Chuck Hansen, CEO, Electro Scan Inc.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing water-tech companies in taking their solutions to market?
Tech companies must figure out how to re-define their market in order to gain access and acceptance of tent-pole water customers. Typically, water utilities and suppliers have too much incentive to maintain long-term multi-year agreements that often restrict the adoption of new technologies. Unless tech companies can make a compelling financial and engineering-oriented case for change their solution will not reach escape velocity to achieve a breakout success.
What is the single most important thing that a government can do to stimulate the adoption of advanced water technologies?
Maintain a high degree of transparency for their water operations (OPEX) and capital (CAPEX) expenditures. If new technologies are to gain acceptance, they must be allowed to readily compare historical costs/benefits of legacy business solutions; however, the lack of detailed costs, supplier performance metrics, manpower requirements, capitalized asset values, and undisclosed contractual information, often limits comparison of new innovations versus business practices.
How can technology companies reduce the risk for utilities/industrial clients in taking on their solution?
Tech providers and water utilities must be mutually willing to benchmark old versus new ways of doing business.
In your opinion, what’s ripe for disruption?
The pipe relining market is ripe for disruption. Most water utilities rely on visual inspection to certify post-lining rehabilitation, many times requiring the lining contractor to provide post-lining inspection and certification of their work. While air and water pressure testing offer a PASS/FAIL assessment, many of the world’s pipe rehabilitation vendors advocate a visual inspection of their work, allowing defective pipe linings to pass to owner utilities without sufficient verification and validation of delivering leak-free products.
Which types of water technologies are currently generating the most interest amongst the investment community?
Smart technologies, i.e. not dumb technologies.
Is there a perfect set of circumstances that foster innovation, if so where does that exist?
No. If you look at how many of the best innovations were created, you might conclude that they were either accidental – not what the original innovator(s) or investor(s) intended – or conceived by a visionary person that captured a market position despite overwhelming opposition. In other words, it takes both art and science, and patient investors, to truly foster innovations that last.
Singapore is recognised as a centre of excellence for water technology. In your view, which other countries/regions are poised to transform into hubs for water innovation?
Excluding Singapore, the British continue to innovate at a fast pace, but don’t look to the likes of research bodies to foster excellence. Instead, look to CEOs of non-management Board of Directors of top performing water companies to maximize the return on equity and maintain a superior customer service ranking, in comparison to their peers.
Where do you see the next wave of new technologies emerging?
Nano-technologies and cloud computing apps.
How do you identify startup companies? Are you looking into industries that you already have a stake in, or are you looking at other industries too?
Social media – especially Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest – represents a whole new way that investments get pitched and due diligence is performed. While start-ups can readily identify potential angel investors, bankers, private equity and sponsors using social media, investors can readily look into the background of principals, learn more about their previous start-up experience, and determine interest from all parts of the world. All in a blink of an eye.
If you had to name a company as “one to watch” over the next 12 months, who would it be?
Michael Reardon’s Triwater Holdings, a US-based private equity firm headquartered in Chicago. Mike’s uncanny ability to pick winners, build a great team and follow his instincts will be fun to watch.
Why did you want to take part in TechXchange and what are your plans for SIWW?
As Headline Sponsor of TechXchange I wanted to get a first-hand look at both emerging start-ups & potential sponsors and decide for myself who might become key players in the next twelve months.