Interviewed by: Tanja & Fe
The company geoSilica Iceland ehf. was founded by Burkni Pálsson, Fida Abu Libdeh, and Agnir ehf., pursuant to their final theses done as a part of their B.Sc. studies in Energy and Environmental Engineering at Keilir Institute of Technology. In the fall of 2012 they received a grant from Tækniþróunarsjóður (The Icelandic Technology Fund) which will secure financing for the company for the next three years. The company also had the special honor of being among the top ten finalists in Gulleggið 2013, which is the largest entrepreneurship and innovation competition in Iceland.
See also: Interview with Fida on Ísland í dag
2. Email address: fida [at] geosilica.com
3. Phone number: +345 5713477
4. Your title in the company: Co-Founder and CEO
5. Company Name: GeoSilica / www.geosilica.is
6. Industry: Healthcare products / Geothermal
7. Company years in operation: 2012
8. Type of company: Private Limited companies (“Einkahlutafélag” (ehf)
9. How many employees does your company have:
2 full time employees and 3 part time employees
10. Annual turnover: 2013: none. They have received grants for approx. 35M ISK for 3 years
11. Description of company:
The main objective of the company is to develop high quality silica healthcare products utilizing wastewater from the geothermal power plants in Iceland which today is largely an unused natural resource. The silica in geothermal fluids can cause severe scaling problems and because of that the fluid is usually re-injected into the geothermal reservoir which is very costly, or pumped out to sea if possible. The company is setting up production of a silica food supplement in the form of colloidal silica to be taken orally. In order to produce the colloidal silica it is necessary to remove all unwanted minerals from the fluid and geoSilica is currently adapting a new method to do this i.e. remove all minerals from the fluid except the silica.
Research have increasingly shown that silicon is an extremely necessary trace mineral for the human body. Silicon is necessary for the correct and efficient formation of collagen which is the main component of connective tissue. Furthermore, it seems play a key role in the formation and growth of bones and directs the body where to deposit minerals as well as helps with depositing them. Silicon is also necessary for a good health of skin, teeth, hair, and nails. Also, research has shown that extra doses of silica can be preventive for osteoporosis in women. Finally, silicon can help the body rid itself of accumulated aluminium which can cause symptoms similar to that of Alzheimer disease and dementia.
12. Company Mission:
To utilise waste from geothermal production to create a sustainable environment.
13. Description of social / environmental mission: As per 12.
14. Would you call yourself a social entrepreneur or social enterprise? Yes.
They are based in the old US navy base in Keflavik. This area has low employment opportunities. GeoSilica would like to create jobs for the local community in Reykjanesbær as well as they make great effort in doing business and shopping for what they need in their community, rather than going elsewhere. They aim to have 20 employees from the local area by 2016.
They have worked in co-operation with Reykjavik University and the University of Iceland where students have been offered to do projects for geoSilica and receive credit instead from their school, this is something that geoSilica considers important; giving the students skills in a work and business environment.
One of the responsibilities that Fida considers to be important is the support of entrepreneurs, and especially women in technology. In her former university that is located near the company, the rate of women dropping out has been increasing and being a former student herself, Fida knows what an important issue this is. Thus, giving these women support is one of geoSilica´s aims as well as to encourage and boost up the women´s association at Reykjanes.
GeoSilica has existed for approximately two years and in those two years the company has seen success as well as had its fair share of struggles as any start-up has. Fida says that they have had to overcome obstacles that they could not have imagined would come up, and considers them to be valuable experiences that she and her co-workers think is important to share to younger entrepreneurs, that are taking their first steps in the entrepreneurial environment of Iceland, and to show them support.
15. How do you interpret the concept of social enterprises?
“You should be aware of everything around you. We take many things for granted. Its utilising time and money to give to the next generation. I get very angry when people say we use ‘green energy’. They are not aware. It is my responsibility to say no we actually are not.
I think companies and employees should be aware, and it doesn’t matter how much money or time it takes, to be responsible. I am happy to see more awareness (in Iceland) on corporate social responsibility and social enterprise than it was a few years ago.”
Questions related to the definition
16. Does your company have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents?
Yes, the main aim of our company is to create sustainability in geothermal industry.
17. Does your company generate the majority of their income through trade? (51% and above). If not, how much?
Income Grants Investors (future)
None 35M ISK NSA (potential)
They are producing very little at the moment, about 10 bottles a month, and giving it to people who are showing interest to gain feedback. They require an industrial machine to produce on a larger scale, hence the investment required to scale.
18. Does your company reinvest the majority of its profits back into the social and/or environmental mission? (51% and above), if not, how much?
Currently there are no profits
No profits will be paid for the next 4 years (2018) at least and funds would be reinvested into research & development. As the main objective of the company is an environmental/social mission in itself, then of course one could say that all of the company´s profits that are reinvested are to help grow and improve this objective.
19. Is your company autonomous of state? Yes
20. Is your company majority controlled in the interests of the social and or environmental mission? Yes
21. Is your company accountable and transparent? (Transparency – corporate actions are observable by outsiders)
Yes, the company is, and always has been willing to share all knowledge and know how. If somebody wants to know what corporate actions that have been taken, they are open to questions.
22. Who are you clients / focus group?
1) Young women
Then they intend to expand into Canada and then USA
23. What KPI’s (key performance indicators) or measurement tools, if any, do you use to access if you are meeting your social impact according to your mission? (E.g. Number of users, number of engaged users. Etc.)
They have not yet measured how much silica they have extracted from the current geothermal plant they’re working in.
24. As per 23, what type of social impact have you created through your products/services (e.g. assisted 1,000 people access to health care they won’t have otherwise). N/A
Social enterprise sector
25. If a social enterprise umbrella body were formed, would you be interested to know more about it and possibly join as a member? Yes
26. What support do you personally need from such an umbrella body and/or what support do you think the social enterprise sector requires? Awareness of people who are really walking the talk: clear actions, not just words on websites.
27. How would you like to see social enterprise develop in Iceland? If none, can you recommend a company (NGO) that you may know of that has a social and/or environmental mission?
Ölgerðin – they have publically announced they would assist 100 startups in Iceland and have been very supportive of us.
Kadeco – an Icelandic development company specialized in real estate and business development. Kadeco is the leading developer behind the Ásbrú Enterprise Park located next to the Keflavik International Airport, where geoSilica is currently located.
Note: Social Enterprise Iceland does not in any way imply that the interviewed company is a social enterprise. The definition for social enterprise in Iceland is still work in progress through these research interviews. The purpose of sharing these interviews with the public is in alignment with our values of transparency as we share our process of discovery with those who are interested.by