High-Impact Entrepreneurship

Debut exit for Colombia VC firm: Endeavor company Ecoflora spins off agriculture business

By Justine Hart, Daniel Uribe and Melissa Tran.

Ecoflora, a Colombian biotech and natural products company pioneered by Endeavor Entrepreneur Nicolás Cock Duque, has spun off its agricultural business unit to create Ecoflora Agro. The new subsidiary company was formed in partnership with Gowan Company, LLC, an American leader in crop protection solutions worldwide. Gowan’s share in Ecoflora was purchased from Promotora venture capital fund Progresa Capital, making this transaction the first exit of a Venture Capital fund in Colombia.

“This exit demonstrates our interest in developing the industry of Private Equity and Venture Capital in our country,” said Francisco Mira, Promotora’s CEO. “We remain committed to accompany Ecoflora and other companies of our portfolio in executing their business plans and finding and linking strategic partners that enable them to grow rapidly and efficiently.”

This partnership gives Gowan Company and its global marketing companies the exclusive right to develop, register, and market EcoFlora’s current unique plant extract based portfolio and robust product pipeline. The entry of Gowan responds to Ecoflora’s current growth strategy. “We are very excited about having Gowan as our global platform to bring our innovative and green plant extract biopesticides to such important markets around the globe. Ecoflora Agro has been working for 12 years to develop its crop protection portfolio based upon the rich biodiversity and the great and talented people that Colombia has,” says Nicolás. Gowan will participate in the operations of Ecoflora Agro along with Ecoflora’s original founders and entrepreneurs.

Gowan, recognizing demand for more environmentally friendly agricultural products, has taken on Ecoflora as part of its ongoing Gowan Green strategy. “Our goal is to develop an innovative IPM program combining our current portfolio with Ecoflora’s plant extracts. Ecoflora Agro’s existing and future products will enhance and globally strengthen our Gowan Green strategy, and they will provide unique solutions to our customers in the over 70 countries we serve,” said Sergio Comparini, Gowan’s Business Development Manager.

Ecoflora Agro will promote and sell green biopesticides and fungicides around the world, as Ecoflora has already done in a number of Latin American countries. EcoFlora Agro has developed and marketed plant extract products (bio fungicides and bio insecticides) to support growers in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and is known for providing its customers with innovative products and solutions to address their pest control needs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, biopesticides are certain types of pesticides derived from natural materials such as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. According to the US Department of Agriculture, biofungicides are composed of beneficial microorganisms that attack and control plant pathogens. These products represent the core business values of Ecoflora, which develops environmentally friendly products for the agricultural, cosmetic, and pet care sectors, using natural components, bioinputs, and bioactives as their main ingredients to provide an alternative to highly contaminating products.

Nicolás Cock Duque, EcoFlora’s founder and current CEO was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2007, and since then Endeavor Colombia has been working with Nicolás to connect him with mentorship in the area of strategic planning, intellectual property rights, human resources, among others.

One the most successful Endeavor Services programs in which EcoFlora has participated is MIT G-LABs. As part of this program, in the fall of 2009 four MIT Sloan School of Management students were paired with EcoFlora to design the company an entrance strategy into the US market. During the course of the program semester, the students analyzed various possible entrance strategies, and determined that Ecoflora should seek a joint venture with a US manufacturer.

Among companies that the team identified as potential joint venture partners for EcoFlora was Gowan Company. The G-LAB team helped to establish initial contact between the two companies, and outlined the necessary steps that Ecoflora should take to pursue this alliance. During the negotiation process with Gowan Company, Endeavor Colombia mentors provided EcoFlora with legal and strategic support.

About GOWAN

The Gowan Marketing Companies include Gowan USA, Gowan Canada, Gowan Comercio Internacional e Servicos, Limitada, Gowan Mexicana, Gowan Espanola, Gowan France, Gowan Italia and Agrotechnology in Chile, amongst other companies and partners that guarantee a global distribution platform. These companies provide an expanding offering of quality crop protection solutions for specialty crops and niche markets of agriculture. Gowan committed and dedicated to supporting specialty crop growers through regulatory defense, market experience and product development.

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