Behind the Coat with Tony Collins

Tony Collins, CEO of EonCoat, has been a successful entrepreneur in the power generation industry. After reading about the technology behind what would become EonCoat he purchased the commercial rights and set out to bring a green coating alternative to market that would also outperform the competition. He recognized the importance of the technology that became EonCoat to society and assembled a team to bring the benefits to market. The first EonCoat product available to the public is a coating application. Tony sat down with me to offer a little insight into EonCoat and some “behind the curtain” information on himself.

Where did the idea and concept behind EonCoat come from?

There are two ways I can answer that. One is that I read Arun Wag’s book and there is a paragraph in there that talks about a brand new materials technology that combined acids and bases to make a ceramic at room temperature with incredible properties. So I bought the commercial rights to that technology from Argonne National Labs and shifted the research away from its initial purpose, storing radioactive waste, and shifted it to commercial applications. I sponsored research at Argonne and other labs as well to develop cements, paints, coatings, composites and fireproof plywood. The first thing we are taking to market is the paint. The technology really goes back to the department of energy’s need to store radioactive waste – that’s what it was developed to do – but it also has many ways it can be used in commercial and industrial applications.

The other story is a more personal one and explains how we got to paints and coatings first. My wife is the most observant person on the planet. One day we had been making a fire retardant cementitious coating for steel. We poured some cement coating on a piece of steel and somebody bumped the table and it feel off the steel onto the floor. When it hit the floor, the cement coating broke. We threw the piece of steel in the scrap bin in disgust and tried another one. Well, that would have been the end of it except that about three months later I came into the facility through the back gate and my wife, who notices everything about everything, was in the truck with me.

“How come that piece of plate over there isn’t rusted?”, she asked. I wasn’t really following her yet and she continued, “See all that steel in the scrap bin – it’s all rusty except that one piece” Well I wasn’t sure, but we were going to find out! Sure enough the coating, even though it fell off the steel initially, hadn’t rusted. So we started repeating the experiment and everything we put this coating on – wouldn’t rust. Even if we took the coating off afterwards. We had a dozen PHD’s here at the time and decided to really dig in and figure out exactly what was going on. Ultimately we figured out that we had changed a layer of the steel, we had essentially alloyed the top layer of it and made it stable. It simply would not rust!

Do you think that EonCoat has a chance to change the landscape of commercial painting and coating industry?

I see everyone using this technology 20 years from now. I firmly believe it will be standard practice by that time. When I say that, I mean as a product for the commercial contractor. I think it is a contractor applied product because the equipment needed to spray it is too expensive for a consumer. The person who wants to paint their bedroom isn’t going to spend a ton of money for proper equipment but the contractor who paints that bedroom will use the coating.

The technology is truly a game changer for contractors that apply paint for a living or for industrial coating. It is just so much safer. That really is the biggest thing. People are currently spraying paint that is volatile – particularly in a closed space. Many paints have an ignition point of 50 degrees Fahrenheit so it is relatively common that we hear about someone being hurt in an enclosed space spraying a volatile component. Also the labor costs when using the new technology is so much less than traditional labor costs for painting/coating. EonCoat is a one-coat application with very little prep and not many products can do that.

What specific challenges do you think EonCoat faces entering the paint and coating marketplace?

Every professional in the painting industry that has seen EonCoat applied is thrilled with it. So our struggle is getting in the hands of as many pros as we can. So much of what you read about any product is based on hype. I had a guy come see me recently that said “the stuff you say about this application on your website can’t be true!” After he saw it applied, he was a convert. I realize people can be skeptical and will be when any product seems too good to be true. I’m a skeptical guy too. I understand, but innovation has stretched the limits of what is now possible.

You’ve been a successful entrepreneur in many different industries. What can you attribute that success to?

It’s true that I have managed to be successful in my professional life, but I always made sure I made more money for my customers. I always made sure to give them a lot of value. My basic philosophy is that your own economics will work out fine as long as your customers make money. I think all businesses that are successful help other people more than they help themselves – I don’t think I’m unique in that way. The reason Bill Gates is so successful is because he created a way for almost anyone to have the ability to use a computer. People appreciated that and now he is a very wealthy man.

On a lighter note, what do you enjoy doing in your free time when you get away from the office?

Just about anybody who builds a company of significance works all the time, whether they tell you that or not. Most of the people who build successful companies are obsessive compulsive and I am no different. I think about it from early in the day to late at night seven days a week. I do force myself to get away from time to time because by being distant from it clears my head and makes me think even better.

When I want to take my mind away from business I love to be either on the golf course or on the water.