Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Interview with Jeff Green, NanoH2O
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
We recently bumped into Jeff Green, CEO of Los Angeles-based NanoH2O, an advanced materials startup focused on using nanotechnology for water desalinization, the use of filtering technology to remove salt from the oceans to supply clean drinking water. NanoH2O was venture funded by Khosla Ventures. Jeff was one of the founders of both Stamps.com and Archive, Inc. We quickly caught up with Jeff about the company at the recent Entretech Greentech 2008 conference in Pasadena.
What's NanoH2O up to?
Jeff Green: NanoH2O has developed a reverse osmosis membrane using nanotechnology. The focus of the company is to make these membranes much more productive than they are today. The more productive the membrane, the lower the energy consumption of the desalinization process, and you can also build much smaller plants, due to the increased capacity and production.
I understand your technology was licensed out of UCLA?
Jeff Green: Yes, we licensed the technology out of UCLA. Dr. Erik Hoek was the original inventor. The fundamental technology is to take super hydrophilic and porous particles and incorporate them into a thin polymer film that is on the surface of our membrane.
How did you get from Internet startups like Stamps.com and Archive to a clean technology startup?
Jeff Green: After Archive was sold in 2003, and having lived in the entrepreneurial world through technology startups, I looked at the IT world and profile of opportunities coming online, and I didn't feel that they matched as well to venture backed opportunities that I'd had in the past. Of course, there are always innovations, but finding those is very, very difficult. However, when you start to look at those industries where demand is growing rapidly, there's a lot of technology innovation, you focus very quickly on energy and water. We started to look at water because we figured it was a couple of years behind energy, and there were lots of opportunity. If you look at water, you come down very quickly to membrane technology. It's a big opportunity to expand water supply -- you're talking about seawater desalination, wastewater reclamation, brackish water desalinization--they're all membrane based. We fortunately came across this technology, which has that kind of implication for next generation performance.
So how far do you think you are from deploying and what are the challenges?
Jeff Green: We're at the commercial prototype stage. We've been able to manufacture a prototype using a commercial manufacturing process, been able to test it in the field, and are our current schedule is late 2009/early 2010 to deploying be deploying into the marketplace.