Date: Jul 10, 2012 Author: Peter Cohan Source: Forbes (
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Cambrian Innovation, a company founded by Matt Silver while completing an MIT Engineering Systems PhD, has figured out a way to cut the amount of energy needed to treat wastewater. By extracting electrons and energy-laden gas, his 2006-founded company, Cambrian Innovation, has developed a product that can cut the cost of treating wastewater by 30% to 60%, depending on the application area.
Silver told me in a June 21st interview that ExoGen, Cambrian's lead product, is currently in the piloting stage over the next six to 18 months.
Using so-called anaerobic digestion, ExoGen aims to make wastewater treatment for industry and agriculture much more efficient by creating a significant amount of energy -- throwing off electrons and methane gas -- during the treatment process that partially offsets the energy required to treat the wastewater.
Not surprisingly, ExoGen saves money for its customers. That's because the cost of treating wastewater can range from $250,000 to $500,000 a year. And Silver estimates that its cost savings will enable customers to earn back their investment in ExoGen within three to five years.
Silver brings a unique background to this challenge. His doctorate in engineering systems is an integrative discipline that combines systems engineering, economics, and management. And before starting Cambrian, he worked in a Massachusetts aerospace company with close ties to universities that licensed technology, commercialized it, and spun out the business as an entrepreneurial venture.
Silver saw a similar opportunity in clean technology. He teamed up with a friend from MIT, Justin Buck, who is Cambrian's chief technology officer who told Silver that bioelectricity could revolutionize wastewater treatment. He spoke with professors and through a combination of Cambrian's own technology and selective licensing was able to develop ExoGen -- targeting a niche segment of the $30 billion industry wastewater treatment market.
Since 2006, Cambrian has financed its product development through a variety of funding sources. It received several million dollars' worth of government grants, closed a round of angel investment in 2010, and raised a Series A round in July 2011.
Cambrian has a team of 15 people working in Boston's so-called innovation district on technology, business development, and intellectual property protection.
And Cambrian's goals are ambitious. Silver hopes to establish itself as the technology leader in its industry by 2013. To sustain market leadership, Cambrian will need to build a sales team to meet its aggressive revenue goals.
Silver believes that Cambrian's technology can revolutionize wastewater treatment and give industrial customers an irresistible value proposition. Now Cambrian has a few years to deliver on Silver's promise.
If Cambrian can achieve its ambitious goals, the world will be better and its investors will be happy.