Patrick Clasen, Justin Lawyer and Timothy Marks were Lehigh University undergrads, aquarium hobbyists and tinkerers when they had their first big idea. Today, the three are principals of
Their original innovation, says Clasen, was a pump that creates oceanlike currents by magnetically transferring torque from a motor mounted on the outside of an aquarium tank. The VorTech pump eliminates the needs for holes and provides a safe environment for sensitive – and costly – inhabitants of the reef tanks that display live corals and other marine invertebrates as well as fish.
They built the first prototypes for their VorTech pump in 2006; by 2008 they were doing almost a million dollars in sales, Clasen says, and the company is on track to reach $12 million this year. EcoTech now offers several additional pumps, aquarium LED lights and a line of spa/pedicure pumps and is moving into products for the horticultural industry.
"Aquariums will still be our main niche," says Clasen. "But diversification does continue to give us opportunities in a wider variety of markets."
Expansion also means a growing workforce; from the original trio, the company currently employs about 35 and expects to exceed 40 this year. To house its growing operations, EcoTech is seeking to quadruple its current office/warehouse space.
All three founders still like to tinker, but the fast growth of the company has necessitated a division of labor, with Lawyer focused on R&D, Marks on product development and Clasen on business and finance. The three recently shared the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
’s award for entrepreneurial achievement.
Source: Patrick Clasen, EcoTech Marine
Writer: Elise Vider