Camille Sobrian Saltman brought experience in innovation, technology and communications to San Diego urethane foam startup Malama Composites Inc.
She joined Malama as president and chief marketing officer in June 2014.
Her first tasks were to develop and launch a sales and marketing plan, obtain U.S. Department of Agriculture designations for the foams and align factory operations.
“We have begun customer testing with companies in the fields of commercial pipe insulation, metal buildings, building systems, packaging, automotive parts, theater scenery, movie sets, orthotics and prosthetics, medical devices and museum exhibits,” she said.
In August, the company said USDA approved bio-based certifications and federal bio-preferred purchasing statuses for rigid sculpting Studio BioFoam and two-part-pour Pacific BioFoam. Studio BioFoam is the first bio-based rigid urethane bun-stock to achieve the certification, Malama said.
Studio BioFoam 4.0 and two-pound-density Pacific BioFoam use polyols derived from castor bean. Water is the only blowing agent.
For the A-side, Malama uses methylene diphenyl diisocyanate that is free of acidic or alkaline catalytic salts or formaldehyde and cures quickly, she said. “Castor-based polyols have about one quarter of the negative environmental impacts of petroleum-based polyols.”
Studio BioFoam products are gaining visibility in some high-profile applications.
A Studio BioFoam application appeared in Steven Spielberg’s 2015 science fiction adventure film “Jurassic World.” Set builder Stiegelbauer Associates Inc. made a puppet for an early October segment of NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
The La Jolla Playhouse built 14-foot-high kabuki puppets for its “Yashimi Battles the Pink Robots” musical in San Diego. And the San Diego Natural History Museum is sculpting an 18-foot-long pediment that will hang over the entryway of its new research library.
Malama’s AinaCore rigid foam is made with recycled polyols synthesized from recovered PET containers. It offers fire Class A rating (E84 25/50) up to 2.5 inches thick and exceeds capabilities of other polyurethane or polyisocyanurate foams, she said.
Bay Insulation Supply tested and now stocks AinaCore for commercial pipe insulation and teams with Malama on a co-marketing program.
In September, Malama Composites moved 23 miles in San Diego to 5,000 square feet of post-production space. “Being located near the border was an advantage from a shipping logistics perspective, but more challenging for meetings with potential customers and strategic partners,” she said.
Malama employs seven and has three manufacturing partners.
Malama outsources Studio BioFoam and AinaCore bun-stock manufacturing to a Cerritos, Calif., firm with a continuous processing line. A Houston formulator makes liquid Pacific BioFoam.
“This OEM model has enabled us to scale rapidly,” she said. “We will bring all manufacturing in-house as we grow.”
Camille Sobrian was born in 1963, grew up in Toronto and has one brother, a Bank of America software programmer.
She received a bachelor of applied arts in journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto.
In San Diego, she was vice chairman of the wireless and software trade organization CommNexus, now EvoNexus, co-founder of the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance and its president for seven years, co-founder of San Diego Sport Innovators and co-founder of the International Commercialization Alliance.
“Through these experiences, I have been thoroughly schooled in technology and in the range of solutions that our foams can provide,” she said.
In 2005, the University of California, San Diego spun-off its Connect program into a private-sector entity. “I jumped onboard after the spin-off and chaired and rebuilt Connect’s Springboard mentoring program as a volunteer and major sponsor,” she said. “The Springboard program had been successfully replicated around the world, yet the original program in San Diego had almost ceased to operate due to lack of resources.”
A key was to rebuild credibility, attract capital and achieve company deal flow.
“We accomplished this by recruiting a revolving team of CEO mentors who had raised money, built businesses and successfully exited,” she said. “Every new deal wants an advisory team that has ‘been there and done that’ when they try to overcome the valley of death. That’s how I met David Saltman [the company’s CEO].”
In 2007, she joined Connect as president and a board member of both the association and its foundation.
“I was involved in launching a wide range of programs, but one has particular relevance to our industry,” she said. “In 2010, I launched the Connect Nearsourcing Initiative to match technology and biotech companies with local manufacturing companies instead of outsourcing to other countries.”
In 2012, the Clinton Global Initiative America recognized “Nearsourcing in San Diego: Reviving U.S. Prosperity” as a model for other regions.
Malama was a graduate of the Springboard program and a Nearsourcing participant. “David Saltman was an entrepreneur who helped me launch CleanTech San Diego and was one of Connect’s first CEO mentors in the clean-tech space,” she said. “He became a mentor of Malama and then its chairman, an active investor and, eventually, its CEO. In 2009, we realized we were more than business partners and were married.”
By June 2014, “the company was ready to commercialize, and David and I realized that as majority owners it was time for us to stop dividing our energies and combine forces with Malama,” she said. “We have a number of husband and wife teams in San Diego running successful tech companies and also realized that in the manufacturing world husband and wife teams are not uncommon, so I jumped in with both feet.”
Her current position is her most interesting job: “everything from watching big foam ‘coolers’ being manufactured with our foam for the first time — including watching employees jump up and sit on the top of the huge forms to get them to pop out — to creating the big ‘buns’ of rigid foam on the manufacturing line — just like baking.” San Diego testing laboratory Westpak Inc. vetted the insulated boxes and coolers.