Meet The Disruptors: Joshua Schwartz Of Viking Pure On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Pick something you are passionate about — a new venture will never be successful unless the founders/leaders are passionate.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joshua Schwartz.

Joshua Schwartz is the President of Viking Pure Solutions, a sustainable cleaning innovation company that is changing the way facilities clean and disinfect with non-toxic, on-demand solutions that are better for people and the environment. He is an active developer of medical real estate and supportive housing. He began his career in the financial industry, first in investment banking at Citigroup and then at private equity firm Apollo Management.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Prior to co-founding Viking Pure Solutions, my business partner and I had developed a large network of medical business and medical real estate over a 15 to 20 year period. We owned and operated various medical businesses including diagnostic and treatment centers, surgery centers, urgent cares, cancer centers, imaging centers and laboratories focused on providing quality medical care in underserved medical areas. We also developed medical real estate for our own businesses and many of the major New York City hospitals.

Given our experiences with our own medical business and interactions with our hospital partners, we became increasingly alarmed about Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs), which infect 2.5 million people and kill 100,000 people a year nationally. We were also concerned about the safety of our employees, who were increasingly using harsh and dangerous chemicals to clean our facilities to combat these pathogens. We started researching innovative infection control technologies, and after years of research, stumbled upon the concept of electrolyzed water. We were so enamored with the incredible safety and efficacy of hypochlorous acid and sodium hydroxide that — five years ago — we decided to exit our other medical businesses and focus on developing Viking Pure.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Our society has become accustomed to the concept that cleaning and disinfecting solutions must be harsh and toxic to be effective against killing viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. The status quo is that if you’re using green products, you must sacrifice efficacy. Viking Pure’s combination of efficacy and safety with our solutions is dispelling this myth and disrupting the massive cleaning and disinfecting industry. It is a true David versus Goliath story as upstart Viking Pure is competing against massive companies in this space — brand names like Clorox, Ecolab, Diversey, etc. — and winning business!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Starting a business from scratch is so stressful and terrifying yet exhilarating at the same time, so “funny” is hard to come by! One comedic experience comes to mind from a couple of years ago… For context, we try to provide electrostatic sprayers for all our clients as it is an extremely efficient and effective way to dispense our disinfecting solution. During the pandemic, these could not be found anywhere. After long days, I would be up for hours during the night bidding on eBay auctions from around the world to source them. One night, I realized that one of my business partners was doing the same and the two of us were outbidding each other on eBay sprayers at 3 am! Neither of us could believe this was what our lives had become.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Over the last 15 years my primary mentor has been my business partner, Bob Slingsby. Bob is a classic entrepreneur — brilliant with lots of high level great ideas. He is genuinely a very charitable person with his time and resources which has led him to form incredibly strong relationships professionally and personally. My background prior to meeting Bob was in the very structured world of investment banking and private equity, so we are a good match of skillsets. Over the years, Bob has really helped me be more focused on seeing the big picture and taking the long view on projects and relationships which has really helped in my professional development.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

At Viking Pure, I don’t think we are driven to be disruptive just for the sake of being disruptive. We are excited to go to work every day because we have developed an innovative technology that is safer and more effective than the status quo products that people have used for years. These patented solutions will dramatically help the safety of cleaning workers while also keeping all of us safer. The fact that our technology can be used in any environment allowing it to have a tremendous impact on the safety of our society is an incredible bonus.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Be patient — there is nothing quick or easy about starting a business.

Be flexible — any businesses, especially young ones need to be able to adjust quickly.

Pick something you are passionate about — a new venture will never be successful unless the founders/leaders are passionate.

View the big picture / take the long view.

Never burn bridges and have an openness to take as many meetings as possible — you never know where new relationships can lead in business.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Although we have already achieved some major milestones at Viking Pure, we think we are in the very early stages of disrupting this industry and there are many more lives to save and market share to gain against the toxic chemical producers. That said, we are constantly investing in our existing technology and looking at new innovations in the space of environmentally friendly, safe cleaning and disinfecting. We have a team of a dozen engineers working on R&D projects daily. There are several new concepts we are working on but it’s too early to share!

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

When I helped start Viking Pure, I had been managing a host of small businesses for over 10 years but I had not helped start any of them from scratch. I did spend a good amount of time reading books about start-ups and leadership. Three that really stood out to me are listed below. They all provided great lessons on making sure that the leaders of the company provide a clear vision of the company’s mission, inspiring the workforce and customers is critical and being best in class with products/service is key. At Viking Pure, we have striven to be all of these.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I played a lot of competitive sports growing up. One of my coaches always liked to quote famous coaches including Vince Lombardi, who said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.” Although cliched, it is very relevant to the start up world, where everyday I feel like I am in a prize fight getting knocked down, but when you are passionate about what you are doing you need to have belief to keep pushing through the setbacks and have the confidence to know it will all be worth it in the end.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This is what we hope to bring about with Viking Pure! We want to inspire a movement to remove toxic cleaning chemicals from commercial spaces, where they cause harm to our workers, our patrons, and our environment. I have read countless journal articles and seen numerous studies about the horrible effects these chemicals can have on our health — from aggravating issues like asthma to causing severe burns and cancer. We don’t need these chemicals to clean effectively! In fact, their use has been shown to cause bacterial resistance and allow superbugs to develop on surfaces that we suppose are clean. With electrolyzed water, we can effectively clean and disinfect using non-toxic solutions that are completely safe.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can follow me on LinkedIn or visit our website.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: Joshua Schwartz Of Viking Pure On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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