By Beverley Ferrara, European Representative
The Water Council is working with several start-ups around the globe who are pursuing growth opportunities beyond their current geographies, identifying regions beyond their own where their solutions can make a meaningful difference.
Previously, we shared insights from a Danish start-up that specializes in hydrological and water quality forecasting and their efforts to grow in the U.S. In today’s blog, we learn from a U.S. start-up that is focused on developing innovative ways to treat wastewater and exploring growth in Europe. I spoke with founder and CTO Paige Peters and CEO Dylan Waldhuetter about their plans for growth, the challenges of penetrating new markets and the value of connections to establish channels to customers that could benefit from their solution.
What is Rapid Radicals?
Rapid Radicals Technology, LLC, is an innovative, high-rate wastewater treatment technology organization created to address combined sewer overflows and achieve rapid wet weather management for municipal sewerage districts.
What problem does your solution solve? Can you share some insights on how your solution addresses challenges and provides tangible benefits?
Our technology, the Rapid Radicals Treatment System, is designed to alleviate the challenges caused by sewer overflows by providing an end-of-pipe, decentralized treatment solution.
It can be implemented at an existing treatment plant to increase capacity or in the sewershed at a sewer overflow outfall to treat the water – according to permit requirement – prior to discharge to the water body. It treats water quickly (less than 25 minutes compared to the 8-14 hours for conventional treatment), at a low cost (20-400% more cost effective than other solutions), and in a small footprint.
When did you first start thinking about growing your business outside the U.S. and why?
Our team began exploring growth outside the U.S. as a response to the Environmental Act that was passed at the end of 2021 in the United Kingdom. This bill called attention to the significant sewer overflow challenges in the U.K. and led the water companies to seek solutions. As a result, we started to receive inquiries from U.K. water-related stakeholders including U.K.-based water companies.
What is your process, for learning about, evaluating and deciding on a new market? And how have you made it more efficient?
As a startup company that’s grown with the support of multiple accelerators, including The Water Council’s BREW program, we’ve learned to place a great emphasis on customer discovery. In our experience, it is the best way to learn new things and test assumptions to ensure a clear understanding of a market and its challenges.
This strategy requires connections to customers and other stakeholders, which can be accomplished by reaching out with cold requests, but is enhanced by clusters like The Water Council and their partners The Water Alliance (Netherlands) as well as research groups and trade associations like Isle Utilities and British Water.
These groups also make the discovery process more efficient as they often facilitate group interaction around different themes like sewer overflows, where we can meet multiple stakeholders at one time.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a small organization in exploring and penetrating new markets?
The biggest challenges we face are understanding regional policy frameworks, establishing credibility, lack of physical proximity to our customers and identifying funding for innovation.
It’s sometimes difficult to discern the implications that the new policies will have on our customers and how our technology fits into the overall menu of potential solutions. And, we lack the partnerships in the U.K. that we have in the U.S. that are important for our recognition and credibility.
While it sounds simple, it is also challenging to be physically distant from our potential customers. While business can be conducted virtually, relationship building is best done in person. Finally, there is often a gap between new policies and the implementation of different solutions for compliance. This requires funding and support, which we need, and are seeking.
What are the most important things you need to focus on to continue growing in the future?
Our ongoing focus will emphasize relationship-building with customers and other stakeholders as well as achieving technical validation and effectively communicating data and outcomes.
Ultimately, we need to highlight the data and successes to demonstrate to our customers that our solution is preferable to the alternatives. This may require a willing partner in the U.K. to pilot our system as a path to full-scale implementation. It’s important that we network and cultivate relationships with customers and their stakeholders and work toward identifying a first pilot partner or customer as an entryway to the market.
How can a water hub like The Water Council add the most value, and what are you looking for going forward?
The Water Council’s greatest value is its willingness and ability to make connections. To understand the market, its challenges and opportunities requires conversations and relationship building. The Water Council has been vital in helping us make the connections necessary to quickly learn and identify our place in the market. Through continual engagement with these connections, we’re confident we will establish channels to the market and customers in need of our solution.
In the end, what drives you? What gets you up and going in the morning?
Each day brings a new opportunity to learn. Curiosity is a key core value — we believe that remaining open to new possibilities and actively exploring new information is the best path to having innovative ideas adopted.
It’s clear that many things are implemented simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” We’re working hard to understand the status quo, while also bringing forward a solution that offers a new path to better outcomes that can transform the way we think about wastewater treatment.