Lighting the spark– it just takes one

America is falling behind in the race to build the “high tech” water economy that will drive economic growth in the next decade, according to Mike Dimitriou of Water Remediation Technologies. “We stifle innovation with too many roadblocks,” Dimitriou noted earlier today at the marquee conference for the water industry, ACE 13.

Dimitriou noted that the new wave of advanced water tech ”is coming at the right time because we face unprecedented challenges in preserving water quality, finding enough water for all our needs, reducing costs, dealing with aging infrastructure, and meeting the demands of a smaller and younger work force, as well as growing public concern and involvement.”

What are the watershed events that will be the tipping point for water tech?

Disaster scenarios have driven new tech into the US water industry, but there are other drivers simmering below the surface.

Most important, there will be the first great tech start-up success.  I saw the impact of the first runaway tech successes in Israel in the 1990s.   The inventor of the software firewall, Checkpoint, stands out as the start-up that lit fierce competition in the nascent Israeli software community. A year after it was founded, Checkpoint closed its first strategic partnership in 1994 .  Two years later, it was worth $3.5 B at its IPO.  Rather than champagne and great patriot pride, the mercurial success of Checkpoint’s uncorked the wrath of programming nerds in Tel Aviv.  The general response was “If those clowns at Checkpoint could sell $50 M a year, then my company can do twice as well.”

Once the bounty of a great start-up was concrete, fierce competition bloomed in the desert of Israel.  It wasn’t just the smug faces of the Checkpoint staff emerging from their shiny offices, or the fancy cars they drove away, it was meeting them at family weddings, or at a coffee house. Israeli men serve in their old units on reserve duty several weeks a year, so the men who wanted to compete with the founders of Checkpoint had to suffer the pain of working side-by-side with them for weeks. Programmers coveted the success of the founders of Checkpoint.

During the 1990s, dozens of Israeli start-ups broke through the “glass ceiling” that had held back Israeli tech companies for decades.

In 2012, The Artemis Top 50 charted over 100 high potential start-ups.  We are waiting to see the first Checkpoint of water tech spark a new age of leadership in water.

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