Three startups have been named as the winners of the first Brew Corporate contest held by The Water Council.
[caption id="attachment_130638" align="alignright" width="350"] The Global Water Center in Milwaukee[/caption]
Nano Gas Technologies, Inc., Nutrient Recovery and Upcycling LLC, and WAVVE Stream Inc. were chosen as part of the empowering Opportunities in Water, or Pow!, contest run by The Water Council, Veolia and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
The Water Council has held Brew contests before, but this was the first to be connected with a corporation. Philip Abraham, Veolia’s senior vice president of global research and innovation, said the company was looking for companies that were a good strategic fit with Veolia’s tagline of “resourcing the world” and had a breakthrough innovation. The idea is that the companies will help solve a problem Veolia is interested in, while also receiving a catalyst from the company’s global footprint.
“The open innovation program was basically set up because we know all of the innovation doesn’t necessarily have to come from within Veolia.
Each of the winning companies will receive $25,000 from Veolia, $15,000 from The Water Council and WEDC, a $10,000 tuition to The Brew, The Water Council’s business accelerator, access to faculty from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette, 12 months of free office space in Veolia’s suite at the Global Water Center and more.
Executives from each of the winning companies said the chance to partner with Veolia was among the things that drew them to the competition. They also said The Water Council and its network were a big draw too.
Len Bland, chief executive officer at Deerfield, Illinois-based Nano Gas Technologies said there are plenty of business accelerators in the Chicago area, “but if you’re not developing the latest and greatest mobile app, they’re not all that interested.”
Nano Gas is working on a product that will recycle oil industry waste water, recovering the oil that otherwise would be lost and reducing demand for fresh water. He said the ability to partner with university researchers will help better understand the processes involved in the product.
Bland said he plans to spend a little bit of each week at the Global Water Center, partially to form relationships. He said he is open to the company being in the Milwaukee area in the future.
“One of the things I've noticed already in moving around the area ... (is) how much space is available at a reasonable price compared to the Chicago area,” Bland said.
Eric Beydoun, co-founder and CEO of Houston-based Wavve Stream, said Milwaukee is proving to be an option for water companies based on what is around the city.
His company is working on a gel made of food-grade materials that removes nutrients and heavy metals from water.
“This is a great opportunity both for Veolia and for us startups,” Beydoun said, noting that companies need big associations and partnerships to get to market.
Madison-based Nutrient Recovery and Upcycling is working on a product that removes phosphorus or nitrogen from wastewater and turns it into a high-purity, highly concentrated fertilizer.
“This is a really big deal because we have been in business for five years now and we’re very close to launching our first product,” said Menachem Tabanpour, NRU president, adding that the water industry is competitive and it takes a long time to develop products. “We’re all very excited and it helped bring us closer to being a sustainable company.”
Like the other executives, Tabanpour said the access provided by winning the contest is a great opportunity. He said he plans to be traveling to Milwaukee at least once a week.
“I really expect to hire people in Milwaukee and be more involved in what’s happening,” he said.