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2020: A Reminder of Why We Must Double Down on Water Innovation

Let’s take a deep dive (yes, a deep dive) into our 11th annual accelerator cohort, and see which three entrepreneurs came out on top


In 2020, while we perfected our Zoom attire and lighting, embraced remote work, and attended lots of virtual conferences, our entrepreneurs never stopped solving water challenges. We were continuously impressed by their resilience and progress in the face of absurd headwinds. Whether it was technical development, completing funding rounds, making key hires, deploying remotely, or building revenue — this cohort proved that innovative water technologies are needed now more than ever.

Our 13 companies raised $16.7M, completed 70+ deployments, and created 30+ jobs. With Imagine H2O, they received 60+ mentoring hours, 230+ programming hours and 120+ direct investor introductions. We also showcased their solutions in front of 3,300+ investors and customers at virtual industry events including IH2O’s Demo Day and the Innovation Pavilion at WEFTEC.

While the totality of this cohort’s accomplishments are unparalleled, three start-ups stood out to our panel of external judges…


StormSensor deploys sensors to map stormwater flow and target infrastructure improvements in cities.

CEO Erin Rothman embodied entrepreneurial success in 2020, successfully navigating a Seed round and deploying her sensor networks below city streets. She continued to bring her company to new levels, proving to investors and customers that her technology has the potential to revolutionize the stormwater industry. With IH2O’s help, StormSensor closed their $2M Seed round led by the American Family Institute and deployed their technology in five new cities since joining our accelerator.

Our external judging panel was so impressed with Erin’s progress and resilience that StormSensor was selected as the top company in the 2020 cohort. As a result, the company received a $15k award to deploy a real-time monitoring network in a community with flood risks.

“Imagine H2O is far and away the most impactful team I’ve worked with in water. I cannot recommend them enough!”

— Erin Rothman (CEO, StormSensor)


Varuna’s sensor networks provide real-time distribution system visibility for small and medium sized utilities.

Varuna made incredible strides in 2020, allowing them to scale their business well beyond their projected growth. This year, they closed their $1 million Seed round, gained new customers in the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast regions, received a grant from Google’s Black Founders Fund, and secured additional deployment funding through IH2O’s 2020 Urban Water Challenge. Varuna has successfully piloted its sensors remotely in communities like Monroe, LA and Benton, MI, enabling local utilities to better serve populations impacted by COVID.

“Imagine H2O has been a game-changer for Varuna at a critical time. We absolutely love and continue to recommend IH2O to startups, investors, and utilities.”

— Seyi Fabode (CEO, Varuna)

Aqua Membranes 3D printed spacers allow infinite options for optimization of the membrane element, resulting in 50% more flow and a 55% reduction in wasted energy.

Earlier this year, IH2O team introduced Aqua Membranes to Clean Energy Ventures who led their $2.1 million funding round — providing the company with critical resources as they bring their product to market. CEO Craig Beckman and his team continue to expand Aqua Membranes’ customer pipeline with minimal outbound marketing, tripling their funnel of active proposals and pilots while participating in our accelerator. They are going to market with three of their own products, and have also partnered with large industrial players such as Pentair and Henkel.

“I guarantee a water entrepreneur will get much more out of Imagine H2O’s Accelerator than they ever put in.”

— Craig Beckman (CEO, Aqua Membranes)


In the midst of the pandemic, we made a difficult decision to cancel our event in San Francisco. Although we had looked forward to a sunny rooftop gathering with our entrepreneurs and partners, we were thrilled that we reached 600+ industry experts in 30+ countries through our virtual program.

“As always, the IH2O team delivered! Even in a virtual setting they were able to deliver a powerful mix of innovation, relevant content, new themes and energy.”

— Ralph Exton (Chief Commercial Officer, SUEZ WTS)

Throughout the week, we hosted 20 sessions, showcased the 28 companies in our 2020 portfolio, and heard from more than 40 industry leaders. While we hope to have an in-person event next year, we are also ready to plan another virtual event like you have never seen before.

“Great conversations with tremendous insight, a little edge, and a whole lot of fun from leaders across the region!”

— Joone Lopez (General Manager, Moulton Niguel Water District)

The winner of the Audience Choice Award at Demo Day was ecoSPEARS. Co-Founders Serg Albino and Ian Doromal are utilizing NASA-developed technology for the permanent extraction and destruction of environmental toxins from impacted soils, sediment, and groundwater.


Please visit our website to register your startup or nominate an entrepreneur for our 2021 accelerator today! We will officially open our 12th annual accelerator to full applications in January.

We are also excited to launch the IH2O Hub, our online portal for entrepreneurs, customers, and investors in our network. Engaged partners can request access to our beta launch today.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the IH2O network — Beta Partner, customer, investor, sponsor, or entrepreneur — please reach out. We would love to learn more about you and your organization.

2020 was quite a year, so we can only imagine what 2021 has in store for us. Let’s keep up the momentum around water innovation!

“Three things in life are guaranteed: death, taxes and the fact that the Imagine H2O accelerator is a must for water start-ups.”

— Suhayl Zulfiquar (COO, Datatecnics)