Daniel Gomez Iñiguez did not set out to be a biodiesel entrepreneur when he researched about biodiesel production. As part of his academic requirements for his high school graduation, he wanted to complete a research project about alternative fuels particularly biodiesel. At the time, the Mexican media had plenty of coverage for biodiesel, an alternative fuel made from animal fats and vegetable oils.
But since there was no Mexican company engaged in its production at the time, Iñiguez turned to the Internet and attended classes at Tecnologico de Monterrey where a Ph.D. class tackled biodiesel production. He learned biodiesel production but still did not plan on starting his own biodiesel business.
Not until he met other people whose expertise made Solben possible. Gomez co-founded Solben with his three partners – Antonio Lopez, Guillermo Colunga, and Mauricio Pareja – as a way to make biodiesel production technology more affordable and accessible to more people especially in developing economies.
Solben, a portmanteau of “solutions” and “biodiesel” in his native language (Spanish), sells technology for the production of biodiesel made from non-food materials including jatropha and algae. Its products and services, such as seed-hulling machines, oil plantation seeds, and quality testing as well as comprehensive training, are designed to assist customers in their own biodiesel production process. Its customers include private companies, government agencies, and universities in Mexico as well as in India, Central America, and the United States.
Gomez and his co-founders have made it possible for small-scale production of high-quality biodiesel, an achievement that was nearly impossible with the existing technology at the time. The Solben system is also modular, flexible and automated, thus, allowing small-scale producers to expand their operations in an easy, affordable and convenient manner.
Solben, however, neither wants nor promotes competition with other producers of biodiesel particularly sugar- and corn-derived alternative fuels. Today, its global sales are nearly $5 million and growing, thanks to the increased awareness for energy-efficient yet eco-friendly alternative fuels.