Summer Venture Award winners receive $10,000 to work on their startups over the summer. We asked the 2017 recipients what they achieved this summer.

Mitch Gainer, WG’18, Founder of CitySense

What did you set out to achieve this summer with the Summer Venture Award, and did you do so? If not, what changed?

We wanted to test three things:

  1. Do our analytics actually work? When we pull meters that we identify as ‘degraded’ are we correct? We tested this with our pilot cities and they pulled meters that our analytics identified. We found that ~90% of the meters we identified were massively misreporting water use.
  2. What does our next MVP look like? We spoke with or met with dozens of utilities and experts in the industry to refine our product offering and develop our next MVP. We successfully narrowed down our product offering for 5 hypothesis products to one core product focused on meter degradation.
  3. Will utilities pay for this service? This dimension is the most important and, frankly, the dimension we faced the strongest headwinds. When we flew to Tampa, FL and demonstrated our analytics work, we asked for funding for the next phase. It was a small amount but we thought it was important that we start to make the relationship a business one rather than a vague ‘partnership’. The government RFP process is a very long and difficult one to navigate and, though they said they could RFP for the small amount we wanted they were unable to just start paying for legal reasons. A competitive bid was necessary.

Describe a great startup moment from this summer.

A great “startup moment” was when I was running from our meeting with the water commissioner in Tampa to the train station so I could get to Orlando in time for my next meeting. It was pure chaos and, since our meeting went long due to the positive results, I nearly missed a meeting with a key stakeholder in Orlando.

How has your Summer Venture Award mentor, Joanna Gordon Martin, WG’02, helped you?

Joanna has been an invaluable help. She was able to secure for us a meeting with the EPA commissioner of New Jersey. We are meeting in the coming week and he is connecting us to more potential pilots in the state.

What comes next? How will you work on your startup over the coming school year?

The next phase for us is:

  1. Launching more pilots based on our meeting in New Jersey, and
  2. Patenting our proprietary process for identifying and replacing broken meters. We are pushing hard already this school year.

Posted: September 29, 2017

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