David Din, a Luxembourg-based technology entrepreneur, took his company global over breakfast at the World Economic Forum January 28.
Din, one of 26 companies named by the Forum as 2010 Technology Pioneers, is behind Epuramat, a company that promises to revolutionize waste water treatment, helping the United Nations meet its goal to give 2 billion people access to clean water and sanitary facilities in the coming years.
Epuramat’s “Extreme Separator” efficiently sucks out solids from wastewater in one treatment step, eliminating the need for membrane or biological filtration. Epuramat plants cost 20% to 50% less than traditional waste treatment plants, are 90% smaller, and use far less energy, helping more water to be cost-effectively recycled for drinking-potentially a big boost for areas lacking clean or plentiful water.
To date, though, Epuramat, which was founded in 2005, has sold just five portable plants – two in California and three in Europe. Winning a place as a 2010 tech pioneer earned Din a golden ticket to Davos, the invitation-only exclusive event where 2,500 of the world’s movers and shakers meet once a year, catapulting the company onto the world stage.
On January 28, Din, a former analyst at UBS who gave up a comfortable living to bet the farm on a technology he believes in, was invited to a breakfast session with other tech pioneers and a group of social entrepreneurs .
The intersection of social action and technology is an extremely powerful combination. The challenge, during the breakfast session, which I moderated. was to find specific ways that the two groups might work together. Din came away a winner. During the two hour workshop he struck no fewer than four potential business contacts that could help him branch out into South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Fernando Nilo, founder of Recycla Chile, a recycler of electronic equipment, told Din he is interested in becoming Epuramat’s local distributor. David Kuria, from Ecotact ,a Kenyan social enterprise specializing in sanitation, says he is interested in exploring ways Epuramat’s technology could help solve Kenya’s sanitation problems. Ecotact builds “toilet malls” in places where cities cannot keep up with rapid pace of urbanization. Space is at a premium in cities so Epuramat’s small-sized plants are ideal for transforming the sewage from the “toilet malls” into water that could be used for irrigation or treated further for drinking water.
Helmy Abouleish, founder of Sekem, the first company in Egypt to introduce bio-dynamic farming methods, said he would like to examine ways to use Epuramat’s technology to build out efficient, green communities in Egypt.
Iftekhar Enayetullah, head of Waste Concern, a Bangladesh-based for-profit company that recycles 40 tons of organic waste daily and turns it into fertilizer, said he will send lab results of waste water generated in its composting plants to Epuramat’s to explore the possibility of recycling its waste water. If the system proves as efficient as promised he says he will buy one of the waste water treatment plants from Din.
Abouleish – Din’s potential partner in Egypt – talked to two tech pioneer companies – Esolar and Brightsource- about producing solar energy in Egypt and another, from India, called VNL, about connecting remote farms and villages to the mobile network. He also says he plans to follow up with tech pioneer Serious Materials, which makes eco-friendly building materials, about developing the sustainable building concept in Egypt.
Meanwhile, Din’s potential partner in Bangladesh, Waste Concern, also wants to work with Epuramat’s new Kenyan contact, Ecotact, to develop sold waste recycling plant in Kenya based on carbon trading. And the U.S.’s Recycle Bank is now in talks with Bangladesh’s Waste Concern, about using compost bins it developed to recycle household waste in New York.
These are just a few examples of the possible collaborations tech pioneers and the social entrepreneurs discussed over breakfast. Others focused on projects to improve health and education and provide mobile money to the unbanked, each crisscrossing the world in unexpected ways with a potentially big impact on society.