By Steven G. Zylstra
Arizona has seen significant growth in companies providing large-scale, green and eco-friendly technology solutions. The products coming out of Arizona have made a tremendous impact on the country’s sustainability initiatives. However, the work that is done at a micro-level by eco-tech startups is also on rise.
In December, Green Living magazine hosted the first Simple Solutions Summit community event in Tempe. In addition to local vendor booths and expert breakout sessions, the event featured an Eco Tank competition. This startup competition looked at eco-friendly innovations on a smaller scale, and promoted the valuable work our clean technology startup community is doing to reduce our carbon footprint.
The overall goal of the event was to increase awareness of Arizona’s current green initiatives including air quality, education, energy, food, waste and water. The Eco Tank competition was unique in that presenters were not permitted a slide deck or projector, and only allotted three minutes to explain the success and sustainability of their product to the judges.
Tempe-based Solar Pool Technologies (SPT) won the competition for its revolutionary robotic solar-powered pool cleaner: the Solar-Breeze NX. The company’s invention uses sunlight instead of grid electricity to effortlessly remove dirt, debris, pollens and even suntan oils from a pool’s surface. SPT was awarded $5,000 in advertising and business consulting, as well as a SEED SPOT scholarship. SPT closely challenged four other local companies: BetR-block, NOID, Incycle and FilterZen, who also presented excellent ideas in green technology.
“We had a great time going up against so many wonderful companies and fellow entrepreneurs during the Eco Tank, and we’re really honored that the judges saw the value of our Solar-Breeze NX and believe in what we’re doing,” said Paul Sim, CEO of Solar Pool Technologies. “As a growing startup, we are thrilled with the free advertising and the opportunity to participate in SEED SPOT. This was a great way to end the year!”
Overall, the competition represented the great progress that the green technology startup community has made. The success of SPT also presents a case study to review as an example of how to succeed as an eco-tech startup in Arizona.
After launching its original solar-powered pool cleaner in 2010, SPT was successful, but only to a certain point. They continued gaining ground in the market through 2014, but ran out of money by 2015 due to the costs of manufacturing and supply chain management. They were no longer able to sustain a pathway to develop new products.
In August of 2015, the company began a Kickstarter campaign to develop the new Solar-Breeze NX, and successfully raised $400,000. Today, the future of the company is bright. The money made through Kickstarter and the services won at the Simple Solutions Summit will go a long way towards the continued success of the Solar-Breeze NX.
SPT plans to use some of its remaining money and the awarded advertising services towards a marketing campaign to increase awareness of the company and its product across the country. Its goal is to reach nearly one million pool owners. The rest of the money will go towards continuing to improve the technology of the Solar-Breeze NX.
It is important for Arizona’s technology community to continue to support companies like SPT. These organizations and innovators are making a difference as both eco-friendly businesses and success stories. They serve as role models for the startups in our market who are also developing products to enact important social change.
Bringing into balance the conservation and preservation of the Earth’s natural resources with human culture is a goal that is gaining importance as the world’s population continues to grow. The technology community has a big role to play in the success of a green lifestyle for us all.
Steven G. Zylstra, Sc.D. (Hon.), serves as president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, where he is responsible for strategy, operations and accomplishment of policy development. Zylstra is a vocal spokesman for the value that technology can provide in raising social and economic standards in Arizona. He has served in numerous technology advisory roles to Arizona governors and currently serves on several association, industry and community boards.