For a start-up to succeed, it needs a well defined map of the world. That map needs to be as distorted as the famous “New Yorker’s View of the World from 9th Avenue.” This cartoon portrays a map of the world beyond the Hudson River that is a barren landscape marked only by Utah and Las Vegas before a tiny Los Angeles lies at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. China, Japan and Russia appear as sand dunes that mark the far edges of the world. Similarly, water tech companies have to see the world not only in terms of where water is scarce, but also where customers will pay a premium for advanced technologies. They need to define their view of the world based on where new technology can gain momentum.
Securing Water for Food, a joint US/Swedish/Dutch program, selected 17 companies from an international pool of 536 applicants. The program breaks new ground on several levels. First, the program looks beyond water and sanitation in the developing world to securing water supplies for food. Second, it focuses upon innovation– technology solutions as well as business models, rather than funding new facilities and education. It focuses upon salinity, water storage as well as water efficiency and reuse.
Perhaps most daring, the program convenes private sector industry experts to review and select the most promising solutions. “Producing more food with less water is critical. With the right technology we think we can half the amount of water that is used to produce food,” says Therese Sjömander-Magnusson, water expert at Sida.
Despite an explosion in the growth of urban slums over the last decade, nearly 75 percent of poor people in developing countries live in rural areas. That’s why growth in the agriculture sector has been found, on average, to be at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.
For tech companies that are breaking new ground in the way we manage water, branding can be decisive. Lynn Nichols of X Intellectual Property, one of the leading experts on branding in the Silicon Valley, shares her view on how names can help early-stage companies set themselves apart as emerging leaders.
How do the best companies develop names that become brands?
When creating a name for a company, the first instinct is often to describe the company’s services or product in the name. Startups especially succumb to the fear that “if we don’t put it in the name, people won’t know what we do.” But a name can be used to do so much more than describe. A name that simply describes misses out on important opportunities for a business with big aspirations.
Names are always conveyed in some context, written or verbal, so it’s not hard to figure out what the company does. Early companies that follow the startup descriptive instinct instead wind up with a liability: a name that emphatically labels them a startup.
Founders and CXOs should ask themselves if that’s the name they want to be know by
5 years down the road when they are an industry standard, a household technology, when they want everyone to be talking about the brand .. when competitors have entered their market space.
Isn’t it risky to adopt an innovative name?
Yes, but its risky not to. If you don’t go in a new direction in your industry with the company name, you run the risk of someone else out-innovating you in name. And suddenly you sound old school, even if your technology is not, because your competitor has been more thoughtful in forging a new path, paid attention to competitors’ positioning, identified an elegant way to convey a new idea, or is bolder.
How does a company develop a great name?
An opportunity to name a company is an opportunity to stand alone. By examining existing naming patterns in your industry and choosing a different route, you can convey though the company name itself that you are a leader, an innovator, that you have new technologies that surpass legacy technologies. Your name position can both stake out unique territory and convey that you are the only solution to that problem, rather than simply the best alternative among many.
A business name is also an opportunity to make your audience pay attention to the Big Idea behind what you do. Ideas are magnetizing. People talk about companies and the ideas they inspire.This opportunity is especially important with new technologies that are poised to grab public attention when changes in society or public policy make their industry highly topical.Ideas create loyalty and relationships, ideas sell services and products.
A name alone can make people pay attention, as Apple found out in its early days.
What are some ways to make a name powerful?
A powerful name begins with a thoughtful distillation of the brand core to a single idea that makes the most impact. Rather than describing what the company does, this idea may reflect the company vision for the technology, the end benefit for customers, characterize a difference from competitors that resonates, or it may speak to a particular audience.
Name positioning is a key next step. When the business name breaks with established patterns in the industry, people pay attention. Take a close look at names in any one industry and you’ll see identifiable trends in form and meaning: large numbers of technical descriptive names, or names cobbled together from supposedly meaningful pieces that sound corporate and empty. The tech startup world is well-known for churning out name after name ending in –ly, -able, -box, -panda, or two one-syllable words that make no sense when shoved together. Often the same words are used over and over in an industry, e.g. ‘caring’ in the senior care industry, words for spark or explosion among PR firms, or evocative feminine names in the high-end salon industry. Mapping out a different strategy for the form of the name can give the name much
larger impact. And aside from positioning, careful attention to word choice alone can result in a name that resonates with a particular target audience. Think Bitcoin as the name for a digital currency, which sounds innovative, and Coin, a type of electronic wallet, which does not.
The type of name should be carefully thought out as well. Different types of names – descriptive, evocative, invented – have different strengths and weakness depending on the industry. And beyond business names, product names need special ingredients to ensure they, and not a generic term, are used for the product.
What is the potential impact of a good naming strategy?
Your company can easily be distinguished from competitors, and future competitors. People don’t avoid saying your name because it’s too long. In fact, people remember your company name and tell others about it. You stake out a leading position in your industry in name recognition, others are left to play catch up.
There is even more impact for your business as you raise your awareness in your target market and create a larger audience. Your Big Idea drives customers to you. A name that intrigues provides incentive for your audience to take a closer look. A name can grab attention because it represents a new way of looking at the industry. People talk about your company and your technology because the concepts are well-packaged and resonate.
In short, you are on the radar screen of your client audience because they are engaged by the ideas you represent. Your name is the flagship reflection of those ideas.
What brought you to found Desalitech?
I watched my father develop a new desalination technology that seemed like an elegant and important innovation. It had worked well in initial piloting. In the beginning, I just wanted to connect him with his first customers. I helped him sell the first reference sites for the product, and I saw the potential. I haven’t looked back since then.
What does Desalitech do?
We’ve taken reverse osmosis, which is the gold standard for treating water, and developed a winning product around a new proprietary architecture. Desalitech’s ReFlex™ product line, based on our Closed Circuit Desalination™ technology, generates 70% less wastewater, saves about 35% of the energy, and does all of that with greater reliability and flexibility. It handles a wide range of water—from sewage, to high salt well water to ultra-pure industrial process water. Desalitech Reflex is adaptive; the system automatically works according to site priorities, responding to conditions as they change. It can be tuned for high water or energy savings, high water output, or low waste.
How are you building momentum?
Since we moved to the United States in 2013, we’ve built a team of seasoned industry leaders that share a vision for how technology will change water. We have developed a stream of revenues through partnerships with water treatment companies. Over the next few weeks, we will be announcing installations of new projects at several Fortune 100 companies.
As we grow, we’re seeing the potential for Reflex to address water scarcity. Its particularly exciting to be outfitting farmers to fight the drought in the Central Valley in California by unlocking brackish water sources.
Also, its exciting to see public leadership driving water tech. We’ve been fortunate to gain the support of Deval Patrick, the Governor of Massachusetts, who has brought us on missions to Tokyo, Mexico City, and Israel to expand our operations.
What is your big dream for Desalitech?
Our mission is to become the leading solutions provider for high efficiency water and wastewater treatment. We’ve set our eye on industrial water treatment challenges, and we’re aiming to serve an even wider group of applications going forward.
Society cannot sustain the current waste of precious resources. Change is inevitable, and we are going to be part of it. In the process, I would like to see Desalitech set new expectations for the potential of a water tech start-up.
Mr. Efraty is the co-founder and CEO of Desalitech. He is a recognized expert and visionary in the global desalination market. Under his leadership, the company has built a world class international team, demonstrated, productized and commercialized its product and built an international supply chain. Mr. Efraty has closed venture investments from Liberation Capital and the AquaAgro Fund. Before founding Desalitech, Mr. Efraty served in R&D project management, technology leadership and technical sales roles in the high-tech industry.
Mr. Efraty holds B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Computer Science. Away from work (as much as he is ever way from work…), Mr. Efraty is a marathon runner, plays soccer, and enjoys skiing with his wife and son. He currently lives in the greater Boston area, adjacent to the Newton headquarters of Desalitech.
What does Miox do?
MIOX was founded around the idea that smart onsite solutions would drive the future of water. On-site generation has a fundamentally disruptive value proposition—producing chemicals on site rather than shipping expensive, often dangerous chemicals to a site. Today, we sell our solutions based on cost savings, but we are also seeing widespread adoption based on sustainability and safety. As chemical prices have risen dramatically in the $50 billion chemical business, MIOX sales have been gaining momentum. We provide an environmentally sustainable solution for the long term that saves money right away.
MIOX goes after big problems. We all work very hard at MIOX to engineer solutions that meet very real, very pressing and critical water challenges. MIOX’s engineers and executives could make more money working elsewhere, but they’re here because of the problems we get to tackle and the challenges of bringing in game-changing solutions. Project by project, we are driving a new generation of water management– giving people access to low-cost clean water, reducing the risks in fracing, providing clean water to US special forces and supporting humanitarian efforts to eliminate legionella in hospitals.
Can you describe a project that has defined the company and its culture?
The performance of our teams in installing new sites is astounding. I think this comes back to the company culture where the team wants to see the company succeed. We’ve pulled off some amazing deliveries in the last couple of years; deliveries that wouldn’t have happened if the team didn’t come together the way they did. In 2013 the team was tasked with taking a new product from concept to production to operation at the customer site in just 6 months. Now there are multiple MIOX Blackwater mobile water treatment systems treating produced water in two of the largest shale plays in the United States.
Which projects are showing the market potential for your product? What are the bottom-line benefits that you are seeing?
We’re seeing a huge pull from cooling towers to replace organic biocides delivered to their site. Replacement of gas chlorine to meet Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) standards is a constant area of growth in the US and internationally. In addition to removing the safety hazards of chemicals like gas chlorine, policy makers worldwide are also looking for an alternative to organic biocides that cause long-term environmental damage like glutaraldehyde or quaternary amines. What’s closing the deal for most of these industrial projects is that customers are seeing return on investment (ROI) in 11-18 months. It’s a win-win for the environment and for the bottom-line.
What brought you to join Miox?
As Director of Global Industrial Sales of GE Water, I got a view of the day-to-day problems that our clients face and I saw technologies that would solve these problems on a predictable basis. It was frustrating to see great solutions fall by the wayside because of corporate bureaucracy and red tape.
When I interviewed at MIOX, I saw a company had already taken a series of new solutions to market to solve very real and challenging issues in the water industry. Joining a small, tight knit team of really smart folks would allow me to bring innovative solutions from concept to market and then to mass market adoption.
What experiences have driven your career?
Early on in my career, I realized the value of understanding the customer problem and the value of a solution. Helping people buy things was really about putting myself in their shoes – understanding the problems they face – and coming up with a solution to meet their needs. If you want to sell, you need to see things from the client’s perspective. How do they view the risk?
Working with automotive companies in Detroit during the early 1990s taught me how to understand the value of a solution from the customer’s perspective, and how to sell around that.
In pitching my products to a manufacturer for a plant in Mexico, I started by asking questions about the problems that this customer was facing. The client asked if I wanted to visit the factory. I was the only supplier that was ready to travel to Mexico to see this operation. That visit closed the deal for me. Once I was down there at the plant in Mexico, I realized how important reliable performance was for this remote site.
Where do you see the impact of MIOX’s solutions?
I love traveling around the world and seeing how people get water— drinking water, water for farming, or industrial water at a factory. During a recent trip to Nairobi, I visited an NGO project run by Shining Hope for Communities in the Kibera slums (http://shininghopeforcommunities.org/). Shining Hope builds kiosks that sell safe drinking water to residents, schools, and medical clinics. The kiosks use the money from water sales to build and maintain the kiosks. The day that I visited, I saw a line of 200 jerrycans of water waiting for the kiosk to open for the day. These kiosks are solving an important problem that is easy to solve with the right technology and a strong organization in the field.
We’ve pulled off some amazing deliveries in the last couple of years; deliveries that wouldn’t have happened if the team didn’t come together the way they did. In 2013 the team was tasked with taking a new product from concept to production to operation at the customer site in just 6 months. Now there are multiple MIOX Blackwater mobile water treatment systems treating produced water in two of the largest shale plays in the United States.
Craig Beckman is the President & CEO for MIOX Corporation, an electrolytic technology leader for customized disinfection chemistries. Prior to MIOX, Craig was the Vice President Equipment Sales at GE Water with responsibility of a global team of Developers selling integrated solutions for large water and waste treatment systems. In addition, Craig was responsible for a new business incubation program for GE Water that focused on translating unique solutions across markets and geographies. Prior to GE Water, Craig lead sales and marketing for Osmonics and was instrumental in their 10X growth prior to being sold to GE.
He is a recognized expert in marketing and commercializing new products, driving global sales growth, and managing water projects across multiple industries and applications. With a career in water that spans over 20 years, Craig has gained extensive global market experience in food and beverage; pharmaceutical; power; municipal; oil and gas; and microelectronics.