Rivertop Renewables grew out of research done in my lab in the department of chemistry at the University of Montana in Missoula. I retired last year, but was a professor of chemistry and director of the Shafizadeh Rocky Mountain Center for Wood and Carbohydrate Chemistry. We developed a method to take the most abundant sugars on earth, plant sugars, and convert them into biodegradable chemicals like glucarate, which are components in a wide variety of products. Glucarate is a chemical building block, but it's renewable so it doesn't leave a toxic residue. Most chemicals used in products today are petroleum-based or made from minerals like phosphates, which don't biodegrade, contaminating the environment. Glucarate can be used to replace them.
We are still in the midst of our first round of funding, which will be $1.4 million, and are now in talks with major manufacturers that can make and distribute these chemicals at low cost.
When I started the business in February 2008, I found angel investors, most of them either locals or from outside Missoula, but still in Montana. Missoula is a very livable city, and there is a growing group of networking entrepreneurs here. Most of them have come for the quality of life, but also because in a place like Missoula, where wages have historically been low, folks tend to be entrepreneurial. It definitely attracts people who enjoy the challenge of starting a business. -Eilene Zimmerman
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