Janas Materials’ invention is helping Diamond Vogel Paints grow its water-based — and thus more environmentally friendly — product lines.
“What’s your Holy Grail?”
Shan Jiang posed that question at a meeting with representatives from Diamond Vogel Paints.
The answer he received set Jiang on an entrepreneurial adventure that is bound to leave a lasting and beneficial mark on the home improvement industry.
A better stain
What was the company’s “Holy Grail”? A water-based stain that worked as well as oil-based. Water-based stains are more environmentally friendly but haven’t performed as well as oil-based varieties in terms of application or color consistency.
Jiang, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State, wanted to meet with the Iowa-based paint company because he’d recently had a breakthrough in his research with Janus particles.
Janus particles have two distinct sides that are made from completely different materials. After years of study, Jiang and his Iowa State team developed a Janus particle that acts as an additive and can help water-based stains perform like oil-based stains. His research was supported with funding from Iowa State’s National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program.
A new business, a surprise partner
To help get his new business, called Janas Materials, launched, Jiang joined the Startup Factory, the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship’s 18-week program that helps researchers turn discoveries into commercial ventures. This led to a meeting with Jibing Lin, an Iowa State University alumnus and successful business owner, who saw such potential in Janas Materials that he opted to become a full participant in it.
“He was the first businessperson to read our patent. He was very interested in our work and became our CEO and mentor,” Jiang says. “It was a tremendous step for us, especially when you think about what the roadmap for commercialization looks like. Without the right partner, it would be impossible.”
Jiang now plans to acquire space, hire staff, and work closely with Diamond Vogel to develop eco-friendly stains using his revolutionary Janus particle.
“I want to see my technology commercialized and be impactful. I see the synergy between entrepreneurship and education,” he says. “Running the startup with students helps them gain product development experience not learned in school, and it trains them to think like entrepreneurs.”