How Aquaporin Channels Reverse and Forward Osmosis Together for Growth

Imagine harnessing the power of nature to solve one of humanity’s most pressing challenges: water scarcity. That’s exactly what Aquaporin is doing with its groundbreaking technology. By mimicking the natural process of water transport in cells, Aquaporin is not only changing the game in water treatment but also setting new standards for… water entrepreneurship!

Wanna find more about one of the water sector’s Rockstars? Let’s explore Aquaporin’s path:

with 🎙️ Matt Boczkowski – CEO at Aquaporin

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🔗 Aquaporin’s website

🔗 Philips Water Solutions

🔗 Gallo

🔗 Singapore’s PUB

🔗 Aquaporin’s Annual Report 2023

🔗 Come say Hi to Matt on Linkedin

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Full Video:

The Natural Inspiration Behind Aquaporin

Aquaporin’s technology is inspired by the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of aquaporin proteins, which facilitate water transport across cell membranes.

These proteins enable highly selective and efficient water filtration, making them ideal for use in both forward osmosis (FO) and reverse osmosis (RO) applications. By leveraging this biomimetic approach, Aquaporin is able to offer solutions that are both cutting-edge and environmentally friendly.

A Shift in Market Strategy

Aquaporin has seen a significant shift in its revenue profile over the past few years.

Two years ago, the company’s revenue split was 80% residential and 20% non-residential. Today, it’s approaching a 50-50 balance. This shift is a strategic move to diversify their market presence and capitalize on the growing demand for industrial water treatment solutions.

Forward Osmosis: A Niche, yet Promising Market

Forward osmosis (FO) has long been touted for its lower energy requirements compared to traditional reverse osmosis.

However, creating a market for FO technology has been challenging, primarily because it involves educating potential customers about its benefits over established technologies. Aquaporin has focused on niche applications where FO can offer unique advantages, such as in the beverage industry.

For instance, they are working with Gallo, the world’s largest winemaker, to develop FO systems for concentrating grape juice, which could revolutionize wine production.

Reverse Osmosis: Scaling Up for the Future

While FO offers niche applications, reverse osmosis (RO) remains the backbone of Aquaporin’s strategy for broader market penetration.

Recently, Aquaporin installed 500 RO membranes at Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) to demonstrate significant energy efficiency improvements. The pilot project showed a 30% increase in energy efficiency compared to existing benchmarks, positioning Aquaporin as a key player in large-scale water treatment projects.

Innovative Branding and Market Presence

Aquaporin’s marketing strategy is as innovative as its technology. Unlike traditional water companies, Aquaporin draws inspiration from the fashion industry, creating a strong and distinctive brand identity.

This unique approach not only differentiates them in a crowded market but also appeals to consumers and industrial clients alike. For example, their collaboration with Philips has led to co-branded products like the Philips tabletop purifiers powered by Aquaporin Inside.

Tackling Water Scarcity with Biotech

At its core, Aquaporin is a biotechnology company. Their innovative use of the aquaporin protein as a biological additive in membranes showcases the potential of biotech to address global water challenges.

This technology isn’t just theoretical; it’s being applied in real-world scenarios, from purifying drinking water to treating industrial wastewater.

Future Prospects and Financial Goals

Aquaporin’s financial journey is a testament to their growth and ambition. Since their IPO, the company has multiplied its sales sixfold and is on track to double them again.

Despite the pressures of public scrutiny and the need for continual capital raising, Aquaporin remains focused on achieving profitability within the next few years. Their recent successful rights issue, which raised 25 million euros, underscores their ability to attract investor confidence and secure the necessary funds to fuel their growth.

Challenges and Opportunities

Being at the forefront of water technology innovation comes with its challenges. Convincing customers to adopt new technologies over well-established ones requires persistent effort and robust proof of concept.

Aquaporin’s success with PUB in Singapore is a critical milestone that could open doors to larger projects globally. Moreover, their strategic partnerships and focus on niche markets like the beverage industry ensure that they remain agile and responsive to market needs.

The Road Ahead

Looking ahead, Aquaporin aims to expand its reach and impact. They are exploring applications in the medical device industry and produced water treatment, further diversifying their portfolio. Their ultimate goal is to make their aquaporin-based technology a standard in water treatment, offering unparalleled efficiency and sustainability.

In summary, Aquaporin is a company that exemplifies innovation, resilience, and strategic foresight. By harnessing the power of nature through advanced biotechnology, they are poised to make a significant impact on the global water industry, addressing both current and future challenges. Keep an eye on Aquaporin as they continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in water treatment.

My Full Conversation with Matt Boczkowski on Aquaporin’s Path to Glory

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

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Antoine Walter: Hi Matt. Welcome to the show.

Matt Boczkowski: Hi Antoine.

Antoine Walter: I’m super pumped up to have that conversation for many reasons, but there’s one which is probably much less known and probably much more anecdotic, which is we have a friend in common, actually, maybe a friend for you, a mentor for me, Benoit Condoumi. He was The boss of my boss, when I was at Suez and he had always good advice and regularly told me, you know, if you really want to have aquaporin on the show, I can make it happen.

I know Matt and everything. So yeah, let’s it be organic. At some point we will have that conversation. And that some point is today. So I’ve listened to many aquaporin appearances on various podcasts, and I have not always understood what you’re doing because. I’m stupid and as soon as it goes into the complexities of, Oh, there’s a protein who does this and that I can be lost.

But yeah, that was a very wordy intro. I read your 2023 annual report. So I looked a bit into what you’re doing as of this year. So what’s top of mind for Aquaporin now? And it sounds to me like you’re going into a very specific segment in the market. Which is the point of use treatment, which makes full sense.

It’s a growing part of the industry. What’s so attractive in that segment for you? And what’s the challenge which you solve there?

Matt Boczkowski: Thank you for the intro. And it’s true that a lot of our revenue is coming from the point of view segment. I think it’s been also a very strategic reason for us to enter into that segment.

And it has to do with barriers to entry. Actually, the barriers to entry to sell products in the point of view segment are simply lower. then the barriers to entry in industrial water or forward osmosis where you’re creating a market. So we saw a lot of potential in a fairly large and growing market to offer the aquaporin solution.

The other reason is that with being one of the only sort of biomimetic companies out there, really one of the very few companies that protein technology that we put in our membranes, it does create a bit of a brand appeal as well. And this branding of water filtered by nature of using something that’s inspired by nature speaks the loudest to the consumer actually.

And by speaking the loudest to the consumer, we So it is part of the market in which we can say, Hey, we actually have something cool to offer to the consumer that allows our customers because we do B2B to have something that is a bit more different, a little bit differentiated compared to all the other purifiers that are out there.

So that’s a little bit how this thinking got us started that, you know, we’re a startup, we’ve got to scale up the easiest way to scale up for us in the first place. is where the entry to the market is the easiest. And that’s how we went into the point of use segment.

Aquaporin’s Unique Branding Approach

Antoine Walter: That is another thing, which is very different with aquaporin compared to the vast majority of the water sector.

You have a super strong brand identity, which goes into the type of media you’re pushing out, which goes into the way you present yourself on the market. And the fact that in the very first answer, Talk about branding makes me think that beyond the technology, that is also one of the main assets of the company.

Am I wrong with that?

Matt Boczkowski: No, you couldn’t be more right. I think we have a really strong marketing team. Our marketing actually is inspired not from the water industry, but from the fashion industry. So we have a marketing team that is very different from what I have seen in any other. Water companies and some people might look at us and say, oh, this is odd.

You guys are a water company. But you know, you’re presenting yourself a little bit different. I think that’s really, really important. We stick out in terms of branding, we stick out in terms of our visual identity, but that is very much on purpose. It’s not a fluke. It’s part of our strategy to look and feel the way we do, and that

Antoine Walter: despite the fact that you’re B2B, because different branding would make a ton of sense if you’re B2C, but B2B, you have to send out in exactly the same fashion.

The way we look at it is that

Matt Boczkowski: we do B2B sales. What is the value that we provide to those customers? So of course we provide the story. Of course we provide the technology. We provide, you know, the membrane, the innovation that we’re still pursuing. But in addition to this, we provide a marketing platform.

A marketing with stories, a marketing that allows our customer to take some of this aquaporin brand identity and offer it to their consumers. If you look at, for instance, the way that Philips has been using some of the aquaporin material in some of their videos that you can find on YouTube, where they’re advertising their point of view, stable top purifiers, there is about.

You know, 15 to 30 seconds of their ad that is actually using a lot of the brand identity and visuals from Aquaporin. This is something that we also make available to our partners. And so it’s part of the sales package, you know, in a way it’s kind of a B2B2C

Antoine Walter: move. If People have never looked at what we’re discussing right now.

The link to your website is in the description. And I would advise to do just a way you deal with photography is already very different from anything else you see in that sector. And now that you say that the inspiration is fashion makes a ton of sense before we go into the depth of that deep dive, I’d like to have your best elevator pitch to aquaporin, which is usually the question everybody hates, but I think it’s a good way to.

Matt Boczkowski: To give a context, it’s actually really simple. You know, we’re a water tech company that allows our customers to be different in the market. And so if a customer is looking to have this differentiated value proposition, whether it’s energy efficiency, whether it’s a purifier that stands out compared to the other ones, whether it’s a technology that concentrates.

things that cannot be done with standard evaporative processes. We may have that solution. And it’s something that we really pride ourselves in our key account collaborative approach that we take. If a customer is really looking for something different to stand out in the market, then they need to knock on our door because I think we have that solution.

In just that

Antoine Walter: elevator pitch, you already gave us several hints about what we’re going to discuss in a minute, because you mentioned the power efficiency, you mentioned the purifiers, but you also mentioned the evaporators. So we are. In a bunch of different applications, different verticals, different words.

And that’s something which gets me super curious. So I really want to discuss that with you. Before that, I’d like to reintroduce a bit to your company, and I’m going to just draw the history and you stop me if I say something very, very stupid. And then we can discuss about the past 2 3 years. If I’m right, the story of aquaporin starts with the work of Peter Agrae, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2003.

Not only for aquaporins, but that was the main discovery for which he was granted the Nobel Prize. If I’m right as well, there’s no direct link to your company. He’s not part of your research team or whatever. But in 2005, Peter Homer Jensen uses those discoveries in aquaporin to create a company called Aquaporin, which looks into membranes and applies that aquaporin to make more efficient membranes.

Usually, the other big milestone that people remember about aquaporin is that in 2021, you became one of these two, three wonder kids in the sector, together with maybe annex filtration and 374 water. The very spectacular IPO, which made you a third of a unicorn that got a lot of eyeballs looking at what you were doing for the best, because it was a very successful IPO, but also probably for the challenging, because from now on, you were really under the scope of everybody which wanted to have an informed opinion of where Aquaporin.

That’s roughly the time where you’re joining the company. First, I would say you acclimated yourself to the company, and then after the IPO, you stepped in. as the CEO. So far, so good. So far, so good.

Matt Boczkowski: You’re correct in saying that the two Peters are unrelated. They have met each other. We have an arrow membrane signed by Peter Agri.

It was a sign of having aquaporins in the membrane, but you’re absolutely correct. The Nobel prize that he was awarded for the discovery of the aquaporin protein has nothing to do with aquaporin the company. other than inspiring us to try to figure out how to take this protein and apply it into a more industrial setting.

So, so far, so good. You mentioned some minutes

Antoine Walter: ago that Aquaporin is a startup. When you join, Aquaporin is already 16, which is a teenager startup, which is not exactly in the very, very early stage. What is your first impression when you join? And What was your number one perk and number one challenge you identified as the newly appointed CEO?

Matt Boczkowski: So it’s a really cool question because I spend most of my career in large companies with the exception of one. I mean, I’ve been with Paul for a number of years with GE and then Suez. So in those companies, you get used to a certain structure, you get used to a certain support. mechanism that you have. If you have, um, legal issues, there’s a legal department.

If you have IP, you have someone who’s in charge of patents. They’re well oiled machines in a way to speak. When I joined Aquaporin, this support structure was simply not there. So you come in and you have ideas on what you want to do, how you want to run things. And you realize that for a lot of the things that I would really like to do quickly, we actually don’t have the sort of source of information or the expertise in house.

And so you immediately lack the sense of security that a large company provides to you. So that would be my first sort of like, Oh, wow, this is different. I mean, I expected it, but it’s always different when you live it. So you can imagine things, but it’s only when you’re thrown into the situation that you’re like, Oh, okay.

That’s how I feel in this situation. But on the positive side, if you’re able to take that and quickly realize, okay, you know, I can use it as an opportunity. I can now figure out what do I do with this? Then you sort of empower yourself and you’re able to make decisions a lot faster, how we’re able to develop products.

How we’re able to take an idea and make that idea happen. It’s probably five to 10 times faster. Then at a large company. And I think that’s been sort of the biggest perk you decide on a certain path. And the next day things start happening. There isn’t a lot of steering committees, a lot of board reporting, a lot of meetings on top of meetings to ensure that everybody’s on the same page because you’re smaller, so everybody’s on the same page fairly quickly.

So that’s with regards to joining the company. And then with regards to the IPO, I think that the IPO gave us. A different sense of credibility. So of course, being listed comes with its share of responsibilities, right? I mean, you have to be accountable to your shareholders. You have to be very transparent.

You have to be careful how you communicate, what you communicate, in what order you have to have an investor relations function. You have to have a very robust financial function. So all this we had to put in place, but this sense of additional credibility was really, really good because it allowed us to have conversations with companies that previously we couldn’t have access to.

I think one example is, you know, we work with Gallo in the United States. Gallo is the largest, uh, winemaker in the world. And the fact that we’re able to work with such a company, the fact that we’re able to have access to meet with their CEO and their CFO, that wouldn’t have been possible as an unlisted company, in my opinion, because of the size, right?

Because we’re. Yes, we’ve been around for 16 years at the time of the IPO, but our revenue was roughly a million euros at that point in time. So you still don’t have that much to show for in terms of commercial traction. But if you have strong shareholders that are backing you, some very large Danish companies, some international shareholders, it gives the confidence to your customer that you’re going to stay in business.

When you’re a startup, there’s always this fear that hangs over your head. Sort of like when you speak to large accounts, Hey, how long are you going to be in business for? Impression went away with the IPO. And I think that’s been really positive for us. So does that mean that

Antoine Walter: that was the first reason why you went IPO?

Or was it just simply basically because you needed to raise money?

Matt Boczkowski: I think it’s that, but also our board had an ambition to have the company public before I arrived. It’s been part of the company strategy and it’s something that they wanted to also ensure that the company is backed by strong Danish investors.

that the company has access to the Danish markets to raise liquidity. So I think those reasons are why they push for the company to become listed here. And it’s also the nature of the Danish stock exchange. Just to clarify that one, you listed on the NASDAQ Copenhagen, right? Yes. Yes. In Copenhagen, because there is this mid cap market in Copenhagen where you have companies like ACOPORN that get listed.

And I think that’s a little bit special to the Danish market. You do have a good number of companies being listed on what you call this mid cap market. You have, of course the top 25, and then you have your small cap. But it has a ton of other smaller companies that raise a few million dollars here and there.

You know, I’m originally from Poland, but I spent a lot of time in Canada. In Canada, you have the TSX Ventures. The TSX Ventures is a little bit like the small cap. But the mid cap, it provides you this ability to raise a significant amount of money to expand your company and its operations. That’s what we went after.

And that’s where we were listed. But what I mentioned about

Antoine Walter: the scrutiny of your peers. In the water sector do you feel that because i can’t really put my finger on it if it’s they will select to be a cool kids if it’s like hey hey if the cool kid crashes than us the reasonable kids we are conforted in our business choices or simply.

You’re a shiny object. So you become a center of attraction. I never

Matt Boczkowski: really felt this, which you described this from my peers as envy or anything. I think when I speak to some of my colleagues at, let’s say, NX Filtration, you know, we’re all trying to do a bit of the same thing, scale up a company, grow, get to profitability.

That’s how I see things. There are some smaller companies that I also interacting with that are not listed. And, you know, when you speak to them about their strategies, some of them have an exit strategy to be listed. Some of them have an exit strategy to be acquired. So I think each company has its own strategy for us.

This was the right thing to do. I think there are some other companies that, you know, for them, the right thing to do is to seek. To be acquired by DuPont, by Veolia, by a company where there’s a better strategic fit. That wasn’t the thing for us. So

Antoine Walter: for us, it was to get listed. Maybe I didn’t frame it right.

What I’m trying to say is in preparation for that discussion, I could read your annual report. So I have all your numbers. Basically the full trunk is open. I can dive into the engine and I can look at everything because you have to report on everything. Many startups at your stage just mentioned, you know, we’re not profitable.

We’re growing. Our numbers look good wait until we go public in five years or until we do that exit you mentioned you are under the microscope as we don’t have any reference points as to what is normal for a company at your stage. Well we can look at it and say hey. Does that look weird? And then find an opinion.

Do you feel that?

Matt Boczkowski: Yes. Yes, it is a little bit weird. It’s not so much I think on our operations and what we do, because we are quite proud of how we do things and what we do. But absolutely, people can see that how much money we have at the end of the year. People can see Things in terms of compensation, there’s a lot of transparency and I think it is something that it takes a little bit of time to getting used to, especially that you can’t really compare us.

You can’t compare us to the private companies because you don’t have that visibility to the unlisted companies. So I guess, you know, to answer your question, is it normal? It’s normal for us, you know, the way we operate is normal for us, but it’s true in the sense that we are a bit unique in the way that everything is transparent.


Antoine Walter: So to rewind a bit the Aquaporin story to probably before you joined. But you were working in the membrane field. So I would expect you to have an informed opinion on that.

Aquaporin’s Forward Osmosis Journey

Antoine Walter: To me, the 2010s were the decades of the hype about forward osmosis, because it comes with much less pressure than reverse osmosis, because as such, it comes with less power requirements, if you forget that you need to recover the jaw.

But there was really a push for that, which was Fueled by Chinese capital, which I think is also part of your story. But if you look at who’s still around one decade later, there’s mostly Travis systems and you, many of the companies which was super hype in that for the smoothest wave died. And that’s.

Not conventional in the water world where really companies never die. They might be struggling, they might be living in Valhalla, whatever you want to call it, but they don’t die. But in your sector, companies died. And yet, in that famous annual report, I see that you’re working on top secrets for Los Moses star, which you also mentioned in some of your LinkedIn posts.

And I’m wondering, is it because you believe the breakthrough will happen, or is it because all the ones which died did it wrong and you have a strong path to make forward osmosis happen on the big stage?

Matt Boczkowski: Maybe we can go back a little bit in history as to why Aquaporin decided to go in the FO space. I can give you sort of my take on it.

I was not here from the beginning. But, you know, at the foundation of the company, at the beginning, we are what you would call a biotechnology company. Our founder is a biotech guy. The core of what the company was doing 15, 16 years ago, 20 years ago, almost, it was very much biotechnology to begin with.

The idea was to figure out, if you look at how the aquaporin protein works in nature, it actually facilitates a process of water transfer through osmosis or diffusion or preferential, it’s a preferential water pathway for water molecules. So that concept lends itself really, really nicely to the simple concept of osmosis.

And so if you take that and you say, okay, I want to borrow a concept from nature and apply this concept from nature into the industrial scale, then the most sort of immediate way that you see that could mimic that is actually regular osmosis, or what we call forward osmosis, because it’s really the same.

So that is why the Aquaporin’s journey was into forward osmosis initially, because it just made sense of how things work in nature and how we thought we could make things work in an industrial application. Now, the challenge with forward osmosis is that you kind of create a technology, but you also create a market and you’re competing against existing technologies that can do things really, really well that have been around for a really long period of time.

You’re looking at evaporation, you’re looking at reverse osmosis, you’re looking at all sorts of other separation processes in the food space. So I think one of the reasons why quite a few of the companies never made it is that it’s not an existing market. You actually have to. convince your customer that the forward osmosis application is the right way to go about it, and then they have to learn how the process works, they have to learn how to operate a system that is more complicated to operate than a reverse osmosis system.

Right away, things like wastewater treatment, things like desalination, All that becomes a little bit less attractive because it’s a lot more difficult to control with a forward osmosis system. You can use RO and you just, you need more water, you just put more pressure and it’s kind of a, you get what you want by brute force.

With forward osmosis, well, you need to figure out what kind of draw solution do you want to use? How is this balance is going to be done? And so on. And so our, introduction into the water space has been done into forward osmosis because of how close this mimics what happens in nature with the protein.

It has not been a decision based on the market opportunity. And this also brings me to why we have branched into reverse osmosis, because I think a fall has Some super cool applications and we have a few very niche areas in which we’re working and that’s why I call them top secret. We have like an NDA for every single application that we’re doing.

We cannot survive as a forward osmosis company alone. That is not part of our strategy. We need to have a few other applications. And those other applications come from the RO space, because in the RO space, you have an existing market. There you can create purifiers, create flat sheets, create industrial reverse osmosis membranes.

If we’re able to create superior products, if we’re able to create a really strong brand, then we’re able to generate revenue for aquaporin that allows us to reinvest and continue the developments in forward osmosis. So for us, forward osmosis is something that we do in a few very unique areas. The ones that are public is, you know, our application that we’re developing with Gallo for the wine industry.

We have something that we’re also doing in a couple of other beverage spaces. We have a partnership with a company in Canada with whom we are working on some potential applications in the lithium space. We have a couple of things like that, that we’re doing, but it’s extremely, extremely, extremely targeted,

Aquaporin’s Strategiy Focus and Partnerships

Antoine Walter: which makes me wondering, it sounds like you have a good path to use the technology and make money in the aerospace, which you would use to fund the Ford Osmosis space.

But that means you need to have a strong belief that it will happen in Ford Osmosis. If not, it’s like you’re using your hardly earned pocket money to then finance ventures, which might or might not take off. So what is your market assumption there? What is the kind of big vertical? And I’m going to give you a hint, which is usually what people tell me, which is the zero liquid discharge market in India.

If that one takes off as big as expected, then it justifies whatever we put into bringing in a better mousetrap. Do you have this kind of big, big bet that you’re saying that market is going to explode? We need to have our effort ready by then

Matt Boczkowski: we have sector specific bets. We are working on an application in concentrating grape juice to a certain extent at a certain level in the wine industry.

There is a few very, very large wineries in the world that this could translate into very large effort systems for those companies. The reason why I’m mentioning this is that the development that we’re doing. in this particular case with Gallo allows us to create a large scalable FO that we can then apply to a couple of other areas.

The zero liquid discharge thing that you mentioned, we actually got out of that. It was a very big focus for us initially. We really wanted to be part of the zero liquid discharge in India, and we had been selected by fashion for good. We’ve been selected to do all sorts of trials. In the end, we had a really cool opportunity to treat textile wastewater.

And it had to be justified by a small investment of I think 000 euros into a pilot unit. All those local companies that were very interested in this. Well, 20, 000 euros was too much for them. And so it went nowhere. And to me, that was a bit of a hint. I’m like, okay, well, look, if we’re spending all this time on this and We have a cool solution and the company isn’t even willing to invest 20, 000 euros to build a pilot in India for India with local, uh, parts, local labor, everything, you know, so it stays there.

It’s also good for, for the local economy and for the local people. Why continue if no one’s really interested, they’re interested in paper, but in reality, when they have to put money to something, they’re not. So we get out of that. So our strategy in a foe is actually very, very, very niche is we have to work in areas that create something.

Very unique and different for the customer. So wine is one of them because they’re a super cool partner. We are indirectly looking at lithium as well. We believe that our FO plays a actually a really interesting part of a lithium purification flow sheet. We are looking also at some applications in the medical device industry.

We actually don’t have this way of looking at it that, Hey, if this. Segment picks up. We have our Eiffel products. We’re just going to be pushing them into that segment. When we look at it a little bit the other way around, we say, okay, if there is a niche segment for which we can generate a really good solution and this solution either creates a better product, you can imagine that we create a better, let’s say coffee concentrate and the coffee tastes way better than what you can get today in the market.

Then to us, this is a super cool application because it’s enough for us to drive the Eiffel business. At Aquaporin to have, let’s say something successful in wine and coffee and some of those medical device application that is big enough for us. And I truly believe that the strategy that we took to focus on those very, very niche segments with customers that have run pilots, they’ve tested the products.

They’ve actually many cases they’ve tasted them. They’ve done all the analysis. And they’ve given us the thumbs up. That’s where we put our effort. Like that’s where we push. I

Antoine Walter: have one remark and then one question. The first remark is it’s pretty funny that you mentioned coffee and wine, because to my knowledge, Trevor system is working on beer.

So maybe that is a direction which makes a ton of sense for forward technologies. The second is, is a question where I guess your answer, can you. mentioned the name of the Canadian company you’re working with for lithium topics. I

Matt Boczkowski: think it’s Forward Water is who we’re working with.

Antoine Walter: And so it’s part of the lithium refining

Matt Boczkowski: part, or is it part of the direct lithium extraction?

To be honest with you, I don’t have a lot of information about the process. It’s something that they are running to pilot. They are doing a lot of the work. What I know is that they share with us the data and they share with us what they’re getting in terms of performance with our membranes. And then that’s how we know that, okay, we’re going the right direction or not.

Antoine Walter: Which gives me a good segue to explain a bit your scope and then I have also David advocate question for you but let’s start with the

Matt Boczkowski: segway

Antoine Walter: you are a membrane company into the purest possible sense of that expression you are developing and building membranes because. Many membrane company end up doing modules skids whatever needs to be done in the vertical to get it adopted by the market but you stayed in your lane and you said we are membrane specialist first is that right and second.

Transcribed Why?

Matt Boczkowski: So it’s, it’s almost right in the small scale FO application. We offer small systems. We are actually in the process of finalizing standardized systems for FO that are going to be using either four or eight membrane modules. And that is sometimes good enough for certain applications.

Like for instance, in the aroma industry, you don’t deal with very high flows, but it makes sense that you provide the full system because you have in the combination of the draw solution. And the FO solution together, and you can optimize it so that the customer gets as much of a turnkey solution as possible.

So when the scale is small and FO, we offer systems and a point of view space for large accounts, we will also source a system and we will sell a purifier. So it’s not just the membrane in this case, but when it comes to industrial water, there, we don’t get into the system space. We really provide only membranes.

And the reason is that we branched out quite far already from our core competence. When you look at. Our core competence being biotechnology, then that developed into, we brought in people that are membrane chemists that can make really good coatings that can figure out how to reduce membrane fouling and so on.

Then we brought in experts that can help us with membrane rolling. How can we roll a membrane in a way that is a bit more efficient than what’s done in the market, or at least meet some of the top players in the market. So we have those competences in house. We also work with partners that are able to help us scale up production.

So we can produce Millions and millions of flat sheet on our own, but we have partners with whom we work that can produce, you know, 20 millions and more square meters of flat sheet a year. So that’s how we meet our kind of scale of production for membranes. All of that also allows us to decrease the cost of production.

But now if we were to venture into offering systems, it now means that we have to bring in more engineers. We have to bring in a specialist that can design electrical and so on instrumentation. And I think we can work with. Partners in the industry to offer such solutions so we don’t have to do it in house on our own.

But we haven’t done that in this industrial membrane space yet. It just isn’t part of our strategy. We want to focus on getting the traction with the membrane technology first. And then if we want to expand in the future, once we reach break even and we’re looking for Alternative ways to expand our growth.

It could be something that we look at in the future, but it just isn’t part of our strategy. I mean, we already have enough that we’re doing. I think it would be just too much for where we are with our capacities today. But it’s interesting

Antoine Walter: from a strategy perspective, exactly. Because if I try to recall the conversations I’ve had on that microphone with other membrane companies, which are trying to push something, which is aside from conventional.

PVDF or polyethyl sulfone membranes. If I look at the ceramic guys, the conversation I had with, uh, Sebastian Andreassen from Cembrane on that microphone with LiqTech. If I look at even the new waves, like what ZwitterCo is doing, they all start with that strategy of we focus on the membrane, we build the scale.

And when we have the scale, then our costs are good. And when the costs are good, then you look only at the benefits and it’s going to sell. But then they bump into the problem, which you mentioned in the very beginning, which is that When there is an incumbent technology which is very well known, well, the barrier to adoption is so big that I can google how to design a reverse osmosis, I will find some images which tell me roughly how to build my skid.

If I google how to do a forward osmosis application, Chances are I’m getting lost and I’m saying, yeah, you know what, do I really to take all the headache for 20 or 30 percent better performance, which is huge, but might not be huge enough for me to take the risk. So what all the others have done is that they’ve gone into the modules and the systems, not by choice, but because they were forced because of market adoption.

So what you’re saying is that you take that bold move to say, no, we will make it so good that people can’t just skip it. It’s, it’s, it’s. Obvious that is the technology of choice.

Matt Boczkowski: What you’re referring to is I think when you have large scale apps, so for instance, if we are working with small systems with small skids, we can do this ourselves.

Like we have a partner that is able to build, we’ve already delivered three small systems. That are working quite well. We are building another one now that is going to be fully automated. So this, we have the capabilities to do that. I think the challenge happens when you start to scale up and you’re starting to get into systems that have, you know, thousands of FOM memory elements.

That is where you get a little bit outside of our scope of what we can execute as a company. But so we have today the re application. That could lead to those very, very large K labs and in those three applications in each particular case, there is an engineering company that is involved. That is part of this close journey that we have with the customer and that engineering company would take the scope to build and develop the project with us.

And so we would provide process expertise. Expertise on the draw solution and the feed solution, how to automate that and so on. But we have some really good engineering companies that are part of the circle because the end customers that we’re working with are really high profile customers. So they allow us to bring in a couple of partners in those small circles of applications that we’re developing.

It’s also why we look at the market. In a very narrow niche lens. When we work with a company like Gallog, they actually have very strong engineering capabilities. They actually learned with us on how this works and uh, of course I can’t speak on their behalf, but I’m sure that there will be a very high interest from them on the engineering of such a project when the scale up happens.

Our conversations with forward water on the on lithium are very similar. They have partnerships that would allow them to execute a large engineered. Project.

Matt Boczkowski: And we have a one more application that is touching produced water. And so in produced water, that is also an area where we have a partner that has delivered a lot of systems in the past are familiar with things like water injection, produced water treatment, and so on.

And they have expressed a strong desire to be involved with us. If the scale up from pilot goes to a full scale project. So we try to organize it that way.

Partnerships and Scaling Up

Matt Boczkowski: So we have all the parties involved from the beginning because I see it in a way that when we prove the concept, which we have in those three applications, we go to the pilot and we demonstrate that we have now a way to scale up from something that requires hundreds or thousands of membranes when we’ve proven that.

And the customer is ready to now make the next investment and say, okay, now let’s scale this up. We just can’t afford to get it wrong. So we have to have the right partners in it from the beginning that believe in us, that believe in the technology, that have this trust of the customer as well. You

Antoine Walter: mentioned partners, you mentioned super high profile.

You have mentioned Gallo and Philips. If I’m right, 90 percent of your revenue comes from five customers. So I would expect Gallo and Philips to be two of those five. Before I go into that route of your go to markets, there is one which maybe is already part of this five or which would have the profile to become one of the five and hence become the six probably in the future.

It’s what you’re doing with PUB on reverse hospitalis. Can you tell me that story? Because it sounds like kind of a game changing.

PUB Collaboration

Matt Boczkowski: Yeah, I mean, PUB for us, it’s a customer with whom we’ve been working for quite some time. We have a strong technical and research team in Singapore that Singapore team has been working closely with the PUB for a number of years.

It all started by trying to develop a more energy efficient membrane in order to meet some of the energy efficiency goals that the PUB has set. And so we’ve piloted with them for over a year. And in this pilot, we’ve demonstrated approximately 30 percent energy efficiency compared to the targets that they had set.

in order to implement a new technology. And so we’ve done this, we’ve passed that pilot test, and we recently installed 500 membranes at the PUB, so they can run a trial on a full train and see what is the performance of a coporn membrane in that full train. That’s what we’re doing now. And so, We expect that the results of that are going to confirm the energy efficiency.

The PV is an excellent reference, but it’s also a very, very difficult reference because they have really high standards. They look at not just energy, you know, they look at so many different things. It’s hard for a company like us to meet every single specifications that they have. We figured if we can get that challenge, right, if we can meet the expectations and demonstrate the energy efficiency, that gives us a really, really valuable reference today, we have a small.

Applications. Some of them maybe are in the order of a hundred membranes max with Aqualia, for instance, in some of the areas in Spain, we believe that demonstrating this larger scale with the PUB is going to sort of accelerate how we also are perceived by OEMs in other parts of the world. And give us this ability to bid projects that have a higher number of membrane elements.

You know, in Singapore, some of the water reuse plans, they have up to 10, 000 membrane elements. The ultimate goal would be to eventually go from this trial that we’re doing with the PUB to be approved. Be on their vendors list, be one of the recommended technology providers. And have access to bidding some of those really large membrane projects.

That’s where I would like to see the company maybe in the next year or two.

Antoine Walter: Which brings me to my devil’s advocate question. I had held in the fridge before, which is you’re working with PUB. You drew a pilot with PUB. The pilot’s successful proves that you’re. RO technology is 30 percent better than the threshold that they had set.

You go to the next stage, which is to have this 500 membranes, which might again prove that you have this 30 percent better energy efficiency than the threshold. You might go into the 10, 000 modulish plans of new water, which then opens you the door because once you’re validated by Singapore, basically you’re in one of the most well known and ranked places in the words when it comes to water technology.

So it’s like having the stamp which says. Good to go for the main market.

Forward Osmosis vs. Reverse Osmosis

Antoine Walter: Isn’t it a sunk cost fallacy for you to keep pushing forward osmosis when you have that potential wonder child in the making with reverse osmosis?

Matt Boczkowski: I don’t think so because in forward osmosis, there are some applications that have a strong scale up potential.

A lot of the things that we do and that we develop is in partnerships with the companies that help us to do this scale up, we don’t do Everything on our own. For instance, when we make the RO membranes, we are working with partners that are helping us to develop the right quality flat sheet with our formulation.

When we work in FO, we work with fiber providers that help us figure out how to optimize our coatings. Or we optimize the codings and then we try to work with them on how to scale up the fibers and so on. Our goal is to establish a supply chain that can do a lot of the activities that are required for us to scale up.

We’re 76, 77 people at, at Aquaporin. We can’t do all of it on our own. And I think where we are with FO, we are putting in the right resources for the applications that we can get, but we’re not taking on more challenges in FO. Maybe that’s another way to look at it. So it answers your question a little bit because we’re not.

Looking at the water challenges in the world and how can we address this with FO? It’s absolutely not that vision. It’s more of a vision of what is really unique and what can we go after and what has a high chance of success and what has a high market potential. So this year, for instance, we have the Gallo project that we’re developing.

We have a partnership with flavor tech, who is one of the leaders in the aroma industry that we’re working with on a few applications. We have something that we’re developing in produced water. There is something for the medical device industry that we’re also looking at. I mean, this is, you know, it’s four applications.

We can do this with our current team. There’s a ton of cross use of the products. So the product that we develop in one area can be used in the other. It doesn’t really necessarily require that much additional work for us to do that. I think the way we are organized is good for what we have, what we would like to deliver.

If one of those applications are going to scale up successfully, and they’re going to demonstrate that what we have promised to the customers is indeed working out. Then we’ll look at a scale up in terms of repeatability. Our growth info is going to depend on the success of one of those applications.

So if you take coffee, if we’re successful in coffee, we’re going to do more coffee aroma type of applications. So that’s how I look at it.

Product Portfolio and Market Strategy

Antoine Walter: You mentioned how you’re 76 people working for Aquaporin now. If I look at your product portfolio, you have five industrial aero membrane families. So classic fouling resistant plus ultra and echo.

Each of these families has again, four subcategories in terms of sizes. You have a point of use reverse osmosis membrane line with again, four sizes inside. You have a forward osmosis line, which if I’m right, has also four sizes inside. And you have two water purifiers where you build the full unit.

That’s a lot of products for a 70 ish headcount team. How do you handle all of that? And does it mean that some of these products are kind of test things, which you just push out? And if they don’t work, then you would kill them. And focus on the ones which would work.

Matt Boczkowski: Yeah, there’s a bit of both here. Um, of course there are certain products that we push out and we look how they perform.

And then if we have a better product that’s been developed, then we phase out the former product and we replace it by the better one. We have this kind of multi generational development on the drinking water flat sheet. So, you know, we initially had what we call the tap water or TWRO flat sheet and we then developed the drinking water flat sheet.

So it’s basically a different flat sheet with a modified formulation. That actually performs better in terms of flow and rejection. So we replaced the former product. So there is a strategy of not keeping all this product portfolio. When we know that there’s a second product that can do things equally or better than the previous one and at a better price with a better supply chain.

So then we will phase out the former product in drinking water. We have the drinking water flat sheet. And then we have a couple of different grades of that drinking water flat sheet. So we have a certain flow, then we have a higher flow and a much higher flow. The way that we look at stuff in drinking water is in terms of really all about energy efficiency and giving the most water in the smallest footprint possible for the membrane element.

Then when we look at the brackish space, we actually had to develop a number of different membranes because when we speak to potential customers and you’re looking at certain large distributors. They like to work with us, but they can’t just give us their business and have one membrane from a component.

They need to have at least an equivalent of what they’re selling from their other suppliers. So that means a few rejection levels. And the way that we actually create membranes is we start with a certain flat sheet, a certain type of rejection. And then we work on improving the flow of that membrane without impacting the rejection too much.

That’s what allows us to create a portfolio of products. And again, because we do everything with partners, it’s something that, you We asked them, okay, what do they have in their portfolio? What kind of flat sheets are they able to produce? And then we say, great. Okay. You have these and these types of rejection.

Now we need to work with you on applying the Acaporn inside formulation. We spend quite a bit of time in doing this, and then we create, let’s say two or three types of rejections. And flows for the production line of those partners. It’s a long way to answer your, uh, your, your question, but we do have, you know, we you’re right.

We do have a lot of products. It is a lot of work on the supply chain side, but it is driven by what the market expects from a membrane company. And I think that’s the part maybe that is the most challenging is that you get into this membrane space from biotechnology and then you realize, okay, if I want to be in the drinking water space, that’s fine.

I can figure this out with the purifiers. It’s not that specific in terms of how many different types of membranes you have. But when you go into the industrial water space, you have. a ton of membranes. And, you know, I remember from the GE days, looking at the membrane portfolio, you have pages and pages of membranes, and then you have four inch, eight inch, 440, 400 square foot.

Like you very quickly end up having a huge portfolio. So I think in comparison to that, our portfolio is really, really small, but for a small company like Aquaporin, it is a lot of products on which we have to keep minimum order quantities on which we have to ensure that we can deliver quickly to our distributors.

Antoine Walter: So yeah, it is, it is a lot. It’s super interesting because now it’s two or three times that you mentioned the same thing, which is that drinking water is, yeah, it’s, it’s okay. It’s manageable. And industrial water is much more difficult. And that’s super counterintuitive because I would expect that especially if you go into point of use under the sink applications in drinking water, you would have to have a ton of certificates to hold and safety standards and legislations.

Whereas, you know, if something breaks in the industrial wastewater world, well, Yeah. It’s a big problem for the industrial, but at the end of the day, if they have a tank, they just put everything in a tank and they solve their problem and then they clean the tank. So is it really like that? You need to be super, super detailed in your offering industrial world, which is a burden for a product company, but in drinking water is straightforward or are you just minimizing because to you it’s your daily bread.

So drinking water is. Yeah, it’s hard if you start from scratch, but if you know what you’re doing,

Matt Boczkowski: it’s okay. It depends on what you sell in drinking water. For instance, if you take what we’re selling to Phillips in China, we have to meet some requirements on the flat sheet. And so we provide just the flat sheet, then how it’s rolled into the element, how the element is used in a point of use, purifier, and all that is actually on the responsibility of our customer.

So a lot of this burden that would go into is the membrane meeting the minimum rejection requirements is the membrane meeting the minimum hardness requirements. People in China, for instance, when they get a purifier, the first thing they do, they check the TDS levels and the membrane has to meet that.

But that’s something we get as a spec from our customer. In this case, from Phillips water solutions, we have to deliver on that. But it’s their responsibility towards the end consumer for us. That’s the part that makes it a bit easier to manage. Actually, if I look at some of the companies in the U S that we are discussing, it’s all about NSF certification and some of them have different requirements.

So in some cases, yeah, it can take up to a year to figure out all the different NSF requirements, but some other companies have lighter NSF requirements because. They’re OK with a certain level of criteria. Some other ones want to have more tests done. So it’s also very customer specific. At the end of the day, both customers get the NSF stamp, but it’s really on them to dictate what is it that they want to see.

So I might have made it sound like it’s easier. It’s not that it’s easier. I think it’s just, we have a few large customers that we’re working with, and we’re trying to make it as clear as possible as to what is it that they need. In order to be able to sell their products in a select number of geographies, for instance, in Turkey, it was the same conversation.

They had a certain number of things they needed to have done for Turkey. So we worked with our supplier to pass those requirements onto them and they ensured that the purifier box met those requirements. We ensured that the membrane met the ones on the membrane and then the full package was then certified and ready to go.

You mentioned a

Revenue Diversification and Growth

Antoine Walter: few key customers you have and I already mentioned how you have five customers, which represents 90 percent of your sales. I would see two ways to look at that. The first is it’s great because it’s streamlined your strategy. You have to focus on the needs of those five. The other is. It’s a risk if you lose one, it’s a big section of your sales, which is going away.

So how do you

Matt Boczkowski: deal with that? You’re right. It’s, it’s a risk and we would like to have more key accounts. I’d like that. Maybe that number is not five, but maybe 10. And we are working towards that. This is absolutely right. It’s something that comes up very often in our discussions that we need to have a way to have more accounts of significant revenue so that we can de risk the revenue profile of the company.

The timing to get solutions to the market in industrial water and for osmosis is a bit longer. So. The initial diversification that is happening now is we have additional customers that we’re developing in a point of view segment. So we have five large global brands with whom we’re working today where we would like to introduce Aquaporin inside as a key component of their technology and also do this sort of co branding strategy where it says like it does for Philips, a Philips purifier powered by Aquaporin inside.

So I’d like to have maybe an additional four large customers in the drinking water space. That have the similar approach that we do with Phillips. And it’s been about a year now in the development, and we are now transitioning the conversation from technical to marketing. So that’s just how it works. We spend the first six to 12 months doing technical assessments.

Then the next part, once you get the check from the technical team, Then you go to the marketing team and that conversation tends to be a lot easier for us because of some of the proof points that we have in the marketing side already. So that’s one way in which we’re diversifying. And then with FO and in industrial water, for instance, the thing we talked about with the PUB, when we get, let’s say our first large member in order as a consequence of having that reference, That also diversifies where the revenue is coming from.

You can actually see already a shift in our revenue profile. I think two years ago it was closer to 80 20 in terms of residential to non residential. Then it shifted to about 70 30 last year, 65 35. We’re going into this, uh, kind of 50 50 split. That’s, that’s where we’d like to be, you know, four or

Antoine Walter: five years from now.

You work on that transition in your sales and how you want to build up and I guess, keep developing the sales.

Financial Challenges and Capital Raising

Antoine Walter: I have a positive first, which is if we look at your sales, you mentioned how when you joined and before the IPO, you were around 1 million, but you tripled your sales in 2022. You doubled again in 2023 and you’re projecting to double again in 2024.

So that means that on that sales trajectory, it’s taking off not to the extent probably of the. IPO documents, but still it’s taking off the other side of that coin is you’re not profitable yet and you’re projecting to reach profitability in 2 to 3 years. One of the downsides we discussed being public is that everybody looks at all your results and you ended up last year being pretty short on cash.

Which you’ve solved beginning of this year because you’ve raised 25 million. So you’re again, floating for at least long enough for your strategy to come into force. How stressful is that as the CEO of the company?

Matt Boczkowski: That is one thing that took me a bit of getting used to this idea that, okay, you are using your resources to generate sales.

Of course that makes sense, but you know, you have a whole company that you’re running, there’s people’s livelihood depend on the income that they make at Aquavor. And so there is a huge sense of responsibility. And so. This idea that you have to go to the market and raise money and ensure that you have the money to reach a break even is stressful.

You can’t get it out from always being top of mind on the back of your head. I mean, it’s always there, but you know, you have to find a way to deal with it. Aquaporin has some really, really fantastic shareholders. We have people that have been on the Ecoporin journey for some of them for over 10 years.

They’ve always supported us. We did this capital injection, not the one that with the rights issue now, but the one before and the major shareholders all came through. We did this rights issue. And again, they were there to support us. So knowing that we have this kind of support does alleviate a little bit of that risk.

Despite all the regulatory aspects of being a listed company. One of the things that’s Also really, really good is that you have a board of directors that is a very professional board of directors that also has high visibility and is accountable for the decisions of the company. And that board is really good at helping us with raising the money, with identifying potential shareholders, existing shareholders.

And that’s what allows me to sort of, you know, sleep at night during those times of capital increase that things are going to work out and that they have worked out for us, APO in the small injection we did thereafter. And now in this rights issue, I think one of the things that is important to say about the rights issues that we really hope and believe that this is the last capital increase that we’re doing.

This is where this break even becomes really important because we have raised the money with the site that within two to three years, we’re going to have that break even situation. And then at that point, You know, we should be able to self sustain the operation of the company. So that’s the kind of direction in which we’re going.

Antoine Walter: But breakeven can be a target or can be a consequence. I’ll give you an example from my conversation with Peter Christou from Swirltex. He was saying that Swirltex is nearing the breakeven and he would wish that it wasn’t the case because he would rather focus on growth and then profitability will end up happening at some point as a consequence of that.

If you’re saying that’s the last capital raise you’re doing, then that means that profitability becomes your North Star. So isn’t that somewhat of an impediment of maybe your growth? Or is it a necessary avail? You need to build a strong capital base. Foundation on which you can then build the next stage of the company

Matt Boczkowski: i think it’s the latter i think achieving break even is what our shareholders that invest in a company want to see this is something that we promised to them and i think this is going to demonstrate that.

Has been true to the word that this is the last couple increase. For them, that is necessary to achieve breakeven. That’s how I look at that sort of first, if you want stage of the company. Then I think once we’re profitable, this opens up a new stage of the company. And of course you can always go out to the markets as a listed company.

But I think when you do that, when you reach breakeven, it’s a very different conversation in terms of bringing new investors into the company or part of this, this rights issue that we’ve done. When you’re our size in terms of revenue, you’re not necessarily that appealing to the larger investors. They want to see companies that make a hundred million dollars or they definitely have broken even and have demonstrated growth.

Then you get on the radar in a more meaningful way and they’re looking to invest. There’s a lot of money actually out there that wants to invest money in companies and the water space is. Was and is still very attractive, but I think we, we need to get to a profitability. We need to demonstrate that we have been able to deliver on that.

And that opens up new opportunities for Aquaporin. That’s why we’re kind of looking this in a two phased way. We have what we need to get to break even. Then we take the company from there into, you know, sort of the second stage of growth, if you want.

Future Vision and Technological Aspirations

Antoine Walter: So that leads me to my closing question in this deep dive, which is kind of a crystal ball question, which is always the most difficult questions for.

a listed company, because that’s typically the kind of questions you’re not allowed to answer, but I’ll try my luck. You mentioned the second stage of growth. Where did you see aquaporin in five years, in 10 years? You mentioned 100 million. Is that an aspirational target or is it like just you will do it?

Try to take that reasonable growth and wherever it takes you, it takes you.

Matt Boczkowski: You’re spot on in the saying that it’s a tough question for our listed company, because we talk about what’s publicly available, right? So where do I want to see the company in five years? I think we are breakeven in five years. I have this vision of the company that there’s one aspect we didn’t talk about, but I think it has to do with our core technology.

What we call the core technology at Aquaporin is really the, the Aquaporin protein. And it’s an additive that is used today in membranes. It should be looked at as an additive in the same way that people use different chemical additives. We have this biological additive. It’s been a really big challenge for us to find a way to easily incorporate this stabilized formulation into a sort of agnostic way.

into let’s say a membrane from a Veolia, a membrane from Drupal, a membrane from somebody else. It’s not easy. It’s people need to open up their chemistry. You need to figure out how to make the two work and so on. But one of the things that I have asked our technology team is to try to figure out how could we make this aquaporin protein structure a little bit more agnostic to the polyamide layer that we’re working with.

And I would really like us to be in a few years with that technology. at a level where we could have a very meaningful conversation with a film tech membrane or with a Veolia membrane and say, Hey, you know what? We have this structure that you can’t get anywhere else. And this structure, we know exactly how to make it work on your membrane.

And by working on your membrane, we’re going to give it an extra 20, 30, whatever percent increase. If we could do that for someone’s desalination membrane, I think that opens up some super cool opportunity that We haven’t had the chance to address today is the kind of thing that excites me about aquaporin.

So five years from now, I would like that to be a reality. I can’t give you what kind of revenue contribution is going to give to the company because it depends on what business model we would go after with such an offering. But I would like that to be the case where we have this building block that we can, with a lot of certainty and maybe ease, polyamide layer.

Then I’d like us to have success with Gallo. If you ask me five years, there’s an FO project standing that’s concentrating grape juice that is actually doing stuff in the wine industry in a very, very different way that it’s done today. And I can’t say much more about it, but that is sort of, to me, success in FO is, is that project.

You’re very

Antoine Walter: right in saying that there’s so much more we should have discussed.

Space Mission and Branding

Antoine Walter: And that’s just a sign that we have to take that to the prequel of A next one, there’s a lot which I like to cover, but I’d like to have one very last one in this deep dive, which is about outer space right now, if I’m right, your products are in the International Space Station.

What can you tell me about that one, which is not top secret?

Matt Boczkowski: No, not top secret. So our products are back from the International Space Station. We actually unboxed them here at Aquaporin and we received the unit back. So what we’re doing there is in 2015, we’ve sent our first EFU module. To be tested to extract water from, uh, an astronaut’s urine.

And the idea was to figure out how can we reuse as much water as possible for space exploration, for space journeys. And in 2015, the feedback we got is that all the modules, all the cables were all getting tangled up and everything. It was kind of a funny to hear the astronauts speak about this. Cause he’s like, Hey guys, like we need to make this a bit easier for me when I’m in space, you know, no gravity.

So keep this in mind. This year we sent our FO units. That in a really sort of nice prepackaged way and the feedback we got is that this was the simplest experiment he’s ever done. So, you know, for on that level, mission accomplished. But what we’re trying to figure out is how can you reuse, well, practically as close as possible to 100 percent of the water in a space environment.

Because if we’re ever thinking about, you know, going further and further out in space, I mean, there’s a ton of things we have to figure out before for us to ask humanity to do that. But one of the things you have to figure out is how to reuse water. And that’s the part that we decided that, okay, let’s be part of this journey.

Let’s try to work with a European space agency. And then with NASA to figure out how can this be done? A bunch of tests were conducted. The results are being now analyzed. So we have to see what the results yielded, what the results provided to us. This is not, you know, a money generating endeavor for Aquaporin.

We get some sponsorships. We get some money reimbursed, but it’s nothing that has a significant impact on the bottom line of the company. It’s fantastic from a branding perspective. It’s fantastic from a technology perspective. It gets a lot of people very excited to work on this project at Aquaporin.

It’s something that is very close to our DNA because we do a ton of stuff through open innovation collaborations. So we’re really proud of everything that this has done for the company because We have been on the news in Denmark quite a lot, actually, since the leader of the space mission was Danish.

We got him to talk about our membrane. We got to meet him. We had some of our people from the technology team do a couple of kids shows on how to reuse water from urine and wastewater. So it gave us a ton of traction and a ton of visibility. So that’s been probably the biggest perk of

Antoine Walter: the space mission for us.

It’s interesting because it goes along what we said in the very beginning, which is that’s part of your branding platform. That probably gives you a lot of earned media, which many companies in the sector would kill to have. So that’s one thing. The other thing is I’m going to steal some wisdom from a conversation I had with John Wibley from Travis System about what you’re saying about it doesn’t make money today.

Yeah. But they are, and I’m not quite sure about the number, but 30, 000 something islands in the world and on an island, it can be troublesome to get energy. It can be troublesome to get water and all that kind of stuff, which means it’s not outer space, but it’s what resembles the most outer space on earth.

Yeah. And having a good system to deal with that might be a way to have a water source, which is sustainable. So I understand what you’re saying about, it’s not money generating. I would add the word today at the end, because maybe someone down the line that might be. The second third of fourth wave of growth S curve, which you have on your path, which makes me a clear conclusion, which is that you have to be back and not too late in the future because we have much more to discuss.

But for today I have to be cautious of your time. So I propose you to switch to the rapid fire questions.

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Rapid fire questions:

Antoine Walter: What is the toughest challenge in your opinion for a water tech startup? I think it’s to get your first repeat customers. What would be your best single piece of advice for the founders and managers of the about 1, 000 early stage water startups? I think

Matt Boczkowski: it’s to focus on one application and make it successful, get that reference, and use that to grow other applications thereafter.

What’s the drop of knowledge you wish more investors knew about the water sector? That a lot of the growth is incremental. People tend to look for those home runs, you know, like in the pharma industry, where you get a clinical trial and then like, boom, you’re a billion dollar company. No, the water space is incremental and it’s a big problem for the planet as to what is happening with our water situation.

So they have to look at it that their gains are also going to be incremental as the technologies are. And it’s how it is, but they have to look at it from a lens of doing something also for the greater good and not. Just from an investment point of view.

Antoine Walter: I’m not opening the segway, I’m planting a seed.

That’s true if you’re a water company. If you’re a biotech, it might be slightly different. And if I’m right, you qualify yourself as a biotech and as a water company. So maybe the biotech could be. But yeah, I’m not opening the segway.

Matt Boczkowski: Rapid fire. What’s your most unexpected

Antoine Walter: partnership and what did it bring you?

Matt Boczkowski: So the most unexpected partnerships have been our collaborators on the flat sheet membrane. I think we have a partnership with a company in China, and it’s incredible how the pace at which things get done in China is out of this world. You say something on a Monday, it’s done on a Tuesday. And that for a startup or a scale up company is really valuable because your time is limited as long as your resources are limited.

So you need to act fast and China acts. Extremely,

Antoine Walter: extremely fast. I think you already answered the next one, but I’m going to ask nevertheless, profitability or growth? Growth. Interesting. I was expecting profitability, but okay. It’s a good one. What’s the next profile you’ll hire? Sales. When you hire, are you looking for sector experience or startup experience?

Sector experience. Opening new markets or doubling down on the current ones? Doubling down. What’s that tool nobody speaks about but you couldn’t

Matt Boczkowski: live without? I think I could not live without Google right now. It’s incredible how much information is available for free. If you know what to look for, how to look for it, and how to use it.

It’s kind of a bit of a basic answer, but I would say, yeah, like I, a lot of our stuff that we do is we use the internet and Google and

Antoine Walter: the information is publicly available. I think it’s a good one. It’s good to have a reminder sometimes that to have the shiny things, you need the basic stuff and internet today is on the bottom of the Maslow parameter.

What’s the single piece of insight your ideal customer profile needs to hear right now? I think that if our customers are looking for a differentiated value proposition, I think we have that. What are you desperately needing and

Matt Boczkowski: want to raise an open call for right now? We are looking at Aquaporin to commercialize industrial brackish membranes in China.

We’re going to be at WaterTech and I think that’s something that’s, you know, if anyone who listens from your podcast in China wants to come and see us, they should do that. The other thing is the U. S. For us, the U. S. are very much an untapped business. And we are going to be looking at the U. S. also for as an area of growth.

I also would welcome very much conversations with the U. S. particular companies, particularly drinking water side. I think a lot of them have fantastic products are sold globally. So this is something that we’re actively trying to do

Antoine Walter: right now. Have you ever podcast? The Water Entrepreneur? Okay. I need to put you in contact with him because in the rapid fire question, I had him.

on the microphone when he was launching his podcast, the set of questions was slightly different. And I can’t remember what my question exactly was, but his answer was that the technology company, which he would like to see in the future is a technology leveraging aquaporins. And I was like, you know, there’s a company doing that.

So I think that is a good link to make. And it’s It’s super well connected in the US ecosystem. So, and it’s a very cool podcast. That’s a recommendation I would make for free to, to anyone, but yeah, just connecting the dots last question. What’s Ken and should I do for you besides introducing it to people?

Matt Boczkowski: I think you just answered that now, but I think that, you know, We want to get more visibility. We keep wanting to get more visibility. So I think just doing what we’re doing here today, hosting this webcast, allowing us to reach more customers, getting people curious about Acapuliran, any kind of introductions based on what you’ve heard from me, based on some of the other people that you spoke to in the past.

If you see some of the dots that you could connect, that would be extremely, extremely valuable for us because I can’t do that. I mean, I can try. But you have the super cool privilege to have those podcasters. So if you see some of those links, I would really, really appreciate it. Well,

Antoine Walter: happy to connect the dots if I can.

Where can I redirect people to connect with you after that conversation? If they want to follow up,

Matt Boczkowski: I think people can email me. My email is on our website. They can really easily reach out to me that way. If they reach out to you personally, you have my email too. They can absolutely send me an email. If they would like to have a bit more information, just generally speaking about the company, we try to keep our website, not just nice and sexy, but also up to date so they can have the information there too.

We try to make it as user

Antoine Walter: friendly as possible. As always, the links to all of that are in the description. So check them out. Matt, I guess that’s. Editing magic is going to make our conversation look like it was super flowing, despite the technical difficulties, which we had during the recording, because the platform was really glitchy.

It was a super pleasure to have you. Nevertheless. Thanks a lot for all the openness in everything you shared and I’m looking forward to the next steps. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much Antoine.

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