Peter Kombouras, managing director of Somerville, Mass.-based Alkemy Environmental, has been with the company for four years. Alkemy focuses on revolutionizing the reuse of industrial waste as green building material, and it has been issued patents in the U.S, China, Mexico and Taiwan for its technology solutions.
As managing director, Kombouras has proven essential to Alkemy’s success. “Peter’s leadership has been instrumental in guiding Alkemy, as a startup, through its development from a revolutionary technology concept to a proven commercial-scale solution,” says Alkemy board member Chrisanthi Bethanis. “His efforts have brought in both strategic partnerships and investors for Alkemy, creating millions of dollars in enterprise value and making Alkemy one of the most promising startups in the industrial waste recycling sector.”
Kombouras was recently named as a Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient Waste360 talks to him about the Alkemy solution and his thoughts on innovation in the industry.
Waste360: What services does Alkemy Environmental provide?
Peter Kombouras: Alkemy Environmental has a patented technology for recycling industrial waste into environmentally friendly concrete aggregate for the building material space. We can take 16 different types of industrial waste and create a structural-grade aggregate that offers the same performance that clients would get from another aggregate on the market but at a lower price. Essentially, our solution enables industrial waste-producing facilities or waste management companies to convert their current waste liabilities into a revenue-generating asset.
Waste360: What are your major areas of oversight as the managing director?
Peter Kombouras: I am in charge of setting the strategic vision for the company, including where we want to be six months from now, one year from now and three years from now. And I execute on those goals from both an operational perspective and from a sales perspective.
Waste360: What led you to the waste management industry? Where did you work previously?
Peter Kombouras: I came from the Boston tech space, where I was overseeing international expansion for an online tech company that was also a startup. I brought the company into seven international markets and added millions of dollars in enterprise value for the organization.
At that time, I was looking for the next step in my career. I knew I wanted to stay in the startup space and get involved in something that would have more impact in terms of society and the environment. It’s always been a passion of mine.
When I met Sophia Bethanis, I knew Alkemy was a perfect fit for me. I fell in love with what she was doing with Alkemy, and I knew that I had to be a part of it. I jumped on board.
Waste360: What is something that you would consider a highlight of your career so far with Alkemy?
Peter Kombouras: I think I’m living it right now. I’m really enjoying what we’re doing in terms of the projects that we’re putting together here in the U.S. and also in Europe. As we get close to the full commercial implementation of our technology solution, we are becoming one of the largest players in the space.
Waste360: Are there a lot of companies doing what Alkemy is doing?
Peter Kombouras: No, in short. In terms of our waste processing capabilities, the aggregate products we can produce and their application base in the construction market, we don’t have any direct competitors. We have a fully-patented process, and we have more than 12 issued patents on our solution.
Waste360: You have a reputation as a “company evangelist.” How do you evangelize and what excites you about what you’re doing?
Peter Kombouras: I think a large part of that is plugging into the local networks in the startup space, the clean tech space and the waste space. It’s getting out there, meeting thought leaders and telling them about our technology, what we’re doing and the impact our company will have on both the environment and the waste sector.
Waste360: Alkemy participated in the New England Venture Summit. What role did you play?
Peter Kombouras: That’s a summit that brings together clean tech companies from around the area. If selected, you can present to a local angel and VC [venture capitalist] investor. You explain what your technology is doing and the impact it’s going to have. At the end, we were selected as a finalist.
We were also finalists at the SXSW Eco. Out of thousands of national applicants, five finalists were chosen. We were one of them, and we pitched our company at the event.
In addition, we have been selected as a finalist for MassChallenge, which is a global startup competition and accelerator.
All of these competitions are part of the way that we evangelize our technology because these competitions give us a lot of exposure.
Waste360: What are some things that have surprised you about working in the industry, and what is some advice you might give to a young person who hasn’t given the waste industry a look?
Peter Kombouras: I think that when entering any space or venture, the most important thing is to have perseverance and to believe in yourself. Without a belief in yourself, you’re not going to be able to get anything done. You will just come up with excuses for why things won’t work or why you won’t do them.
You also need to have some patience with the waste industry because things take time to get done. With the right attitude, it’s an exciting spot to be in, especially with the new technologies coming to the space.
Waste360: What’s next for Alkemy?
Peter Kombouras: We are working on putting our first commercial installation into place. We will be starting development next year. It’s an exciting time for us.