Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive June 2017 Show 1725 XploSafe: Detect and Neutralize

XploSafe: Detect and Neutralize

Foreign nationals used Meridian Tech’s business incubator to grow XploSafe, an explosive detection and neutralization business.
XploSafe: Detect and Neutralize

XploSafe: Detect and Neutralize

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Show Details

Show 1725: XploSafe: Detect and Neutralize
Air Date: June 18, 2017



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. In the midst of our country’s debate over immigration, a recent study shows that the majority of the most successful recent business startups, now valued over a billion dollars, were founded by immigrants. In fact, more than 40 percent of current Fortune 500 companies were either started by immigrants or the children of immigrants. On average, immigrants are more than twice as likely to start businesses as their native-born counterparts and are now responsible for more than 25 percent of all new business creation and related job growth. Today, we begin with a small company whose owners say their success is not about where they’re from, but where they’re located.

Rob McClendon: The Oklahoma City bombing was an attack that shocked a nation – 186 dead, and in the rush to save survivors –

[NATS: Let’s go! Come on man, let’s go! They say there was possibly another bomb in this area. They don’t know where].

Rob: – fears of a second bomb.

Allen Apblett: There’s a lot of terrorist explosives that they use, that are made from peroxide. They’re extremely dangerous. You just look at them sideways, and they might blow up.

Rob: A tragedy that led OSU industrial chemist Allen Apblett to look for a way to not only detect explosives, but to neutralize them in place.

Apblett: We sent the proposal in one week before 911. And so now it became really important that we do this research.

Rob: That became the genesis of a company called XploSafe.

Apblett: And in fact, our award letter came from the attorney general of the United States.

Rob: In 2009, Apblett partnered with two others, and research turned into production.

Shoaib Shaikh: When we started the company in 2009, we were, the office, or the location, that we had was a cubicle in the school of business.

Rob: XploSafe co-founder Shoaib Shaikh.

Shaikh: We cannot be a manufacturer and researcher without having space to work.

Rob: So XploSafe expanded into Meridian Tech’s business incubator.

Shaikh: The facilities at Meridian are top notch. They are the best you can get in Stillwater.

Rob: And the company began production on a material that detects and neutralizes common explosives using tiny particles so small that 50,000 of them could fit inside a human hair.

Apblett: It uses the human eye. You add a drop of something or a little spray of something or dip a test strip in a suspect material, and you see a color change.

Rob: Named one of Oklahoma’s promising new ventures, XploSafe began making sales and expanding its product line.

Rob: Helping this startup grow into its own research and production facility.

Shaikh: You know when we started this company, we started with just one technology. We had a unique high value proposition that could be useful by bomb squads or by safety personnel by industrial safety officers. And what we did first was we went out. We talked to customers. We interviewed 50 to 100 customers, found out exactly what they’re looking for and then built something based off of that. Now, going through that process, we built and sold stuff, that’s the money we used to grow our company. So we bootstrapped our way through. There was no investment coming in before. Everything you see in our facility from resources to the products, it’s all bootstrapped. In the sense that we’ve been able to generate the revenues from the sale of our products, and these revenues have been put back in the company to make new products and make new solutions, make new technologies.

Rob: Allowing these entrepreneurs to expand their chemical detection product line, while also beginning a new company called MaxQ.

Shaikh: We are a provider of advanced insulation and packaging materials for safe transportation of blood, vaccines, pharmaceuticals. Our products are used by blood banks and hospitals to save and safely store blood within the required temperature zone to extend the life and the viability of precious lifesaving blood products. For MaxQ, we right now have 12 people. It wouldn’t surprise me by the end of this year if we had 20 just at this facility trying to increase capacity to meet our demand.

Rob: A cutting-edge technology company, part of a growing trend of new startups in the U.S. owned and operated by foreign nationals.

Shaikh: We have a very diversified team. We have people from India, Bangladesh, Canada and U.S. in general. But all that is made possible by the resources and the mindset that you have in the U.S. I don’t think you go to any other country, and, you know, you walk in, you get a good education, and then you can dream to even attempt something of this nature, something near this capacity. Other countries and other places, you literally have so many other roadblocks that would prevent you from even trying to do something like this. Oklahoma in general is a super, is a really good environment to be able to start a business, to be able to dream big in terms of doing high-technology, sophisticated stuff. You don’t really have to be in Silicon Valley or the East Coast where, you know, we hear about stories where, oh, this company raised a million dollars, or this company raised $200 million to take their idea to market. How many of them actually, you know, make it? You know? And on the contrary, we see people in a place like Oklahoma or Stillwater start small. But we steadily create much more value in a local economy in terms of job creation, in terms of being able to make and sell products outside. So everything we make here is used globally. So we have, for MaxQ, we have products being used in hospitals in Canada. And for XploSafe, you know, we’ve sold products in Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa. So to think the products that we make here are used globally that brings a lot of value to the local economy is a big deal.

Rob: Now, both men are quick to point out their success was not without others’ help. They’ve received several federal grants, while on the state level, both OCAST and i2E have been instrumental in the company’s success. But it is their location in a college town and the availability of ambitious young talent they say has allowed them to hire some of the best and brightest. Now, when we return, we meet a young lady following her American dream.