Roving Blue: Bringing Pure Water to a Thirsty World
Roving Blue Competes in the Cleantech Open to Bring Pure Water to a Thirsty World
Roving Blue is a small Wisconsin-based startup that makes an advanced lightweight portable water purification system. Using Roving Blue’s product, users can drink from any lake, river, or stream — or even a sewer, for that matter. The company’s technology, which fits in a container the size of a small suitcase and runs off of any power source, produces clean drinking water at a rate of one liter per minute. Even better, it operates without the use of chemicals and produces no wastewater.
In this post, inventor and company co-founder Yana DeMyer describes the challenges and excitement the Roving Blue team has experienced, especially in the Cleantech Open program.
Yana DeMyer demonstrates a Roving Blue prototype at the pond in her backyard.
Tough Decisions for the Hardware Startup CEO
As I work to bring Roving Blue into the world, I know that I am experiencing things that every entrepreneur goes through: heady successes, gut-wrenching failures, the joy of finding the right team member, the grim task of dismissing a supplier that just isn’t working out. As CEO, one of my most problematic burdens is knowing that each decision I make is ultimately on my lonely shoulders. It’s not often that you know that you’ve made exactly the right choice.
A welcome exception has been the decision to enter the national competition known as the Cleantech Open. Autodesk is a major sponsor of the competition, which is how I first got acquainted with my new billion-dollar “big sister.” Both the competition and Autodesk have turned out to be great resources for us at Roving Blue.
Getting the Most out of the Cleantech Open
The Cleantech Open is a strenuous six-month program designed to help entrepreneurs like me remove risks from our business models, learn how to introduce our products to the market, and build company cultures that should ensure the repeatability and scalability of our efforts. The program has taken us from the Upper West Side of New York, to the urban sprawl of San Francisco, to the belly of Chicago’s legal district, and on to the semifinals of the competition that took place in a repurposed train depot in Minneapolis.
To say that we were disappointed not to make it to the finals after all of that is an understatement. In some ways, though, it’s also a relief, because there’s always so much else to do. At the top of my list, I wanted to test the waters of a crowdfunding campaign during the holidays. We’re on Kickstarter right now — running until New Year’s Day. To make that work, we had to rally to make a short supporting video, and time was running out.
Although the Cleantech Open is a most intensive process, I do recommend it. It’s not a perfect program, but it is good for entrepreneurs at all levels, from kids right out of school to bona fide Old Fogeys like me. I’m 52, and my partner and husband Jim is 60. We’ve both been entrepreneurs for most of our lives, with varying degrees of success, yet the Cleantech Open program taught us plenty.
A conceptual rendering of the RB “MVP” unit as produced in Fusion 360.
Accelerating Our Progress with Autodesk
Because Autodesk is a major Cleantech Open sponsor, I was given a free license to use Fusion 360. I also applied for and was accepted into Autodesk’s Fast Track program, which gives me extra help and guidance from the Autodesk team. I’ve found that this isn’t just lip service. I was also granted admission to Autodesk University — a mind-blowing experience with some of the most creative people in the world — which just concluded in Las Vegas. There I had the opportunity to attend some classes for beginners (which I definitely am), but the real high point was the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs, some of whose companies have potential synergies with our own.
Some pretty neat things have started happening since Autodesk took Roving Blue under its wing: I have been able to attract investor dollars, I have been able communicate with engineering folks in new and exciting ways, and we are smack in the middle of our “design for manufacturing” phase. As an entrepreneur, this is what you call the GOOD PART.
I am thrilled to be right here, right now, and am looking forward to an exciting 2015. I have no doubt that Autodesk’s notice has lent Roving Blue some weighty credibility. Now it is up to us to live up our potential!
I’d like to thank Yana from Roving Blue for sharing her story with us. She is one of our great Cleantech partners, and I can’t wait to see what amazing things she does. If you’re interested in possibly joining the Cleantech program check it out here!