NickChristy

By: Nick Christy

So we are now into our second year after winning the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge in September 2011 and it's time to reflect on the progress so far and the challenges ahead.

 

The best place to start that reflection is at the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge finals for 2012. Coming back as a winner gives you a very different perspective on the competition, the work that goes into it and, more importantly the people that make it happen. If you are lucky enough to be selected as a 2013 finalist look forward to meeting some of the nicest, most motivated people on the planet. Best of all they want to help you succeed.

 

 

The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge's network of influential supporters is huge, some of whom will be familiar: Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, Brad Pitt, others maybe be less so: The Elders, The Climate Group, The Carbon War Room, The Cradle to Cradle Institute amongst others. But they will all be aware of you and will offer help and encouragement along the way.

 

For us, the first year after winning involved a lot of administration and changes – things you don't think about. The people who had been helping me in their own time previously (Tony, Chris and Neil) left their jobs, in one case moved city, and we started towards making the Water Recycling Shower a reality.

 

showerDesign ideas for the shower start to take shape once we got engineers on board

We set up a workshop, office and demonstration area at Neil's house that let us make a fully functional prototype to prove that the design worked. It did – better than expected – and proved that we could build a shower that would provide a great shower experience using 70% less water and 70% less energy. We also got that shower to never start with cold water, to pause and restart with no change in temperature, to run in non-recycling mode and to reach pasteurisation temperatures safely. Milestone 1 achieved!

 

We also applied for, and got, Australian Government Grant funding from the Commercialisation Australia program, which doubled the value of our prize money. We then made sure we maximised the value of both the prize and the grant by registering for the Australian Government’s R&D Tax Incentive scheme. This gives us back up to 45% of everything we spend on R&D as cash at the end of the tax year.

 

Tax forms and admin are much less fun than building prototypes but they are essential in making sure your money goes as far as possible.

 

Lesson 1 – Find out what grants, rebates and tax incentives are available to you and go get them. Do sweat the details, it matters.

We also spent a lot of time talking to potential customers and influencers. For us this is architects, engineers and consultants who specify products or make recommendations around efficiency. We showed them what we were doing, explained our vision including animations and renderings of final design ideas and we listened to their reactions.

 

Almost everyone gets what we are doing and once they understand that the water recycled in the shower is never someone else's shower water and that it is filtered and pasteurised – almost all are happy to use it.

 

logoCINTEPA new logo and slogan for a new start

We also agreed to every interview and article request that came our way. We took good legal advice on protecting our designs and knowledge and this gave us comfort about what we could say and talk about. As a result of this we were featured by Popular Science magazine as one of their 10 most important inventions of the year, Business Insider Magazine listed us as one of 30 Game Changers for the next decade and Virgin featured us on the front page of their 'People and Planet' blog.

As a result of these conversations and the publicity we have had over 700 inquiries from customers, architects, engineers, distributors all over the world.

 

Lesson 2 – Get good advisors and use them.

Lesson 3 – Ask people what they think about what you are doing and then listen to the reaction. A product with no customers is not good for anyone!

 

As we moved into year 2 we needed to grow and things got more scary.

We moved into an industrial unit with a warehouse and office space. This gives us room to build more prototypes and eventually to start assembling trial units. It also gives us room to take on more people, which we did.

At the end of 2012 we hired two embedded systems engineers to help with control system development and at the beginning of 2013 we started a recruitment process for 2 more engineers.

This has two consequences:

1. We are moving much faster towards manufacturing;

2. We now spend in 1 month what we used to spend in a year. Ouch!

But, we always knew we would have to grow to get to market and the plan and budget show that increase in running costs.

 

Lesson 4 – Plan! Look up and look forward to what you are going to have to do over the next 2 years. Write it down, cost it, question it. Then do it again.

Lesson 5 – Adapt when life turns out to be different to the plan!

Manufacturing and first sales are now this year's; which is very exciting after such a long journey and we are now seriously into contract negotiations for international distribution and detailed proposals for large scale commercial trials. We will almost certainly need more funding within the next 12 months to provide working capital to make the product for these trials but we can see where the sales will come from to recover that working capital quickly.

I'm really grateful to the Postcode Lottery and the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge for having been given the chance to make this journey. It will be very satisfying when we start installing showers and start to reduce both water and energy consumption around the world. For every person who switches their current shower to our shower we can save about 20,000 litres of water and 1 ton of CO2 per person every year. Our first target is to reduce CO2 emissions by a total of 1 million tons. With the continued support of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge we would like to do this within 5 years.

For all of you reading this, thinking about entering this year's competition and wondering "Could I do this?": You can and you should.

See you in Amsterdam in September!

 

Nick Christy and the CINTEP Team


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