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An Update from Cleantech Open Alumnus Crystal Clear Technologies

Posted by at 2:45 PM, 07/27/2010

Aiming to make a mark on opportunities in water purification, Crystal Clear Technologies offers a multi-faceted value proposition, leveraging the prize and publicity from their 2006 Cleantech Open win into successes today.   The goals of their mission statement “To develop and commercialize water purification technologies that the majority of the world’s population can afford” have the company aiming high and focusing its initial efforts to at the opportunity in water treatment in the developed world.

The nanotechnology filtration systems it produces provides value by removing heavy metals from water to single-digit parts per billion, satisfying 2015 EPA standards.  Furthermore, they can do so with a minimal power footprint without generating sludge, and layer the filtered metals into potentially reusable resources rather than shipping as waste (there are no currently defined reusable outlets for this material).  Thus, their patented technology is a cradle-to-cradle wastewater solution which promises considerable competitive advantage, as the system is highly absorptive compared to other products, capturing a wide span of metals from wastewater.

The company was founded in 2005 by Lisa Farmen, Jim Harris and Bart Mass in Menlo Park, California.  One problem facing the company in its early stages was to convince potential funding sources of the value that its technology provided, and that its business could prove successful.  “The Cleantech Open was a huge win for us.  We didn’t realize how big until we needed it, though a formal review of the business plan was hard work”.  In that way the competition provided “fabulous third-party validation” which enabled the company to approach other groups for funding in addition to Cleantech Open prize money and grants from the National Science Foundation.

At this juncture of its product development process, Crystal Clear’s next generation of material aims to decrease their costs by an order of magnitude making it more affordable to an increasing the number of those that have access to the technology.   As such the credibility of their Cleantech Open win could prove just as valuable for convincing potential customers of the value added by its products as it was in bringing funding into the company.   
According to Ms. Farmen, “The ongoing relationship with the Cleantech Open has provided more support and resources way past the win. The Cleantech Open does not eliminate you if there is no customer or investor signed within a stated period of time. … The Cleantech Open is a consortium that has the membership, vision and talent to push clean technologies from the minds of inventors, into full scale production.”

With such advantages, the company is well poised to capture the wastewater market that only looks to grow in the future.  As Lisa Farmen puts it,  “Water is a finite resource, but demand is not finite.  In the future, supply and demand economics will bear out fair market value of water.”  Such an approach can speak (and save) volumes.


Written by Jason Grillo

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