Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, the co-founder of ECOncrete, a company that pioneered a type of science-based, bio-enhancing concrete for seawalls, ports, breakwaters and other coastal and marine infrastructure, was killed in a traffic accident in Israel on Sunday. According to news reports, she was riding an electric scooter that was hit by a truck.
ECOncrete, whose products foster the growth of healthy, indigenous sea life as opposed to invasive species, launched in 2012 in Israel but, after becoming a member of the Tampa-based Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA), set up an office and warehouse facility in St. Petersburg in 2018. Perkol-Finkel’s death was reported on the company’s Facebook page, which said her funeral was held today in Israel.
“Shimrit was a mother of three, wife, sister, talented scientist and brilliant entrepreneur,” the company wrote in a Facebook posts. “She inspired and lifted all of us with her love of the ocean, and her vision for rescuing it.”
Perkol-Finkel, 45, was hailed by Forbes magazine as a major inspiration and role model for women in science and construction. In 2019, ECOncrete won Sir Richard Branson’s “Pitch to Rich” event at a business conference in Tel Aviv, and Time magazine named it one of the best inventions of the year. Last year, the company’s run of success continued when it raised $5 million in Series A funding.
FIBA Co-Executive Director Rakefet Bachur-Phillips, speaking to the Catalyst, said she fully expects the team at ECOncrete to carry on Perkol-Finkel’s legacy but that the loss is “heartbreaking,” especially in light of March being Women’s History Month and today, March 8, being International Women’s Day.
“She wasn’t the only one but was one of just a few of our female founders,” Bachur-Phillips said. “She won so many awards leading the way for female entrepreneurship. It’s so tragic. We lost one of the good ones.”
Bachur-Phillips first met Perkol-Finkel when they were both young women attending college in Israel. Many years later, after Bachur-Phillips had moved to the United States and landed a job with FIBA, the two reconnected when Bachur-Phillips accompanied then-Gov. Rick Scott and a delegation from Florida on a visit to Israel. That meeting led to ECOncrete becoming part of FIBA’s second cohort.
“It’s a very important and precious company in our portfolio, dealing with sustainability, the seas and marine biology,” Bachur-Phillips said. “It’s one of a kind for us … very special.”
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Perkol-Finkel was not able to spend much time in the Tampa Bay area lately, but the company has a St. Pete-based regional sales manager, John Luetzow, and is in the process of hiring more locally based staff. In the short time it’s been in business, ECOncrete has made a big impact in Florida, with two projects completed in Fort Lauderdale and more on the way in Miami that are being handled by Bluewater Marine, a St. Pete contractor.
Bachur-Phillips has no doubt that ECOncrete will continue to flourish, but said Perkol-Finkel’s unique blend of leadership traits will be sorely missed. “She was super smart, super ambitious,” she said, but also “very kind and grounded … someone you could really look up to … very charismatic, but in a very soft and sweet way.”
St. Pete businessman Mario Farias, managing partner of the Callaloo Group, which is developing a new food hall at the Manhattan Casino, got to know Perkol-Finkel well and helps represent ECOncrete’s U.S. interests.
“There are people whose goal in life is to make the world a better place for everyone. Shimrit was one of those people,” Farias wrote in a post on his Facebook page. “Her love for the ocean and its protection was unparalleled. It is because of her and the company she co-founded that there is new science which will play a great part in its rescue.”
In a call with the Catalyst, Farias, like Bachur-Phillips, said Perkol-Finkel’s death is a stunning setback but he expects ECOncrete to continue to flourish thanks to her vision, hard work and the team she assembled.
“I think the future of the company is as solid as it was with Shimrit, but it is a big personal loss to all of us who knew her and had worked with her,” Farias said. “But the innovation is still there, and there’s other scientists and specialists working for the company who will keep her vision going.”