2023 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Orica Chem Innovation, INSEAD

Orica Chem Innovation


Website Link: n/a

Industry: Engineering Services

Founding Student Name(s): Iris Zhao (23J)

Brief Description of Solution: Orica Chem Innovation is revolutionizing the engineering services industry with a focus on sustainable solutions for a greener future. We offer comprehensive services, ranging from technical consultation to EPC project contracting, specializing in petrochemical and environmental engineering. Our core offerings encompass advanced, energy-efficient process technologies, mature catalysts, and complete equipment materials and system solutions for petroleum and chemical companies.

Funding Dollars: Orica is self-funded. As this stage we are not looking for external funding.

What led you to launch this venture? Our journey began with an unwavering passion for sustainability. We couldn’t ignore the pressing environmental challenges facing the world, and this fervor to be part of the solution ignited our entrepreneurial spirit. The desire to create eco-innovative waste solutions that would have a lasting positive impact on the environment served as our guiding light.

Further, with a deep-rooted understanding of petrochemical and environmental engineering, we recognized that our expertise could be harnessed to make a meaningful difference. We saw that traditional practices were not aligned with the imperative of sustainability, and our knowledge became the catalyst for change.

Finally, extensive research and market analysis unveiled the market’s yearning for sustainable solutions. It was this understanding that emboldened us to take the plunge. Our market insights revealed a clear gap, and we knew we were uniquely positioned to fill it.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with the venture? Our venture’s journey, while still in its early stages, has been marked by significant achievements:

One of our most notable accomplishments has been successfully securing a contract in a foreign market, particularly in the dynamic Middle East region. This achievement was a testament to our adaptability, resilience, and our ability to navigate uncharted territories. It gave us the confidence to expand and serve global clients. Second, it was market validation. By securing this contract, we not only gained a valuable client but also validated the demand for our eco-innovative solutions in diverse markets. This initial success reinforced our belief in the market’s readiness for our offerings and spurred us to pursue further growth aggressively.

What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced in creating your company and how did you solve it? Building Orica Chem Innovation was not without its hurdles. The most significant challenge we confronted was establishing credibility as a startup: As a new entrant in a highly specialized industry, gaining trust and credibility was paramount. To overcome this challenge, we leveraged our technical expertise, industry network, and the quality of our work. We actively engaged with industry leaders, demonstrated our in-depth knowledge, and showcased our commitment to sustainability through pilot projects and proofs of concept. Over time, our track record and consistent delivery helped us establish our credibility.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? Our INSEAD MBA program, with its rigorous curriculum and resources, has played a pivotal role in the development of Orica Chem Innovation:

INSEAD Venture Competition (IVC): The IVC was a transformative experience. It provided us with a platform to deep-dive into the core engineering aspects of our products and refine our business strategy. The competition not only exposed us to a network of mentors and advisors, but also sharpened our presentation and pitching skills, essential for attracting potential clients and investors.

Access to a Supportive Ecosystem: The MBA program gave us access to a diverse and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem, where we could collaborate, share ideas, and gain insights from like-minded individuals. The collective knowledge and mentorship from experienced faculty and fellow entrepreneurs significantly accelerated our growth.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? While many entrepreneurs have inspired us, my father and several others have been particularly influential in our entrepreneurial journey. Their stories of perseverance and innovation serve as a constant source of motivation. Witnessing their success stories first-hand has reinforced our belief that with dedication, innovative thinking, and the right strategies, we can overcome any challenge.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup, and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Of all the classes, Family Business and Innovation stood out as exceptionally valuable. It shed light on the remarkable parallels between the startup phases of family businesses and contemporary startups. The most important lesson we gained was the significance of adaptability and resilience. Both family businesses and startups face survival challenges, and the ability to evolve and thrive in changing circumstances is key to success.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Morten Bennedsen has been a guiding light in our entrepreneurial journey. His extensive experience, deep insights into various companies, and mentorship have been invaluable. He introduced us to the remarkable journey of Haldor Topsøe, a successful company in the Catalyst Chemical business, inspiring us with their story of sustainable growth. Professor Bennedsen’s guidance and strategic advice have been instrumental in shaping our path forward.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? The vibrant and collaborative startup ecosystem in Singapore has played a pivotal role in our growth. Collaboration and interdisciplinary efforts are central to our success. The local ecosystem provided us with a network of partners, investors, and potential clients, facilitating knowledge sharing and cross-pollination of ideas. Moreover, the ecosystem’s strong emphasis on sustainability aligns perfectly with our mission.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our vision for Orica Chem Innovation is ambitious: We aim to solidify our presence in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, establishing ourselves as a leader in providing innovative solutions for wastewater and waste gas treatment. Our goal is to become the go-to partner for petrochemical companies in these regions, driving sustainability and setting new industry standards. Our long-term objective is to pioneer a sustainable future in the engineering services industry.


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