The Fellows’ Forum is pleased to host leading water industry professionals who share their experience, expertise and insights with the Artemis Project’s Top 50 fellows.  The speakers discuss the state of the water industry drawing from their backgrounds in technology, business development and investment.

 

August 7, 2012– Peter Gleick, one of the leading visionaries on the future of water, came to speak at the fourth Artemis Top 50 Fellows’ Forum last week. Gleick is the founder and President of the Pacific Institute, a policy think tank that has pioneered new approaches to water management.

For the last 30 years, the Pacific Institute has been developing new approaches to water policy in the face of scarcity and infrastructure breakdown. Existing water delivery has focused upon building the awe-inspiring infrastructure that has marked great feats of engineering like the Hoover Dam.  “Hard” water infrastructure has laid a byzantine network of pipes to supply water for every need. Historically, water management has meant finding water supplies to match those needs.

We are running out—of water and money for that monumental  “hard” infrastructure.  Year by year, the soft path is emerging as the key to the future of water.

Soft paths look at how we can readjust the demand for water rather than the supply. “The key is to look at the goal for each way that we use water.” Gleick explains, “If we look at what we want (demand) from different uses of water (supply), we can redefine how much water we need.”

Hard Core Soft Path
Centralized water management has been a major force for improved health over the last century.  Water officials have stuck to centralized water because they can supervise treatment directly.

Advanced water technology unlocks the potential for soft path.  Smart, onsite devices can tailor water treatment to the needs of each site.

The Artemis Top 50 competition is bringing together a host of solutions that provide safety with the massive efficiencies that soft path brings us.

With precise onsite disinfection and monitoring solutions ensure that water is safe.  Advanced water tech provides ways for water utilities to continue to monitor water safety and water use from remote control centers.

The Pacific Institute has just published “A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy,” which brings forward recommendations for a new federal water policy to confront national and global challenges.  More information is available at http://www.pacinst.org/us_water_policy/index.htm.

 

July 20, 2012– Khalil Maalouf, Managing Director at XPV Capital, came to speak with the Top 50 Fellows about venture capital investment in the water industry.  We asked Khalil what makes a company investment-worthy to gain some insight about what makes a company successful.

Before choosing companies to invest in, Khalil and his partners defined the market of water and wastewater.  They identified 5 water themes- energy, biosolids, productivity, chemicals and scarcity- and mapped them against the types of customer- industrial, municipal, commercial, agricultural and residential.  In this way, they identified the biggest potential markets so that they could begin to look for technologies and start-ups operating within these specific markets.  They then adjusted the metrics some based on how many companies had solutions and then determined their target markets.  Though he didn’t share the market values they identified, Khalil explained that residential hydropower would be an example of a relatively small market because it is currently very fragmented.  On the other hand, biosolids was an area that they were interested in.

The partners begin the investment process by researching the entire field they have targeted: the technology, the existing companies, and the customers.  “What the industry needs is a few successful companies to break through the barrier of $25M to demonstrate the potential of water tech,” stated Khalil.

When choosing a company to invest in, they look for good management, less than 30% value proposition, and the application or ability to retrofit.

Khalil explained that evaluating a team is very important and while it is somewhat subjective, there are ways to do it successfully.  Notably, experience has been their best resource, but they also hire consultants.  He admits that “luck” is also a factor in choosing a successful team.  The team is so important that if the partners see that a team is weak, they look to gain more managing control or influence when negotiating a deal with the start up.  In this way they can influence company hiring, for example, through participation on the company’s board.

Khalil sees promise in young CEO’s because they “don’t take no for an answer,” and this makes them successful businessmen and leaders.  He advised the Top 50 Fellows to embrace this attitude and to not lose faith: water technology can be different and innovative.

 

July 16, 2012– Chris Morrison, VP of Strategic Sales at Nalco, an Ecolab company, led a discussion on what it takes for promising water tech start-ups to grow and lead the industry at the Top 50 Fellows’ Forum.  Chris is the Chairman of the team of judges assessing the business viability of the companies contending for the Artemis Project’s Top 50 Water Tech Awards.

To assess and predict business viability, Chris explained that he examines how companies articulate how they go to the market, the market analysis, the sales force, the team, and a company’s potential to differentiate their product line.

Many start-ups that have had successful initial product sales are not able to maintain momentum and grow from “emerging” to “succeeding” if their business plan and marketing are not executed properly.  Chris is also dubious of companies stuck in the “valley of death” before hitting the market; ones that have not moved forward from pilot testing after many years may not be good at making money.

Instead, Chris used Nalco as an example of how new investments and product introduction to market should look.  At Nalco, everyone with an idea is invited to present a product proposal, of which a few are given money for bench-work testing.  After proven pilots and a complete market analysis, more financing is provided for a full-scale pilot.  If successful, they identify every potential customer in order to anticipate production details and profitability.  Chris emphasized that all of this moves very fast.  Although there is a big difference in Nalco, a large company constantly looking to invest in R&D, and a startup with one great new idea they are attempting to bring to the market, the same principles for success are necessary.

 

June 21, 2012– The Artemis Project’s 2012 Fellows’ Forum was kicked off by a talk from Paul Gagliardo, the Director of Innovation Development for American Water.  Mr. Gagliardo has years of experience introducing and utilizing new water technologies for municipal and private water facilities.  American Water is the largest investor-owned utility in the United States and, with much credit due to Mr. Gagliardo, it has been a leader in testing and adopting new technologies.

Mr. Gagliardo fielded inquiries from the Artemis Top 50 Fellows and drew examples from his experience in technology testing, past and present, to introduce issues that drive water tech development.

During his time in working for the city of San Diego, Mr. Gagliardo was involved in testing the membrane bioreactors that were the first to provide the (in)famous “Toilet to Tap” filtration.  Every bioreactor had to be tested to create the basic data needed to provide information about the industry that customers would use when the technology really took off 10 years later.

At American Water, Mr. Gagliardo is currently piloting new software that allows readers to read all meters from the 4 major meter companies.  The new device will save American Water money by enabling the use of smart meters without requiring a change to the entire distribution system.

Mr. Gagliardo distinguished an “invention” that is just a product, from “innovation” which describes its application.

So what innovation is needed now?  Mr. Gagliardo would like to see something that can detect and repair leaks in pipes.  He mentioned that once-unimaginable strides have been made in predictive analytics, acoustic-based leak detection, and self-healing concrete towards addressing similar needs.  Maybe an Artemis Top 50 perspective applicant out there is not far off from determining a solution- one would find an eager partner in Paul Gagliardo.