Availability of water in Texas is a big challenge to cities and towns across the state.
In some communities, just finding enough to drink has forced water utilities to consider drastic measures, such as one being taken by Wichita Falls. In an effort being watched by municipalities across the nation, the city will take 50 percent of its treated wastewater and pump it right back into the water supply, including for use as drinking water.
Actions like this can only go so far. Innovative ideas are needed to meet growing demands of communities across our country and planet. In the past, new ideas have been few and far between, insufficient to meet community needs. What if there was a group focused on finding the next big clean technology solution. What if that group not only spent time finding solutions, but helped get those solutions off the ground through funding and mentorship.
That’s the mission of the Cleantech Open, a non-profit group based in Silicon Valley. It’s devoted to finding entrepreneurs working to provide environmental and economic solutions that address the community needs, nationally and globally.
Founded in 2005, it now runs the largest accelerator for cleantech startups in the world, having nurtured the development of nearly 800 companies. These companies are focused on a variety of categories such as energy, water, transportation and green building.
Using a competition model, the organization draws startups to the table from eight different regions across the country, with regional winners eventually competing at the Global Forum held each November in Silicon Valley. Cash prizes are awarded at both levels, with the Grand Prize winner of the Global Forum receiving up to $200,000.
Even though startups are judged, the process is rewarding through the guidance received from the Cleantech Forum and a vast network of mentors.
That feedback is one of the biggest advantages in participating in the Accelerator Program.
Ryan Beltrán, a local entrepreneur working on a startup, is one of the beneficiaries of this process.
Beltrán won the regional accelerator competition and was invited to the Global Forum, competing with other companies focused on environmental and sustainability issues.
Elequa, the company Beltrán has been working with for the past few years, is focused on purifying water through electrocoagulation at a fraction of the cost of today’s methods.
Prior to his involvement with the Global Forum, Beltrán had worked with other startups, including his father, an entrepreneur himself.
The Accelerator Program helped organize Beltrán and highlight his strengths.
“The accelerator program helped organize our startup and we were connected with a Stanford engineering team to analyze the best market to approach,” said Beltrán. “There are many great teams and startups out there, and to pass up an opportunity like this would be disappointing.”
Now Beltrán is working to bring other South Texas startups to the table in the search for the next clean technology breakthrough. With San Antonio increasing its investment in clean and sustainable technologies like solar, wind and water, it only makes sense to look for and promote startup teams from the area.
With a focus on growing the Cleantech Open South Central, Beltrán is looking for teams to join the competition for up to $20,000 in regional prize money. To be eligible to compete, teams must:
- Have a two person team, minimum
- Have a physical U.S. address
- Have no more than $1 million raised in private, third-party funding
- Have less than $5 million raised in other sources of funding
- Meet other criteria, as listed at the Cleantech Open website
Knowing that application fees could be a challenge, Beltrán is in discussions with area organizations and businesses to help cover the costs of startup teams. Understanding the significance of fostering clean technology as a startup industry in San Antonio, the 80/20 Foundation signed up as the first sponsor of the event. Having these teams in the competition bolsters San Antonio’s image as a sustainable and clean technology economic hub.
Should anyone doubt the significance of clean technology in the economic future of our nation, McKinsey and Company recently posted an article about the realities of growth in this industry, dispelling some of the myths often levied against the industry. “Notwithstanding the failures of individual companies, cleantech is not going away, either on the ground or as an investment opportunity. And that’s no myth,” the article stated.
April 25-27, several teams will take part in a 3-Day Startup devoted to green tech at Geekdom. Teams will focus on creating business models, looking for contacts with potential customers, and developing the relationships necessary to help prepare the teams for the Cleantech Open competition.
The deadline for filing for the South Central regional competition is May 1 with applications made online at the Cleantech Open website. If you are interested and have questions, contact Beltrán at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even if the next big cleantech startup doesn’t come from South Texas, the experience and contacts will help prepare teams for bigger and better ideas. Most of all, it helps lay the groundwork for future innovations, not only within the startup community, but within the educational institutions in our area.
*Featured/top image: The Cleantech Open, the world’s largest clean-technology accelerator, awarded PowWow Energy of Sunnyvale, California the Grand Prize “Cleanie” award for the 2013 Top Cleantech Entrepreneur of the year. Photo courtesy of Cleantech Open.