Water is rapidly becoming a valuable and limited resource. Globally, 1 in 9 people do not have access to safe water. Climate change and growing populations are likely to add further stress to the already taxed water cycle.
WaterWorks wants to connect innovative, water-focused startups with potential investors to enable the future of water technology. The compnay operates as an online platform where companies with solutions to the water problems we are facing can raise capital from concerned investors.
We sat down with founder Lon Johnson to discuss WaterWorks’s mission, the exceptionally strong team behind it, and where the company is headed.
Note: This interview was conducted over email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
WaterWorks seeks to advance potential water solutions by introducing investors to opportunities in technology companies and projects through our online investment platform: waterworksfund.com.
On our platform, investors may find opportunities, companies or projects may find capital, and potential water solutions may be accelerated. WaterWorks will be a place for people to learn about water challenges and become partners on potential water solutions by investing and owning a piece of the project or company.
We’re providing motivated water- or environmentally-conscious investors access to early-stage investment opportunities. In the past decade, water crises have popped up in the U.S. and around the world. We believe there’s an opportunity to capture the public’s interest in the water sector and use it to help fund investments in impactful but overlooked innovative water technologies and projects.
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
We believe that water problems are coming at a pace and scale that we’re too often not ready for. Because of climate change, population growth, limited public funds, and aging infrastructure, these problems are going to get worse. Interestingly, many innovative technologies and projects exist to help solve our water problems, but too often finding investment capital for these solutions is difficult. Venture capitalists, private equity funds, and philanthropic financiers just aren’t always built to source, finance, and manage thousands of small investments in water solutions.
Water technology is in need of extensive innovation and disruption. Start-ups are answering the call and developing new technologies to help solve our water crises. However TechCrunch disclosed that water and wastewater companies only receive about 1% of angel and VC funding, making it incredibly difficult for water companies to secure the capital they need.
We believe the time is now to invest in and support new water technologies and potential solutions.
The WaterWorks community seeks to help fix water problems that never get solved, with approaches that might have never been tried. If technology and new solutions can revolutionize how water can be protected and used, then we believe that a new way to finance and invest in those opportunities needs to be built.
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
Our core competency and strongest skill set is bringing people together to help finance big goals.
We’ve done it successfully for decades and at the highest levels in one of the most competitive environments there is — politics. Now, we’re ready to do it again for water.
We helped transition political fundraising from a chicken-dinner-lobbyist-insider process to a more open, inclusive digital process — forever changing both politics and government. Specifically, co-founder Julianna Smoot was President Obama’s national finance director in 2008 and deputy campaign manager in 2012.
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
Within public stock markets, charitable causes and political donations, the internet continues to significantly disrupt the way capital is raised and deployed. We expect online investing to continue to grow, and we see value in serving and becoming experts in one important niche market — water.
We seek to build an ever-expanding community of innovators and investors that can help drive potential water solutions at scale by democratizing both water investment opportunities for the investor and access to capital for the potential solution provider.
We’re building a community that believes:
- Delivering clean water and sanitation to all people is attainable.
- Healthy waters from stream to sea are achievable.
- Potential solutions exist which can help our oceans, watersheds and communities.
- Investors can drive change.
- Water problems are local and can be solved locally.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
Our team’s network spans various industries, including numerous connections in the public and private sectors. Some past positions held by WaterWorks leaders and advisors are:
- Director, Michigan Office of the Great Lakes
- Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- National Finance Director, U.S. Presidential Campaign
- Chair, California State Water Resources Control Board
- External Online Director, U.S. Presidential Campaign
- White House Liaison, U.S. Small Business Administration
- Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)
- National Director, Climate Action Campaign
- Communications Director for Water, U.S. EPA
- Committee Member, FINRA
- Director & Practice Leader: Water Strategy, Social Impact Practice; Deloitte Consulting
WaterWorks has also established partnerships with key water organizations across the country which will serve as a potential pipeline for offerings on our portal. These partnerships include the Cleveland Water Alliance, The Water Council, TMA BlueTech, Accelerate H2O and WaterStart.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
WaterWorks is currently the only online Reg CF investing platform dedicated exclusively to water-related innovations and technologies. As we present new investment opportunities, we help investors understand the risks associated with investing in early stage companies, including the risk of loss and liquidity risk. We encourage investors to review each offering’s documentation for risks specific to the offering.
With each new investment offering listed, we’re building a community of water investors that may consider additional offerings.
What does your business model look like?
When companies list their offering with WaterWorks and successfully raise funds, we earn cash and securities fees. We charge no fees to investors.
As we grow a digital water investment community, we hope to diversify our listings by creating and listing place-based funds (think Great Lakes or Chesapeake Bay Funds) and technology-focused funds (think Water Data or Desalination Funds).
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
Our team has years of experience digitally targeting, messaging, and successfully transacting with individuals at all levels. We think online investing is uniquely positioned to help bring capital to the often small, private and fragmented water technology & project investment space. We will primarily use the funds raised this round to bring on additional personnel, conduct marketing, and scale our operations to take on more companies seeking capital and investors at scale.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
We’ve built a strong and experienced national team with partnerships and process that allows us to merge: 1) online investing; 2) impact investing; and 3) water finance demand. We can’t wait — not for government spending, banks, or philanthropy. And water can’t wait. We’re building a community of change, now.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
Our long-term goals are: 1) create and cultivate a 100,000+ water investor community; 2) develop and offer place-based and tech-based funds; and 3) become the collaborative, digital platform where water problems are presented, solutions created, and operations financed. Potential exits include selling the business to our own community of investors; being merged with a larger investment or banking firm that seeks to expand their water, impact or ESG exposure; or going public.
We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Lon and his team take the company. WaterWorks is currently raising on Netcapital.
About: Olivia strobl
Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.