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Archive for August, 2012

SpiroFlo discusses 2012’s place in the worst droughts in recorded U.S. history.

It’s been hot in the U.S. this summer. Really hot. Hot enough to where my boss has had to remind me that a Speedo is not appropriate office attire, not even during the Olympics.

There is little moisture with this heat, and as of today, nearly 53% if the U.S. is still in a drought. In this spirit of competition, this drought is now ranked #5 in the top ten worst droughts in recorded U.S. history.

According to Climate Central, “83 percent of the corn crop, 83 percent of soybeans, 63 percent of hay and 71 percent of the nation’s cattle-producing regions are still experiencing some level of drought” and this is an improvement, as July 2012 was the hottest month on record for contiguous U.S.

I’d give July 2012 a medal for being hotter than the months of the Dust Bowl droughts of the 1930s, but that medal would probably melt. Instead, you can watch the heat of the last three months unfold thanks to the U.S. drought monitor:

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools qualified as a semifinalist in the Cleantech Open—a global competition to accelerate green technologies—for their application in turning harmful CO2 waste from oil and gas wells into recovered high-value energy. This series of blogs is designed to chronicle our experience going through the 2012 Cleantech Open as a reference point for future applicants. Today’s blog: What to expect from the multi-day regional academy.

Last time, I shared what to expect from the one-day national conference. This time, I’m focusing on the subsequent regional academy. As usual, these are the opinions of one participant going through the process in 2012.

If your company gets accepted to the Cleantech Open, at least two members of your team need to attend the 3-4 day regional academy (either in San José, CA, right after the national academy, or in Boston, MA, one week after that). If you’re not close to either state, the west coast academy (in San José, CA) makes the most sense in terms of budgeting flights / hotels. As Vortex Tools attended the one-day national conference in San José, we stuck around for the regional academy.

As covered in the national conference post, you’ll get to network with hundreds of companies—some large and established, some the success stories of tomorrow, many that will go belly up—and get your name out there more. For new and established companies alike, a chance for this type of vast networking is a welcome advantage. There’s the standard bit of disorganization, too—mostly in technical difficulties, presentations not starting on time, and materials not being available on the wiki—but these are fairly minor points and are the types of issues you can expect when you’ve got hundreds of people together.

However, here’s what to expect that hasn’t been covered before:

1. You’re Getting Your Money’s Worth

Early on, I covered the elephant in the room question: Is the Cleantech Open a scam?

Part of my answer was that you won’t fully know the value of the Cleantech Open until after the national conference and the regional academy, so I’ll delve into that more here:

First of all, this year, Autodesk gave every company in attendance a free copy of their design software. Although I don’t think it’s worth the $10,000 price tag—when really, software is worth what a company will pay for it—it’s certainly worth more than the expenses you’ll accrue thus far and it’s a valuable creation tool. Additionally, Autodesk met with and individually trained Cleantech companies on their software after the conference wrapped.

By Peter VDW (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAfter that, you’re receiving a fair education. The chair for the Rocky Mountain region said that the regional academy is like drinking from a fire hose. That’s accurate. The days are long and filled with a slew of info that you can’t possibly digest all at once, but hey, they feed you well while you’re at it.

2. Your Knowledge Will Shape the Value You Get From the Presentations

We were in a long room with two screens on either side of the stage and three microphone stands out in the crowd. Although your  table mates will stay the same—which seems strange to me, as I thought they’d mix us up—your table location will change each day. If you get a table way off to one side, you’ll see how easy it is to disengage from the presentations. Likewise, if you get a table in the center, even though it’s hard to see the screens, you’re essentially forced to stay engaged with a presenter 15 feet from your face.

There were presentations on sustainability, patent law, marketability, business plans, mock pitches, investor pitches, etc., and I can tell you that you can’t judge a presentation by its subject matter. In fact, the more creative the presentation format by the Cleantech Open, the worse and less informative it was. However, dynamic presenters like Steve Blank were well received, and the Cleantech Open agreed to send all participants a copy of his book when it comes out.

Make sure you get up and participate at the microphone at least a couple of times over the weekend. There are people who will go up every time (and frankly, hog the mike), so make sure you don’t wait when the crowd is invited to participate. Throughout the three-day academy, you’ll have a chance to work on your business model canvas (an earlier version of a business plan) and your elevator pitch. Get up there and get grilled by the presenters. You’re missing part of the experience if you don’t.

Overall though, how far along you are in your business and what you already know from experience will shape how much you get out of these presentations. Which brings me to my next point:

3. Not All Companies are Created Equal…

As stated before, one of the best things about the Cleantech Open is that they’re technology neutral. Whatever your company, whatever stage you’re at in your business, they want to see you grow and accelerate from where you’re at.

What you’ll find at the regional academy is companies in various stages of development. Vortex’s table mates were right out of college with an idea. Vortex Tools, well, we’re quite a ways along as a business, with having sold over 1,500 tools into worldwide markets, but there’s always room to grow. Wherever you’re at as a company, as long as you’re within the confines to enter the Cleantech Open, they’ll help you along.

4. …And Neither are the Mentors

Mentors are a big part of the Cleantech Open process, and they can also be one the greatest sources of frustration depending on what your expectations are.

When Vortex started in the Cleantech Open, we assumed that the generalist mentor you’re assigned early on would be able to answer questions about the process, but this was not the case, as our mentor was as new to the process as we were. (Don’t believe anything you read about multiple generalist mentors either—you get one.) As our mentor has a full-time job as a venture capitalist, he wasn’t available to come to the national conference and regional academy like other mentors. This meant that we lost out on a networking avenue, but some companies didn’t even have an assigned mentor yet. In talking to those companies, they had less-than-favorable view of the Cleantech Open at that stage.

That said, since the regional academy wrapped, we’ve received a lot of input from our mentor via weekly calls and worksheet feedback, but I’ll get into that in a later blog.

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In the next Cleantech Open blog, I’ll describe what you can expect from the 10 weeks of webinars. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at blog (at) spiroflo (dot) com

Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo discusses the processes of New York’s new water-only café, Molecule, and how the co-owner came to believe in the value of purified water.

By Roger McLassus (Own work by author.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia CommonsIf you were ever one to mock the notion of paying for bottled water, here’s your new target: Molecule in New York City.

Molecule is a water only café. They’re selling tap water for $2.50 for a 16 oz. to-go cup (like many green businesses, they prefer you bring your own reusable container). However, before you judge, this tap water is first sent through a $20,000 seven-stage filtration system—including U.V. light, ozone treatments and reverse osmosis—leaving the café looking more like a science lab with this giant machine.

To break it down, U.V. light kills bacteria; ozone treatments usually means O3—oxygenating the water in a way that soon dissolves, eating the bacteria as it goes; and reverse osmosis is essentially a number of chambers acting as a form of super-fine filtration. The problem with reverse osmosis is this: You don’t actually get rid of the bacteria and minerals; you essentially just concentrate them in one area (like when you sweep dirt into a corner). I’d be curious to know how Molecule deals with this problem and if their mega filtration system will ever become sentient and attack passersby with gloriously purified water (hey, I can dream).

Not convinced? Molecule can add in vitamins and supplements—including the Cordyceps mushroom, which grows in China, Nepal and Tibet—for $1 per serving. Combos are available for $2. Recommended blends from their site include:

  • Fountain of Youth: C, E, Green Tea, H/S/N
  • Glamour Shot: H/S/N and B comp; and
  • Night Vision: A, B comp

Maybe when the filtration machine goes sentient it’ll enable me to truly live forever, be ridiculously good looking, and have night vision (still dreaming…).

Still not convinced? Molecule is offering delivery—by bike, of course, not car/truck—to the East Village. A five-gallon container is $10.

While some praise Molecule, not all are convinced. New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo conducted a blind taste test and noted the following: “Guess what? Molecule was the only one I didn’t like. My notes say “tannic” — a term usually applied to an unpleasant astringency in too-young wine. All that purging yielded an unnatural-tasting result.”

It should be noted that he is a defender of the baseline purity of New York City tap water.

Part of the problem is that there are many less-than-reliable people who believe better filtrated water has healing properties, yet experience is powerful. According to a Huffington Post article, Molecule co-owner Adam Ruhf “knows first hand the healing properties of purified water, claiming that drinking it regularly helped eased the pain caused the pain brought on by two serious car accidents that left him without a spleen and a leg held together with metal pins.”

Is that legitimate and repeatable? There isn’t enough research to say, but there are a number of fringe books and beliefs prodding the issue.

Here’s what SpiroFlo has found: In industrial water purification applications, with water alone (meaning zero chemical treatments), the SpiroFlo device took biofilm (bacteria that grows from water) from “too many to count” to less than 100 parts per million (statistically zero). For more on biofilm and how SpiroFlo removes it from the pipeline wall, see here.

Although SpiroFlo has applications as a stage in purifying drinking water, since Molecule’s filtration system is already at seven-stages and $20,000, we don’t want to push that 16-oz. glass of purified water to $2.75. That’d be ridiculous.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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In working in green energy sectors, SpiroFlo often hears the term “sustainability” in reference to how products can be reused and/or have low environmental impact. However, most small businesses also have to consider sustainability in terms of “Do we have enough revenue to keep going?”

In hearing a statistic that the U.S. government spends $41,210 more per second than it makes — near the annual median income of U.S. households —  it seems not everyone shares that same concern.

This Face the Facts USA video contains some painful statistics:

Environmentalists might not like it, but it’s hard for people to care about green issues when an entire economy collapses.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

Read Full Post »