Ontario-based Trusscore hopes its plastic partitions will disrupt the drywall trade

Trusscore Inc. makes PVC partitions strengthened with truss-shaped cores, and more and more markets them for garages and basements.Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

As the staff at Trusscore Inc. tells the story, an anti-drywall revolution has begun at a plastics extrusion facility behind a Tim Hortons, an hour northwest of Waterloo.

It’s right here that Dave Caputo resides out his lifelong fantasy of ending the hegemonic reign of his least favorite home-building materials. The networking know-how entrepreneur, who served as a vice-president at PixStream Inc. and chief govt officer of Sandvine Inc. – every of which have been bought for greater than half a billion {dollars} – merely can’t stand painted drywall.

His hatred was first for aesthetic causes, lamenting the knicks, nail pops and mis-set nook beads. It progressively turned environmental: As the world’s tens of millions of do-it-yourself contractors know, slicing drywall to form can go away a lot of the gypsum board wasted – someplace between 10 per cent and 20 per cent, relying on who you ask. And although drywall will be recycled, a lot of it winds up in landfills and rots, releasing hydrogen sulfide fuel that’s chargeable for the rotten-egg stench at many dumps.

It was right here in Palmerston, after Sandvine was bought off in 2017, that Mr. Caputo determined to take his loathing to the following degree. He invested in a neighborhood plastics extrusion firm named MSW Plastics and set it on a path extra acquainted to a startup than a small-town producer – one in all technological disruption.

The firm hopes to take a chew out of the drywall market, which is anticipated to be value US$28-billion by 2023, in accordance with the Freedonia Group, a market analysis group. “We want to do to drywall what drywall did to plaster,” Mr. Caputo says.

Now named Trusscore, the corporate’s enterprise mannequin appears easy: It makes PVC partitions strengthened with truss-shaped cores, and more and more markets them for garages and basements. But the story Mr. Caputo desires Trusscore to inform is one wherein its previous bears little in widespread with its future – an organization that started making partitions to separate pigs in farm buildings and hopes to change into a pacesetter in utilized nanotechnology, displacing drywall alongside the way in which.

It’s a extra linear path than it sounds. The firm was first launched in 2007 because the Canadian outpost of MSW Plastics by Steve Bosman and Joel Koops, Ontario entrepreneurs who had been importing PVC panelling from a German firm of the identical title. They bought the panels as easy-to-clean dividers for pigs, serving to farmers and agribusinesses separate them because the H1N1 swine flu started ravaging the livestock late within the decade.

Joel Koops, left, govt vice-president of Trusscore and CEO Dave Caputo.Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

As that enterprise steadied the corporate, the pair started exploring different makes use of for his or her panels, together with residential gross sales – and commenced promoting their panels as a drywall various for basements and garages. The prefabricated PVC boards are a half-inch thick, 16 inches extensive and vary from 8 inches to twenty inches in size. They interlock with relative ease which, in tandem with the vary of sizes, means set up will be 4 occasions quicker than drywall, the corporate says. The panels are recyclable and simpler to wash, too.

The duo have been making the merchandise simply fantastic, however Mr. Koops and Mr. Bosman dreamed of an even bigger presence within the residential and business markets. “We got to a point where we said, ‘We’re penetrating some of these other markets on a smaller level,’” Mr. Koops says.

Then they discovered their anti-drywall ambassador.

In 2016, Mr. Bosman and Mr. Koops purchased out the German firm’s shares as they sought extra independence. That independence got here to take a form neither would anticipate. Mr. Koops had befriended Mr. Caputo by then, connecting by means of month-to-month conferences of the Young Presidents’ Organization.

Mr. Caputo was having fun with what he calls “funemployment” after the Sandvine sale. But after attending to know Mr. Koops some extra, he says, “all of a sudden, it slapped us in the face that we both wanted to replace wall coverings.”

The erstwhile networking-tech exec agreed to affix Trusscore as its CEO, with Mr. Bosman as its chief manufacturing officer and Mr. Koops as govt vice-president.

It was December, 2019.

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The reformed firm started rapidly adopting extra of a startup mentality, increasing its advertising and marketing as a drywall various whereas investing in analysis and improvement. That meant hiring specialists, generally doctorate-level ones specializing in nanotechnology, chemistry and mechanical design, to refine their PVC boards. With this experience, the newly renamed Trusscore started to enhance numerous qualities over time: sturdiness, cleanability, hearth resistance – and, possibly, add visible enhancements.

Three months later, they confronted a shutdown alongside the remainder of the world. Wondering whether or not they could be thought-about important in these early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trusscore staff rapidly realized the state of affairs created demand for one thing that wasn’t too completely different than their unique product: obstacles to forestall the unfold of a rampant illness.

TempWall was born. It was 1⅜ inches thick, straightforward to assemble and mountable on ft to create obstacles and enclaves. The nanotechnologists started working, too, discovering a coating they may apply to make it virus-resistant. The system labored; they started to supply it to close by hospitals in and round Waterloo, and ultimately elsewhere in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave them a shout-out they’re happy with to this present day.

Trusscore hopes to take a chew out of the drywall market, which is anticipated to be value US$28-billion by 2023.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Then, because the early waves of the pandemic subsided, the Trusscore staff bought again to work on their major purpose: destroying the marketplace for drywall.

It was a battle with many fronts. On the capability entrance, they bolstered their crops in Palmerston and Ohio with a manufacturing unit in Calgary this previous July. On the attention entrance, in addition they wanted to construct a market and keep off potential rivals; not less than one related firm has emerged in California.

Early assist there got here within the type of an endorsement from standard TV handyman Bryan Baeumler, who’s helped woo the home-reno crowd. “His passion and hate for drywall is equivalent to Trusscore’s,” Mr. Bosman says with a smile.

The firm additionally secured US$26-million in enterprise capital funding, drawing the eye of the startup crowd. The funding was led by Round 13 Capital’s new Earth Tech Fund, which seeks out firms with environmental advantages. It, too, has a TV character on the helm – co-founder Bruce Croxon, the previous Dragon’s Den panelist.

Yet extra fronts stay in Trusscore’s battle. If it desires to defeat drywall, it has to win the residential market. But one in all its defining options can also be its Achilles heel: It’s shiny. The shiny end makes it straightforward to wash – and, in moist environments resembling basements, unlikely to develop mould – however it’s not fairly den-ready. “I think it’s ready to go in your living room,” Mr. Caputo says. “But some people might say, ‘Hey, that’s too high-gloss.’”

With its recent funding, although, Trusscore has some freedom to experiment. A matte end will come ultimately, they hope. There are additionally industrial prospects and, maybe, business ones. With much less worry of a shiny end in these markets, there could also be much more potential with them.

Mr. Caputo is the chair of Communitech, the innovation hub in Kitchener that’s seen tons of of firms come by means of its doorways at numerous levels of their development. The hub homes area for the University of Waterloo’s Velocity startup centre. Trusscore’s R&D staff is predicated in that area, looking for much more methods to make a drywall various that’s rather more fascinating than drywall.

As flurries fell in late fall, Mr. Caputo requested his director of R&D, Ryan Gerakopulos, to activate what he known as Trusscore’s “digital paint.” Pressing his finger to a pill, a piece of PVC wall started glowing yellow. With a flick of Mr. Gerakopulos’s fingers, and it started to glow crimson. Another, and it turned blue.

At the second, LED lights embedded throughout the PVC wall are doing the trick. But Trusscore’s R&D staff is exploring utilizing chemical substances that change colors when a low voltage is utilized. Eventually, the corporate envisions these glowing partitions in boardrooms – or possibly nightclubs. It’ll take just a few years. But the would-be small-town plastics extrusion firm has that sort of time. It’s bought cash, endorsements, enterprise financing and a serial entrepreneur on the helm.

Mr. Caputo’s battle is way from over, however he’s dedicated. “Personally, I think this product is beautiful.”

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