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Founder Profile: Patrick Kiely, CEO–Island Water Technologies
The wastewater space has long been one in which it is difficult to innovate. With large systems and long timelines, the industry has understandably been risk averse. That Island Water Technologies has had its amount of success despite innovating in such a space is a testament to its CEO and founder, Patrick Kiely. An innovator and entrepreneur at heart, Patrick brings a palpable passion for waste water treatment solutions. We sat down with Patrick to learn more about his journey and his goals for Island Water Technologies.
Who are you and what led you to Island Water Technologies?
Patrick Kiely (CEO, Founder) Island Water Technologies. At IWT we develop and commercialize cutting edge solutions for wastewater treatment and sensors for wastewater process optimization.
Where did you get the idea for SENTRY?
SENTRY was developed over a 4 year period working with industry partners in an attempt to solve operators issues at anaerobic digestion facilities. We regularly received feedback from operators that they didn’t really know how stable their AD systems were operating and were continually worried about system imbalance events.
What’s the value you provide for your customer?
SENTRY-AD is a unique bio-electrode sensor technology that solves these issues by providing real-time microbial metabolic activity from the biology in the AD system. Imbalance or toxic shock events can be identified the instant they begin to impact microbial activity. The real-time bio-electrode data allows operator to monitor microbial health of the AD system and make changes to save system performance. Aggregation of data and integration with existing water quality and process information provides unique insights into system performance over time.
Working in the clean technology space can be difficult. What are some unique challenges to working in wastewater treatment?
The wastewater treatment space is a pretty challenging space to innovate. The sales cycles tend to be extremely long (3–24 months), opportunity for rapid revenue growth is hard to find and clients tend to be very risk averse to new technology. Having said all this, once you do get through the gate with early adopter clients they tend to be very brand loyal and supportive of efforts to continually iterate and improve the product offering. The key for start-up companies is to identify a niche that has an immediate pain point and perhaps is not dependant on public funding or extensive purchasing bureaucracy to move ahead.
We love niches. As a founder that has found a great niche to focus on, how does that help you in running the company?
Finding a unique niche is perhaps the most important aspect for any start-up company or new product. In the wastewater space in particular if an alternate solution that has been tried and tested is available, this is what the client will choose of the consultant will recommend (no matter how much better your product is).
You really need to find a niche early client base that has no other options. Perhaps it is a very specific / problem wastewater stream, perhaps a client all of a sudden has to re-use wastewater for an industrial process. Defining a beachhead market where you can get early adopter partners is essential and will give you the best opportunity to get the key reference installations and case studies in place to convince the wider industry to adopt.
As a founder, what has been the best part of the journey so far?
Validation. The validation we get from clients when installed wastewater treatment units and sensors deliver what we expected! We have been pushing the boundaries of what is feasible in the space and have taken significant risk in new technology development.
To be able to land each project and get the performance you need from each installation is a massively rewarding experience.
What are your priorities for 2018?
Installing as many REGEN wastewater treatment systems and SENTRY bio-sensors as is possible!!
Sum up your IH2O experience in 3 words.
Close enough. Thanks for joining us.