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Bolder Industries aims to join region’s elite class of manufacturers with go-public plan

The exterior of the Bolder Industries plant in Marysville, Mo. (Bolder Industries/Courtesy photo)
The exterior of the Bolder Industries plant in Marysville, Mo. (Bolder Industries/Courtesy photo)

Bolder Industries may not yet be a household name across the Front Range and beyond, but CEO Tony Wibbeler has his sights set on changing that.

“We are modeling ourselves very much like an Otter Products or a Johns Mansville or a Gates Corp., with a local Colorado headquarters and manufacturing all over the country,” he told BizWest on Wednesday.

An employee sorts used tires at Bolder Industries’ Missouri facility. (Bolder Industries/Courtesy photo)

In order to get there, BI is making moves to go public.

BI, a Boulder-based firm that converts recycled rubber tires into sustainable new compounds and chemicals, has entered into a letter of intent with special-purpose acquisition firm GigCapital2 Inc. (NYSE: GIX) that would merge the firms and allow BI’s stock to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

The combined firm is valued at roughly $880 million.

A special-purpose acquisition firm, also known as a SPAC or blank-check firm, serves as a shell entity that uses proceeds from stock sales to purchase a private firm such as Bolder Industries. This process allows a firm to become publicly traded without going through a traditional initial public offering process.

GigCapital CEO Avi Katz, entrepreneur and private equity investor, raised $200 million this year with the intention of acquiring technology firms, according to a May report from the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

BI, a certified B Corp. registered with regulatory agencies as Waste to Energy Partners LLC, is headquartered in Boulder and has additional operations in Missouri and Florida.

The firm’s flagship product is BolderBlack, which is derived from used tires and scrap rubber and serves as a replacement for traditional carbon black, a compound used to strengthen rubber and colorize plastics.

“We’re not a tire recycler by nature, and we’re not a technology company by nature,” said Wibbeler, whose background is in medical device manufacturing. “We’re a products-driven business.”

Because BI is actually manufacturing something of value — in its case, BolderBlack — rather than simply recycling waste materials such as plastic or glass into more plastic or glass, the firm’s business model is stronger than firms that have tried to dominate this space in the past, Wibbeler said.

“We started with the product in mind: a rubber roof, a hose, tires” and “worked it backward” to develop the technology to extract the necessary materials from used tires, he said.

Despite having what he considers an advantage over competitors, Wibbeler said he actually appreciates and often collaborates with other companies in the space.

“There are very large companies that buy this (carbon black) material, and they very rarely buy something sole-sourced, they don’t buy things when there’s only one supplier,” he said.

So the presence of multiple players opens up the market to larger contracts where one carbon black maker serves as the primary contractor and another serves as the secondary.

Bolder Industries employs just more than a dozen workers at its Boulder headquarters. Should the Gig deal close as expected in early 2021, the firm will need to immediately add at least 30 workers across human resources, engineering, research and development, project management, finance, sales and other departments.

Bolder Industries estimates that the firm will operate 15 plants and record as much as $530 million in annual revenue by 2026. To meet those goals, BI would need about 100 workers along the Front Range and 700 worldwide,

The company’s current offices on Pearl Street are far too small to accommodate that growth, so the firm is looking for new space that could house administrative offices and perhaps some flex-manufacturing space.

“I know it’s not in downtown Boulder; there’s just not 50,000 square feet of research space with pyrolysis and manufacturing” available within city limits, Wibbeler said. “There’s a building we have our eyes on” at the Colorado Technology Center business park in Louisville and “we’ve got our eyes on a building up in Niwot” near Medtronic Inc.’s offices.

BI is also exploring possible synergies with the CH2E Waste Tire Monofill and Tire Recycling Center in Hudson.

“That space could be the global innovation center for Bolder Industries,” Wibbeler said.

But to achieve any of these goals, BI needs capital. That’s where Gig comes in.

Used rubber material is turned into BolderBlack compounds at a Bolder Industries facility. (Bolder Industries/Courtesy photo)

When asked how long BI has been in talks with Gig about a potential SPAC deal, Wibbeler paused for a beat and said, “three weeks,” with a tone that suggested he could hardly believe it himself.

“It’s been quick,” he said. “When we met with Gig (and CEO Katz), we were kindred spirits. It was kismet. The top-level leadership at Gig are Ph.D.s in chemical engineering and physics. They’re scientists who happen to be serial entrepreneurs.”

While the LOI is in place, an executed merger contract is not. But BI leadership believes it’s a matter of weeks or months before it is a done deal.

“The fact of the matter is, I wouldn’t have signed something if I didn’t have an 85% confidence rate. Why would I do that?” Wibbeler said. “This is not our only option; this is our best option.”

Wibbeler and BI board chairman Robert Fenwick-Smith will continue to lead the company should the merger occur.

“This is not an exit for me — this is the very beginning, not a victory lap,” Wibbeler said.

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