“We take scientists and engineers and turn them into businessmen and businesswomen,” explains Bill Dougan, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor of management and advisor to The Water Council’s BREW Accelerator program, hosted in Milwaukee. The program, in its fourth year, featured prominently in the Innovation Pavilion at the 2016 Water Environment Federation Technological Exposition and Conference (WEFTEC), the world’s largest annual water quality exhibition took place in New Orleans, Sept. 24-28. All 10 members of the latest batch of BREW participants made Shark Tank-like pitches to investors and other audience members in an effort to attract interest, investment, collaboration and support for their ventures as part of the sometimes frenetic journey from idea to sustainable business.
Attendance at WEFTEC and participation in the BREW Tank event is one of the requirements of the six-month BREW program, which also involves weekly lean business management sessions hosted by Dougan, water science and business expert John Tillotson and other industry partners.
“We hold them accountable to completing the process,” says The Water Council’s director of entrepreneurship and talent Elizabeth Thelen. “We also help them validate their technology and find potential customers.”
The business development requirements of entrepreneurship do not come naturally to many of the BREW participants. “The BREW applies force to our back to make us go out and talk to customers,” says Arsalan Lodi, founder and CEO of WISRAN, a California-based water metering and resource management company and current BREW enrollee.
Successful applicants to the BREW program receive a $50,000 convertible note funded by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) along with the following benefits:
In addition, BREW participants receive complementary one-year membership in The Water Council, which provides numerous networking and business development opportunities.