From Apple to H2O: One entrepreneur’s quest to digitize water in India’s second-tier cities
Founder Profile: Lauren Guy, CTO — Utilis
Lauren Guy, the founder and CTO of Utilis arrived in San Francisco for the Imagine H2O SF Week as a member of the 2017 Accelerator, and left as the winner of the 2017 IH2O Data Challenge. Utilis has gone from strength to strength, deploying with a number of IH2O Beta Partners and far outpacing projected 2017 revenue. Lauren and Elly Perets, Utilis’ CEO, are an example to water entrepreneurs who want to deploy a differentiated solution at scale, and reap the rewards.
Give us an overview of your role, what your experiences are and what you are working on.
I co-founded Utilis in 2013 as I am an entrepreneur at heart, and an avid fan of using remote sensing to solve problems. Leak detection was the one that we landed on. I am currently Utilis’ CTO and am in charge of setting the fundamentals for our R&D and productions teams. I possess three patents in remote sensing and SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar).
Where did you get the idea for Utilis ?
The idea popped into my head during as I was completing my masters in atmospheric physics and dynamics, where part of my thesis was on how to identify underground water in other planets using remote sensing. If the technology worked in other planets, why wouldn’t it work on earth where we have so many water-loss related issues? It also had the advantage that the water issues on earth were a little easier (and cheaper) to access…
What’s the value you provide for your customer?
A fast, efficient & cost-effective solution to assess the entire distribution system for leaks in one go. People tend to sit up and listen when they hear that, which is gratifying.
Talk about your initial deployment — what were the key things you learnt or observed from that first customer interaction?
The first customer reaction was complete skepticism, which is quite understandable with such a novel technology in an area where other tech has and is being tried. We learned the crucial takeaway is that in most cases, utilities saw us as catch-all saviors from the sky and it was very easy to get trapped by over-expectations. Laying the fundamentals to a successful project from expectation management to building customer relationships was the key, and it wasn’t a trivial process.
What are the challenges of being a truly international company?
Every country and client is different, but there is one common challenge to all of them which is the need to delivering an excellent final product — every element. The more value we place on customer service and building those relationships, the more we keep improving our final delivery. Building a whole solution around the products is allowing us to see a satisfying virtuous cycle.
Which do you prefer — finding water on Mars or finding leaks on Earth?
Earth — we need to save the environment we live in currently, rather than the one we may have to move to if we fail to do that. Mars is cool, though…
Sum up your IH2O experience in 3 words.
Engagement — Thrilling — Giving.