Water Sustainability:  Three Companies Seeing Uptick in Interest

Water Sustainability: Three Companies Seeing Uptick in Interest

It is no surprise that with continuing drought the “new normal” in the western US, finding ways to improve the management of this resource is becoming more urgent.  At our June 24 MeetUp, three of our region’s small companies that focus on water gave an update on their progress.  We had heard from each of them before, refocused their businesses in the search for a profitably way forward.

Tony Jones of Waterhound gained some important recognition recently by winning a 2020 CalSEED proof of concept award and the 2019 AI Tech Water Challenge of the Water Council, a global non-profit, the mission of which is to drive more innovation and better stewardship in water use.  Tony is focused on selling SaaS based on extensive data collection feeding an AI tool to improve operations of water treatment plants, markedly dropping costs and improving yields of fully treated water.  He is on a mission to improve water reuse to add to the water supply.

Chris Peacock, at AQUAOSO, is similarly focused on data analysis and software to improve users water resilience.  He is trying to improve the adaptation strategies of water users as climate changes and creates shortages.  One outcome that has been popular is a water risk scoring tool to help lenders and insurers get a better grasp of the situation of applicants.   This is a big pivot from AQUAOSO’s original intent to provide a platform for the buying and selling of water, and has been a very successful one.  They recently raised a $2 million Series C round to accelerate their progress.  Chris and his 13-person team are hoping to help customers “future-proof” their businesses as they identify water risks needing attention.  One method could be “regenerative” farming to take steps to preserve and enhance the water sources a property has.

Chuck Hansen of ElectroScan  believes he has the best tool on the market for detecting and characterizing leaks in water and wastewater pipelines.  While current systems lose 14% or more of the water they contain, current methods miss 90% of the leaks in the system and don’t do a good job of identifying the exact locations of leaks, leading to unnecessarily long excavations to visually pinpoint the leak.  Many of the leaks ElectroScan finds can be fixed in-situ without even digging up the pipe.  The company has won a long-string of awards going back to 2013 as a “best product” including one in 2021 as the Top Product of the Year from the Environment and Energy Leader conference (read the press release).  Chuck is a successful software entrepreneur who is learning now how different it is to sell a physical product.  He has assembled a 26-person team with offices not only in California but also in Florida, Canada, the UK, Europe and Australia.  His big shift was in concentrating on the UK where there was a better reception for the Electroscan product.  With that revenue base building nicely, he is hoping to get more attention in the US where the gains to users could be huge, but the decision-making is more fragmented.  His 17 awards and 15 patents certainly help.

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

Does California Really Need 1.2 Million More EV Chargers?

Does California Really Need 1.2 Million More EV Chargers?

My view is that it does not, because of some technology advances. The figure seems scary and likely will be used by EV skeptics to oppose using public money to fund charging installations.  The figure comes from a recent CEC report that looked into the requirements to support a fleet of 8 million EVs in the state by 2030.  There is no doubt that more charging stations will be needed, but what kind of stations?  The report looks only at the current crop of available chargers and focuses on Level 2 chargers (220 V, giving a 150-mile charge overnight) and 50-100 kWh/hour Direct Current Fast Chargers that provide a full charge in an hour or a bit more.  This approach overlooks the significant progress toward even faster chargers, with some claims of being able to deliver a full charge in 5-10 minutes.  Porsche has a new 800-volt fast charger it claims will operate at 350 kWh/hour.  Changes to batteries will also be needed to reach extremely fast charging rates, but these too are happening.   

These technology developments raise the question whether most of the charging in terms of kWh delivered will continue to happen at home, at parking lots at work, and at retail store lots, or if the equivalent of filling stations will arise.  If they do, then the number of charging locations would be drastically reduced.  The existing fleet of 275 million light ICE vehicles on the road today in the US are refueled by only 111,000 filling stations, with a refill taking only 5-7 minutes.  About 16,000 of these are in California.

While some have assumed people would rather recharge at home, if that only provides an added 100-150 miles in range, then people would likely prefer the convenience of a central filling station that could add 300-500 miles of range in a short time.    There are still concerns about how to prevent an 8-slot, extremely fast charging station from melting down the distribution grid to deliver the power, those too are being worked on.

Keep an eye on updates of this assessment and see if in fact the extremely fast chargers change the picture over time.

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

Team Up to Apply for SMUD Shine Award

Team Up to Apply for SMUD Shine Award

SMUD is offering up to $100,000 to non-profit applicants for its community revitalization SHINE awards by July 30th.  On our June 17th Perspectives call, Betty Low of SMUD explained what the awards were for, and how to apply for them.  There will be four more webcasts you can join to find out directly about these awards and ask questions.  The dates are June 25, July 7, 16, and 26.  You can access the main website for more information here.

The intent of the awards is to fund non-profits to provide environmental equity and economic vitality to neighborhoods in SMUD’s service area.  While only non-profits can apply, companies large and small can benefit by collaborating on a project with a non-profit.  Betty said awards are given at three levels–$5-10K, $10-50K, and $50-100K.  Matching funds are required—50 cents for every dollar SMUD awards for the first level, and dollar for dollar for the other two.

The four categories for the applications are:

  • Social Well-being—such as infrastructure improvements
  • Healthy Environment—such as carbon emissions reductions and air quality improvements
  • Prosperous Economy—such as small business and workforce development
  • Mobility—such as charger installations

These are pretty broad categories.  Have an idea that would give you some business and help revitalize communities?  Find a non-profit partner to join you and make an application.  Funding would be available starting in 2022.  There is more than a month before the deadline, so get creative!  The website provides a listing of all past awardees to help give you some ideas for your application.

Check out the Video!

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

Five Regional Companies Enter CTO

Five Regional Companies Enter CTO

Five Sacramento Region companies have been accepted into the Clean Tech Open 2021 Cohort, a new high. Since its founding in 2005, the Clean Tech Open has been a significant resource for startups looking to upgrade their business skills and give them exposure to a bench of experts, mentors, and investors. Taking part in the CTO program more than doubles the chances of success for a startup. Ken Hayes, the National CEO for the Clean Tech Open, shared the benefits in our March 4 Perspectives discussion.

The CTO has educated over 1600 startups that have raised a combined total of $1.2 billion in investment. We hope regional startups from this cohort will be part of that success.

EasyEV – EasyEV allows EV customers to buy their EVs without paying for the batteries, essentially lowering the upfront cost by up to 30%. The EV user then pays back the cost of the battery on a per-mile basis in the range of $0.10 – $0.15 per mile only when they drive. After the battery life in their EV is over, we buy the used battery from them, replace it with a new battery while starting a new per-mile subscription with us, and sell it to companies using second-life batteries in storage applications.

EV Life – Empowers drivers to overcome the upfront cost and complication of buying an electric car by building an EV buying platform that brings together everything a driver needs to find and finance an EV. 

Gridware – Provides a hardware enabled grid monitoring system that detects and predicts faults before they can lead to catastrophic failures. The platform detects and predicts faults that ignite wildfires, expedites repairs during a power outage, and helps utilities demonstrate risk reduction to regulators through comprehensive asset health profiles.

Ogive Technology, Inc.- Developing a highly controllable, targeted spray nozzle that allows farmers to spray specific weeds and plants, reducing agricultural chemical use by 90%. Farmers save money and the adverse environmental effects of chemical use are reduced.

Waterhound Futures, Inc.(Featured here) Waterhound’s cloud-based software models environmental, operational, and costing data from wastewater treatment plants. The software models the chemistry, physics and biology of each input stream and treatment process to create a digital replica and Water Quality Profile after each treatment step. 

Read about all of the Clean Tech Open’s 2021 Cohort.

Aquaoso Pivots to Success

Aquaoso Pivots to Success

In the journey of almost every startup, there comes a time when the realization sets in that the product, the value proposition, the channel to market, or the business model is not working. Then it’s time for “The Pivot”–basically rethinking what one is trying to do and reformulating the entire business. Learning to pivot is critical to a startup’s success. 

Chris Peacock, founder of AQUAOSO, has decades of experience in water and water risk. 

Aquaoso monitors water risk

Chris presented at our second cleantech meetup in 2018. When he started out he wanted to build a company that would accelerate water conservation. In 2016, that was creating a water rights trading platform launched in 2017. Through his work, he found another problem and another set of potential customers. Lenders, like banks, wanted to better understand how water affected their loans risk. They didn’t know how to do that well. They were eager for some kind of tool that could help. That was one of those “A-ha” moments for Chris. He had identified a “must-have” product. That kind of discovery is like finding a diamond. It is the best thing that could come from a “customer discovery” process. The trick is in listening carefully to feedback and not trying to convince a reluctant customer that they are wrong. It’s a critical skill.

Based on listening to early feedback, Chris pivoted AQUAOSO to create a water risk analysis system, like a FICO score but for water. This is important to lenders and investing because the risk from climate change includes financial risk from extreme weather events like flooding and drought. For these extreme events, the availability or quality of water is a leading risk indicator. He could offer this as a SaaS solution and collect user fees. He has created a trademarked Water Security Score that is becoming well-recognized in the industry, as well as related water databases.

Now AQUAOSO is more of a Fintech company rather than a water-savings broker. Being able to address water risk provides value to lenders to agricultural enterprises and Chris quickly got a dozen very satisfied customers.

  1. Agriculture businesses can see how the risk can affect their business, helping them make better decisions.
  2. Financial institutions can use the information to mitigate risk and improve borrower relationships.
  3. Insurance companies can better understand the water risk their products carry and can take action to reduce it. 
  4. Investors can better understand risk and decide to responsibly increase shareholder returns.

AQUAOSO has recently raised significant funding and is beginning to grow to a meaningful scale. Their pivot was crucial to getting traction with customers and investors. Here is a testimonial from one of their customers: 

Using AQUAOSO has helped me cut down on research time and has provided me more water information than ever before! It is now the first step in my loan underwriting process and it has allowed me to devote more time toward expanding our loan portfolio.”

The AQUAOSO website is a great example of how to present valuable information to clients and educate them on the value of the product. It is worth a look.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | Tobin, Moss Adams GreenbergTraurig

BlueTech Valley, PowerSoft.biz, Revrnt, Synbyo, Califronia Mobility Center


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