvy, intelligent consumers, want products customized; want best deals; seek reviews and recommendations; focus on real, tangible benefits; want luxury at accessible prices. This is considered Consumers in Control.
  • Return to simple, less ostentatious living; products that withstand the test of time; making old classics with modern production standards; value transparency as mark of trust; interested in people behind the products. This illustrated The Genuine Article.
  • Focused on waste reduction; recognize challenge of a resource-constrained world; better solutions without compromise on performance or price; making positive contribution to community. This translated to Making a Difference.
  • Rediscovering life’s simple pleasures; desire intensified sensory experiences; solutions that save time and make life easier; maximizing performance of body, mind and spirit to attain goals. Referred to as Life, Well Lived.
  • Turning to trusted networks; coming together to share knowledge; connecting with local communities; value traditional forms of connection; mix of new influences on identity and tastes. Examples of Cultivating Connections.

Consumers clearly desire to have conveniences in the home to make living easy but are very focused on reducing waste and having more efficiency in their building envelope and appliances.

As I reviewed the statistics associated with the preferences, I discovered some interesting trends: 

  • Consumers say an important reason for them to do home improvement is to make their home better fit their lifestyle. (83%)
  • Say that price is more important than brand name. (76%)
  • Are doing more comparison shopping before buying – this includes those whose household income is $100,000+. (62%)
  • Wish they knew more about the home improvement products they purchased and how to maintain them. (73%)
  • Say their happiness doesn’t depend on how many possessions they have. (78%) 
  • Have learned, through the recession, to improve their home without spending a lot of money. (65%) 
  • Agree that you can depend on brands that have been around for a while. (87%) 
  • Feel it is important to know what is in a product in order to make a buying decision. (69%)
  • 52% have installed energy efficient appliances and 16% plan to.

This is just scratching the surface of the information in this study.  This information is very valuable in determining what products as well as product features and benefits the consumer of the future will expect and prefer. 

Are you starting to see these trends among clients or potential clients?

Rosemary Hayn is Manager, Market Research and Planning for CertainTeed Corporation