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Tom Ferguson_E18: The Nexus of Water Impact [11/9/2020]

Tom Ferguson, GP at Burnt Island Ventures in San Francisco [11/9/2020]

Note: References with links are listed at the end of the show notes.



2:00 Discusses entry into Water Impact with Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Talks about water sustainability and entry from business school to the Imagine H20 early stage accelerator.

3:00 Shares transition on building a fund around VC investments. Also shares the origin of his investment firm.

SECTION1: Fundamental Molecule

5:20 Talks about early mistakes investors make, in assuming that advice is correct. For the first few years in the accelerator, he and the team were cognizant of this. Taking care of assumptions methodically is critical in water startups. Working with Founders to look closely into reality — what sets generalized venture apart.

11:00 Talks about the importance of water, and the residual impacts that are downstream. We discuss the interlinked reliance components. Opens the discussion for water impact as a startup focus.

14:00 Talks about the rating of water infrastructure and wastewater as a D/D+ respectively. He discusses the fragmented markets in different countries to add to the complexity of opportunities.

SECTION2: Complex Markets

17:00 Shares excitement for startup Stormsensor, and needs for stormwater innovations. We also discuss the policy frictions that are creating sustaining business opportunities for companies like this. Gives example of $1M per mile for pipe replacement. And shares insights about value within the water infrastructure network.

21:43 Talking about the notion of customer pain in the Burnt Island checklist. Frames the discussion in water as something not driven by the profit motive, in utilities. Breaks into regulatory driven opportunity, in the water infrastructure framework.

27:30 Talks about finding the right Founders that understand an element of a niche, and understand all of the technical dynamics. And looking for people who have to solve the problem.

31:00 Travel through the underbelly of cities and Fats Oils and Grease (FOG).

32:00 Discusses crossover opportunities and how he’s becoming less surprised by complex opportunities. Talks about things like seed treatment (genetic engineering). Talks about a dye company, and the surface water issues.

SECTION3: Fluid Founders

40:00 Talks about innovation in US / Singapore / India / UK, looking to support Founders in these water markets. Shares what his firm is looking for, are Founders with a bias for reality, before they’ve written a line of code, or a soldering iron.

42:00 Talks about the ability to focus needed for Founders working with all of the additional complexities of this market. And Tom encourages time allocation, and marginal use of time to improve process. Looking for people to close the doors — boiling down to the simplicity and narrowing down the process.

45:00 Shares vision of water market in a decade, and ‘opens up the floodgate of opportunity’.

Thanks for all of the fun, Tom!


-Burnt Island Ventures: https://www.burntislandventures.com/

-Tom Ferguson: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tom-ferguson-44a62254/

-Tom’s Email: tom@imagineh2o.org

-Imagine H20 Accelerator: https://www.imagineh2o.org/

-ImagineH20 Water Innovation Week: https://www.imagineh2o.org/wiw2020

-World Water Week 2020 Los Angeles: https://worldwatertechnorthamerica.com/

-SoCap Virtual 20 (Impact Conference): https://socapglobal.com/events/34214-2/

- Is Venture Capital Really Failing in Water? Or is it Just Getting Started?: https://tomfergusonbiv.medium.com/is-venture-capital-really-failing-in-water-or-did-it-just-get-started-eac751de0def

-2010 CDP water report [Tom CoAuthored]: https://www.circleofblue.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/CDP-2010-Water-Disclosure-Global-Report.pdf

-Ketos Startup: https://ketos.co/

-Stormsensor Startup: https://www.stormsensor.io/

-Zilper Trenchless Startup: https://www.zilpertrenchless.com/

-Tom Swifty: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Swifty

-RegTech Unicorns in VC: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2019/11/21/predictions-2020-regtech-funding-will-explode-as-vc-investments-in-other-markets-cool/?sh=cd42dec2e561

-RegTech VC Funds Listed: https://medium.com/@VentureScanner/regulatory-technology-investors-with-the-most-activity-41d436563ada

- California’s Complex Water Market Faces New Challenges [Institutional Investor]: https://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/b1nxmbpj34yxy2/californias-complex-water-market-faces-new-challenges

- Brave Blue World [Netflix]: https://www.netflix.com/title/81326710

-Blackrock’s Troubled Waters: https://www.blackrock.com/us/individual/insights/blackrock-investment-institute/troubled-waters#

- Is Venture Capital Really Failing in Water? Or is it Just Getting Started? [Medium]: https://medium.com/@tom_93541/is-venture-capital-really-failing-in-water-or-did-it-just-get-started-eac751de0def

-SwiftComply Startup: https://www.swiftcomply.com/

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Song Credit: The Croft — By Joakim Karud

[ No Copyright on Music and Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported — CC BY-SA 3.0 ]



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A Community focused on Venture Scale Positive Impacts. Produced by Zecca Lehn. On Twitter @posi2ive.