Global Social Enterprise in Davos

Monday, February 1, 2010

The networking power of Davos writ large: David Din, a Luxembourg-based technology entrepreneur, took his small company global over a simple breakfast at the World Economic Forum on Jan. 28.

Din, one of 26 entrepreneurs named by the Forum as 2010 Technology Pioneers, is behindEpuramat, a company that promises to revolutionize waste water treatment around the world-helping the United Nations meet its goal to give 2 billion additional people access to clean water and sanitary facilities in the coming years.

Epuramat’s “Extreme Separator” technology efficiently sucks out solids from wastewater in one treatment step, eliminating the need for membrane or biological filtration. Epuramat plants cost 20% to 50% less than traditional waste treatment plants, are 90% smaller, and use far less energy, helping more water to be cost-effectively recycled for drinking-potentially a big boost for areas lacking clean or plentiful water.

To date, Epuramat, which was founded in 2005, has sold just five of its portable plants-two in California and three in Europe. Winning a place as a 2010 tech pioneer earned Din a golden ticket to Davos, the invitation-only exclusive event where 2,500 of the world’s movers and shakers meet once a year, and helped catapult the company onto the world stage.

On Jan. 28, Din, a former analyst at UBS who gave up a comfortable living to bet the farm on a technology he believes in, was invited to a breakfast session with other tech pioneers and a group of social entrepreneurs.

The intersection of social action and technology is a powerful combination. The challenge during the breakfast session (which I moderated) was to find specific ways that the two groups might work together. Din came away a winner: During the two-hour workshop he struck no less than four potential business contacts that could help him branch out into South America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Fernando Nilo, founder of Recycla Chile, a recycler of electronic equipment, told Din he is interested in becoming Epuramat’s local distributor. David Kuria, from Ecotact, a Kenyan social enterprise specializing in sanitation, says he is interested in exploring ways Epuramat’s technology could help solve Kenya’s sanitation problems. Ecotact builds “toilet malls” in places where cities cannot keep up with rapid pace of urbanization. Space is at a premium in cities, so Epuramat’s small plants are ideal for transforming the sewage from the toilet malls into water that could be used for irrigation or treated further for drinking water.

Helmy Abouleish, founder of Sekem, the first company in Egypt to introduce bio-dynamic farming methods, said he would like to examine ways to use Epuramat’s technology to build out efficient, green communities in Egypt.

Iftekhar Enayetullah, head of Waste Concern, a Bangladesh-based company that recycles 40 tons of organic waste daily and turns it into fertilizer, said he will send lab results of waste water generated in its composting plants to Epuramat to explore the possibility of recycling its waste water. If the system proves as efficient as promised, he says he will buy one of the waste water treatment plants from Din.

Source: BusinessWeek (link opens in a new window)