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TED speaker and CEO of Ecovative Eben Bayer told Business Insider that his Mushroom Tiny House is finally generating conversation in the world of construction and furniture, but it took a while for the Ecovative team to understand how to build momentum around their idea.
“I think early on…we were two people, getting overwhelmed when we were taking off. What we needed was bodies. We were very willing to get anyone and put them in any role,” Bayer said.
“It took us a while to learn that, ‘hey, you’re really good in sales. why are you washing trays outside of the building?’ or ‘you’re a great engineer, why do we have you doing accounting?’ I think if I would have understood that earlier, we could have moved faster in the beginning.”
Having received considerable press after his 2010 TED talk, which focused on using organic instead of synthetic materials, the CEO realised that people were also paying attention to his vision for the future, a big vision that starts with the tiny house.
Bayer said the house is the first step in changing an entire industry.
“What the tiny house for us represents is not this hippie-green living out in the woods type of thing, but a building system in a factory where you’re building full modules of rooms and shipping them to huge complexes,” he said.
His company, as well as certain components of the tiny house construction, revolves around the use of mycelium — the vegetative part of fungus. Though unproven in large construction, the organic material sounds promising.
As described on the company web site:
Ecovative uses mycelium (mushroom “roots”) to bond together agricultural byproducts like corn stalks into a material that can replace plastic foam. Mushroom Insulation grows into wood forms over the course of a few days, forming an airtight seal. It dries over the next month (kind of like how concrete cures) and you are left with an airtight wall that is extremely strong.
It’s nontoxic, fireproof and mould- and water-resistant, and it traps more heat than fibreglass insulation. It’s also stronger, pound for pound, than concrete.
Mycelium construction is supposedly cheap, eliminating the need for studs and other construction materials, while providing excellent insulation.
Before any skyscraper builders sign on, however, Bayer has to convince the world that his vision of the future, founded in his work with mycelium, is safe and practical.
“It has all the sort of normal things as a house to keep it from getting too wet and things like that, and our material, when adequately protected from the environment, is quite resilient,” Bayer said. “We tested those kinds of properties in the lab and found out it was pretty good. We want to confirm when you do a full size building, you’re still pretty good.”
While Bayer would have liked to grow more quickly in the beginning, the six-year-old company has already solidified partnerships with impactful companies like Dell and Crate & Barrel, selling biodegradable packaging.
And despite Ecovative’s growth timeline, Bayer maintains the perspective that tackling substantive issues is a worthwhile cause.
“Solve a real problem, something that’s real and important. If you’re doing that, there’s a greater chance of greater success. Secondly, be tenacious and resilient.”
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