How Swirltex Nearly Crushed Its Founder Before Taking Off

Peter Christou had a water membrane epiphany in his garage in Edmonton. But a terrible timing and some financial difficulties of one of his investors basically turned him… homeless, and in the need to steal food to survive. As Swirltex has since soared and proved its worth, let’s explore the full story:

with 🎙️ Peter Christou – President & Founder at Swirltex

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🔗 Swirltex’s Website:

🔗 Come say Hi to Peter on LinkedIn:

🔗 My conversation with one of Peter’s Investor, John Robinson:

🔗 Mazarine Ventures’ website:

🔗 Alberta Innovates’ website:

🔗 The Creative Destruction Labs:

🔗 E3 Lithium:

🔗 LithiumBank:

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The Beginning: A Garage and a Vision

It all began in a modest garage, not unlike many startup stories, except this one wasn’t nestled in the tech hub of Silicon Valley, but in the colder, quieter city of Edmonton. Peter Christou, then an eager entrepreneur with a background in engineering, was experimenting with water membranes specifically designed for oil-water separation. The conventional membranes he worked with were failing due to clogging—a problem caused by the small, oily particles that stuck stubbornly to their surfaces. This issue is rampant in the industry, especially in applications dealing with high grease or colloidal contents.

Frustrated by the inefficacies of existing technologies, Christou envisioned a new approach—instead of altering the membrane materials, why not change the fluid dynamics around them? This idea sparked the beginning of Swirltex, a company that would soon revolutionize the membrane industry by manipulating buoyancy and flow to prevent contaminants from fouling the membrane’s surface.

The Hardship: Financial Collapse and Personal Despertion

As Peter delved deeper into developing his technology, the initial excitement was quickly overshadowed by severe financial strain. The downturn was catalyzed by the 2016 elections, which led to a market crash affecting his primary investor. Overnight, the financial rug was pulled out from under Swirltex, leaving Christou not only penniless but homeless. During this dire time, he resorted to stealing food to survive, a testament to how low the journey of entrepreneurship can drag its dreamers.

Turning Point: A Breakthrough in Antarctica

Despite these hardships, Christou’s resolve did not waver. He pressed on and soon received an unexpected opportunity to test his process in one of the world’s most unforgiving landscapes—Antarctica. This project not only proved the technology’s effectiveness in extreme conditions but also highlighted its environmental benefits. By injecting air at high pressures and using a unique swirling motion, Swirltex was able to significantly increase the efficiency of water treatment processes, reducing energy use by 70% compared to traditional methods.

The success in Antarctica became a pivotal moment for Swirltex, attracting media attention and investment that would revive the struggling startup. This exposure was crucial, as it came at a time when Christou had been living out of a crawl space, a stark reminder of the thin line between failure and success in the world of innovation.

Expansion and Growth: New Markets and New Opportunities

Buoyed by the success of its Antarctic expedition, Swirltex began to expand its reach. The technology was particularly well-suited for industries that traditional membranes had failed, such as mining, food and beverage, and especially oil and gas—sectors where high-contaminant loads had previously made water treatment nearly impossible. With its unique system, Swirltex opened up new markets, offering cleaner, more efficient, and cost-effective solutions.

As the company grew, so did its ambitions. Swirltex moved beyond its initial focus on oil and water separation to tackle a broader range of industrial effluents and municipal wastewater challenges. The company’s ability to adapt its technology to various applications allowed it to scale rapidly, transitioning from a struggling startup to a key player in the environmental technology sector.

The Future: Sustainability and Continued Innovation

Today, Swirltex stands as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of its founder. The company is not just surviving; it is thriving, with plans to triple its revenue by 2025. Christou’s story is a powerful reminder of the potential for personal transformation and business success, even through the most challenging circumstances.

Looking forward, Swirltex continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in water treatment technology. With a commitment to sustainability and innovation, the company is well-positioned to lead the charge towards a more efficient and environmentally friendly future.


Peter Christou’s journey from a near-bankrupt entrepreneur to the head of a booming tech business is not just inspiring but also illustrative of the broader potentials and pitfalls in the tech industry. Swirltex’s story underscores the importance of perseverance, the power of innovative thinking, and the impact of environmental technologies in today’s world.

As we look to the future, it is clear that Swirltex is just beginning to tap into its vast potential to revolutionize water treatment across the globe.

My Full Conversation with Peter Christou on Swirltex’s Path

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

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Antoine Walter: Hi, Peter. Welcome to the show. I looked up your tech and on one hand, I’m like, oh, that’s incredibly brilliant.

On the other hand, I’m like, does that thing work? And on the third, I’m like, oh, I think I don’t understand physics. So I’m I’m super pumped about the conversation. I’m wondering, as you’re trying to disrupt the membrane market and come with a differentiated take with Swirltex, what are these applications where conventional membranes fail and why do they fail?

Peter Christou: Some of the applications where conventional membranes fail is applications with high oil and grease loading. And applications with high colloidal where you have these really fine dust particles which really went to caking of the membranes, which is a big bane of the industry. what we did with Swirltex is at the time the doctrine in the industry was to try to make the membrane out of different materials to reject oil.

And I was working with ceramic membranes specifically for oil water separation, and it was a soul sucking experience because nothing ever worked the way that it was supposed to work. We weren’t getting full recovery off a queen. The time that I was taking the queen it was just horrific. And it was just really bothering me that it wasn’t working properly.

And instead of changing the membrane, I thought, can we change the hydraulics on the membrane to make sure that oil doesn’t, you know, Interact with the membrane, and that was the start of a little bit of crazy research and development in my garage that sparked Swirltex

Antoine Walter: We’ll into the garage story.

But first, I need to ask you. Why do you hate me? I don’t hate you at all. If you’re French and you need to have as the second question of your interview, what is buoyancy? Sorry. Can you pick a word I can pronounce? But seriously, what is buoyancy?

Peter Christou: It’s the force applied to an object in a gas or a fluid.

So it really depends upon what that density of that object is or how we manipulated the buoyancy. And how do you manipulate it? buoyancy manipulation has been used in the industry for many, many years and we see it all the time with diffused air flotation. For us, we inject air at a higher pressure than the water pressure, a lot higher.

In a fine stream, and then we can press that air and we have to mix it in order for it to hit the membrane at an even mixture one of the R&D issues that we had, especially around buoyancy is we have a mixture of almost 50 percent air and liquid, which isn’t really done in our industry at all.

And to have that mixture And even mixture when it hits your membranes , and to have the bubble attachment to those contaminants was a big part of our R& D to really make the process work.

Antoine Walter: So that’s the part where swiftly mentioned that I’m reaching the limits of my understanding of physics because.

Roughly speaking, and from the great, by the way,infographics and videos that you have on your website e, to understand vortex element, this circulation which drives water on the outer end, and hence in the contact with the membrane, and keeps the particles in the center. And my understanding of physics means that if whatever you try to separate has a lower density than water, then that makes absolutely sense.

But what happens if your contaminants have higher density than water? Wouldn’t they be then ejected further than water and then be in contact with the membrane?

Peter Christou: for instance, , if we’re pumping to straight grit, like heavy grit, which never really happens, we can’t make straight grit, float we can really can’t manipulate its buoyancy.

So that would be directly against the membranes. One of the biggest differences in the hydraulic regime between what we’re doing in our process towards normal membrane is the fact that. Our tangential flow is a spiral within that membrane. So all our force and our shear force is actually on the face of the membrane.

This eliminates the polarization layer around the membrane and other things that really affect the overall flux and fouling rates as well. We’re not getting a hundred percent of the contaminants in the center of the membrane, but we are vastly reducing the key contaminants that interact with the membrane while making sure that our velocity on our membrane is directly on the face of the membrane.

So it was a way of, , reducing the interaction of the main contaminants with the membrane and really concentrating our velocity on the face of the membrane. , what we call direct cross flow where we have the same velocity within our membrane where it’s four meters per second, but we have ten times the shear force that we would normally have within a membrane with just the parallel flow.

So it really makes a difference on , the overall performance of the membrane.

Antoine Walter: You touched very rapidly on two perks, I guess, of Swirltex, so if I got it right, tell me. It’s higher flux and reduced f ouling Do I get those two rights

Peter Christou: no, it’s reduced flux, higher falling and a lot less energy.

We use 70 percent less energy than typical tubular membrane. And the easy way to explain this is, it’s pretty much almost a 50 percent mixture of air and water. Because air is so much cheaper to pump in really displaces that water. Normally in a pressurized membrane, you can’t pump pressurized air and piece that when that pressurized air touches the membrane, it can go through the membrane much faster than the liquid can.

Because we have what’s called an annular flow where we have air on the inside of the membrane and the water rotates around it, it really solves that issue. It increases the hydraulic capacity and really speeds up that water. So it really increases the velocity of the water. So it, really changes the way the membrane works and then flux

Antoine Walter: So before we go into the full story, what’s delivered to pitch to Swirltex?

Peter Christou: we’ve tried to stay out of traditional membrane applications. When I say that it’s hard to get into the municipal market where you have incumbent favorites. What we’ve tried to do is we’ve used membranes in areas like produce water treatment, mining food and beverage where membranes really haven’t been successful.

And those have been the easiest applications for us, for instance, for mining, where we can easily filter these colloidal solutions of coal or clay and still have a flux of well over, 150 or lmh stabilized. So it opens markets that haven’t been available to membranes before.

Antoine Walter: It opens the markets on the promise that you can make membranes work or on the promise of your lower cost, better energy or stuff like that.

, what’s the USP?

Peter Christou: That the membranes will work, that you’ll have that clean, consistent, high quality effluent that wasn’t available to you before. When you’re still using technologies like clarifiers and stuff to really make sure that your environmental compliance, clarifiers and things like that are susceptible to upsets.

And that’s really why a lot of the municipal industry went to membranes because this is clear, clean, high quality effluent as a concept. And now these other industries are enjoying that environmental certainty that you get from using membranes as well.

Antoine Walter: So it’s a reuse play. You’re enabling reuse in those industries.

Peter Christou: Not just reuse. We always pitch to have reuse, whether they use that Water for other industrial purposes, or they just find use for it with on their site, but lot of our jobs have been just in that environmental compliance play to make sure that under tight environmental regulations that they’re going to hit it, they had that guaranteed to hit it and that they’re not going to have upsets with the clarifier.

It’s not up to the operator skill to make sure the chemicals are balanced out, et cetera.

Antoine Walter: Let’s go back to your story and to the roots of the company it would be the typical Silicon Valley story because you start out of a garage except your garage is not in Silicon Valley but , it’s in Edmonton so what’s the story of that garage and what did you test out at the time

Peter Christou: oh i wish it was a typical Silicon Valley story been an absolute crazy story. I started off Swirltex, didn’t really thinking much of it. Since I started doing some testing in my garage I saw that it made , a lot of small difference. It was a really significant difference. so I filed a patent and didn’t really think much of it, but when I got the opportunity to test the process in Antarctica I was a little bit excited about that.

I didn’t know if it was going to work or not. We were still super early stages of it. And having an opportunity like that was a bit of a stretch, but travel down there and, , we’re short on time. It didn’t think that we’d do it, but the actual process worked, not just a little bit good, but really, really, really, really, really, really well.

And we were able to hit. Our nutrient removal targets that we were looking at. One of the problems with Antarctica at that particular base is it’s really high in elevation, 3800 m. So typical aeration is very, very difficult, especially with the amount of energy that you need to really kind of break down the contaminants.

But because we’re a bit of a sidestream aeration where we’re injecting near under pressure and we’re running our system in what’s called an open loop where. All of our concentrate goes back to our tank. That dissolved oxygen that we’re injecting under pressure transfers over to the tank had a lot higher rates.

So that was a way that we kind of solved that high elevation issue which is. Making sure that we’re injecting air under pressure in front of the membrane. So it was a big win. I didn’t really think much of it, but soon as we got back to Canada, we got absolutely tons of press and that’s when the real story kind of started,

Antoine Walter: but you went.

Very fast to that first step i want to understand what’s happening before because you’re in that garage if i’m right you’re playing with your daughters in that garage what gets you the nudge to thinking all that water should be spinning.

Peter Christou: just want to keep the oil. From contacting the membrane and, I’m not in a position to try different membranes or try to coat the membranes or anything like that.

So using hydraulics was just a way to draw the oil to the center. What I didn’t really understand at the time was the difference in having that tangential cross flow or that spiral cross flow on the membrane, how that overall affected the performance. As soon as I combined the two. And then as soon as I added air and I added air by accident it really like it was immediate.

It wasn’t like, Oh, it’s a 10 percent increase. It was a huge increase in flux and performance. And the funny story about adding air. I was using sewage once a week and then running these. Experiments in my garage, and it stunk so bad that my girlfriend at the time would just yell at me for hours afterwards.

So I had to try to sneak these jobs in when she’d left for a few hours. And, I thought, okay, I better try to introduce air to this to try to make it not stink as much. So I put a venturi in, in front of the membrane to try to introduce some air. And soon as I did that, I didn’t understand what was going on.

I was like, how, why, I have a breakthrough on my membrane? What’s going on here? And then soon as I saw the waste in the bucket, And everything was floating like a thick mat. I was like, Oh, so that’s what’s happening on the membranes when we’re spinning it as well. We’re manipulating those contaminants even more by using the air.

And that’s really when things took off for us.

Antoine Walter: The second thing I’d like to understand before you go into Antarctica is actually, if I had a technology, which I just. Invented and patented i guess the first place i’d go is not the most remote on earth but it’s the coldest and where if you have a spare part missing then it’s a trouble so how do you end up thinking oh that’s the way i need to go

Peter Christou: i’ve been down to antarctica before for the us program and i specialize in Cold weather infrastructure spent a lot of time in Canada’s north, you know, all over the world, Alaska, Russia, Greenland, I knew that there was an issue there at the site.

And when I went to France to go pitch the idea, didn’t know. 100 percent thought it was gonna work. It was kind of a bit of a long shot, but from an operational perspective. I really knew what the issues were. So I wanted to definitely take a stab on it. And when they gave me that opportunity I’m glad it worked out to say the least.

Antoine Walter: So you’re coming back from Antarctica, you’ve proven that the technology works, but now you need to, I guess, create a path to make it business. explained the technology, roughly how it works, but if you want to turn that into a business, it needs to have a beginning and an end.

So what is the scope of what you wanted to deliver in the first place and has that evolved over time?

Peter Christou: It definitely involved over time. When I had my eureka moment , I thought we’d be using the process a lot on more industrial applications, things like solvent extraction, cetera. And where we really kind of ended up is.

Making sure that have a membrane manufacturer that can make the membranes to our spec instead of making them ourselves, cut costs, faster path, and make sure that the technology can work on standardized membranes that are available in the market. That was. The tricky part trying to say, okay, we have an idea.

We know that it works. Let’s try to use membranes that are already on the market so we can show the improvement. And it’s a lot easier path to the market.

Antoine Walter: so What are you actually marketing today? Is it the system? Is it the process? Is it a license? do you do that

Peter Christou: right now? We’re doing the full project.

So especially since we’re using a new process, it’s important for us to really kind of prove out the technology in that market. But because we’re such a small company to we’re really now trying to find channel partners that would work with us. Pair with us to help us out with everything else around the membranes.

, there’s a lot of auxiliary equipment, et cetera. Thanks. The rest of it it’s a lot faster and easier to produce the membrane skids over and over. It’s relatively the same to O& E and partners around the country that can use the membranes and the, Designated markets than us trying to go and do all the projects ourselves.

So that’s really where we’ve evolved to today.

Antoine Walter: At the beginning, I guess you had to pick a battle and you explained how the first idea was to refrain oil from coming in contact with the membrane. So I would expect that you go after is oil and gas. Am I right?

Peter Christou: Sometimes. Yes. Oil and gas is like dating a manic depressive.

It’s hot one minute, and then it’s not the next. So it’s very hard, especially as a startup, to build your business upon projects that can be delayed, that can go, you need something that’s a lot more dependable. So we did definitely go into the oil and gas side of it, but knowing that is one market that we have, it’s not the only market that we have.

And that was very important for our business.

Antoine Walter: So do you try to diversify in order to not depend on the, how do you call them? manic, depressive, that oil and gases.

Peter Christou: I’m going to get in trouble for that one, but yeah, think you have to we understand that the more markets that the membranes are applicable to the higher the value of the process will be.

The only problem is we squirrelly and concentrate on everything within the industry. Instead, we’re saying, Three or four main markets execute them. Well, one that it’s really executed well and established moved on to a different market, and that’s really strategy that we’ve for this approach

Antoine Walter: in terms of membranes.

Would you be membrane agnostic how does that work?

Peter Christou: need to be we have two membrane manufacturers that make them for us to our specs. we don’t need, like we can use any tubular membrane It’s just we have a relationship with our two manufacturers and we’re probably sticking to it, but it doesn’t really matter we can use a ceramic membrane.

It just needs to be a tubular membrane.

Antoine Walter: And just because Jim Lauria might be listening to that episode at some point, is the venturi something important and you pick something specific or is it agnostic?

Peter Christou: we don’t use a venturi in our aeration anymore. think the only thing that is really kind of important to us that kind of goes with the technology is the membranes we use one meter membranes.

We don’t use two or four meter long membranes. This really, really helps us for maintenance, logistics, getting them to site, et cetera. And it really ensures that we have a fairly even swirl pattern down the length of our membranes. So it’s a completely different configuration than what you normally see in tubular membranes.

And that really came from the operations perspective, where we’ve changed so many things on, the configuration, the membranes to really make it a lot easier for the operators as well.

Antoine Walter: You mentioned the Antarctica project, but tell me about your first continental traditional project. And. What you learned on that one.

Peter Christou: Oh, that was, that was a fun one. We did a pilot in 2019, like right at the heart of COVID for ARC resources on a produce water job and produce water is not where membranes go to be successful. It’s usually where they go to die. So I’m having a small fit. Thinking okay let’s see what we can do and it was kind of funny because produce water really wasn’t difficult at all had some experience with it but

Antoine Walter: don’t want to catch it but just clarify that one for the muggles out there which i might belong to produced water is the water which comes when the drilling of oil and gas so the water which comes with the oil and which you have to clean.

Peter Christou: Correct. So there’s a lot of water that comes up with the oil. It’s really salty. It’s almost in the formation that we’re working in, it’s well over 20 percent salt by content. So usually scaling and other things have issues. The other issue that comes with that is there’s other chemicals that can come up with that water that have been known to foul membranes.

So it’s really understanding what chemicals they’re using when they’re breaking the formation on the frack and what is actually coming up with you. Soon as you know that, it becomes a lot easier to, design treatment techniques around what’s happening.

Antoine Walter: on that first project. you said it was a funny story.

So I expect that you have some hiccups. I’m not hoping for you to have hiccups, but what goes wrong?

Peter Christou: there were a lot of hiccups because that was the first kind of commercial pilot that we had, you know, we had everything wrong from like pumps breaking to, chemicals, not kind of doing what we thought they would and the rest of it, it was.

I used to do consulting and commissioning professionally, and this was probably one of the more difficult pilots that I had. Not because of the memory, probably because every, all the auxiliary equipment around it was constantly not working the way that it should. But that pilot led to the bigger system, the 3000 cubic meter a day produced water system, which is North America’s largest membrane produced water plant.

So it was a big achievement to show that you could recycle this water and you can, it’s definitely not that difficult. And it really set a precedence for oil and gas water recycling in Northern Canada.

Antoine Walter: That’s the thing I wanted , to underline here, which is, you know, there’s this saying that pilots never fail and pilots never scale.

And you broke the curse because 2019. So in the middle of probably the worst time to start a business, you do that pilot, you have some hiccups as any pilot would have, but your food scale is from 2022. So three years down the line. Your 10x your revenue, so It’s a success story.

Peter Christou: Yeah, no, I’ll take it as a success story.

Sounds good. , it was such a good feeling. Entrepreneurs need those wins every once in a while. And when we started up the system and this is the first one we started up at the size and the math was dead on as far as like the pressure loss across the membranes and operational aspects, I’ve worked on membrane systems where, you know, Six of them.

And sometimes things don’t work out when you kind of go to site. The fact that it did on this one on the first go was, yeah, was a good feeling. It almost brought me to tears on site where I was like, okay, you know, , we’re there sort of thing. It’s really important to be able to have those types of projects where you have those big wins, that’s kind of set the precedent for the configuration, what you need to do for all your other projects as well.

Antoine Walter: So you have more projects in produced water or do you. Look across different sectors for the next ones.

Peter Christou: Definitely looking across different sectors. We have a large food and beverage project, happening right now. And then we have another large project in Pennsylvania that two very difficult mediums.

One’s a lot of oil and grease and cool waste water in it. And the other one’s just really, really heavy oil and grease, which have been some of the easier applications for us. what we’ve done is. We’ve taken difficult applications for membranes, but we haven’t really stretched it. We’re not doing landfill leachate and other things like that.

We’re, Doing mediums that when we test that liquid in the lab, it’s fairly easy for us. We get very good results for an extended testing to make sure that we’re going to be successful in the application as well.

Antoine Walter: I have one last question on the application part, which is that I couldn’t help but notice on your website that you’re mentioning you’re working on lithium.

Do you have a specific project where you’re applying your membrane?

Peter Christou: Yes, we do. We have about two or three lithium providers, especially there in northern Canada that we’ve been working with specifically. Two very different processes. We’ll say to say the least, but very good results on both The lithium water is very similar to produce water same like iron residual oils and the rest of it, where it was a lot easier to treat than the normal produce water because it doesn’t have the same chemicals, the oil and gas industry can kind of pump down the hole. So for us, it was kind of like, okay, but let’s do this.

And we’re definitely on the forefront for filtration within Western Canada, for sure. Can you name the companies you’re working with? E3 Lithium is one and Lithium Bank is another. And Lithium Bank is Vancouver, right? both of Vancouver and Calgary.

Antoine Walter: Okay. So you’re in this Canadian connection of.

Peter Christou: Yeah, especially on applications like that, you really need to collaborate talk about the different treatment methods!

Antoine Walter: i’d like to understand the company building as well because you’ve started in the garage and since the garage you’re the technical brain of the company if i get it right how did you team up on the business side of things. And if i’m right along the way you had some changes on the business or CEO side of things and how does that affect the path of.

A pretty young company like yours.

Peter Christou: Well, decided early on, I made a few mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes when starting off the company that cost me dearly. I owned, a previous company before where it was pretty easy. I flipped it in three years. I thought , with Swirltex, this is going to be even easier. This is a great idea.

Five years, I’m going to be on a beach, sipping coconuts and my life’s set. I literally had that thought in my head. And uh, it’s been a bit of a crazy story where, when I came back from Antarctica, I had a consulting contract and life was good, wasn’t really looking for investment quite there, but the company that I was doing consulting for wanted to invest in us.

And, I thought it was good. I had everything said I barely even tried. I was like, giving myself this bunch of the mirror. Life is good. And it was the elections in 2016 where the markets crashed after the election. And I thought, Oh, maybe this is going to affect my investor. It didn’t affect my investor at all.

But as soon as I started looking to it, he wasn’t in the position to invest at all. And. He was in dire straits financially and it took a lot of effort to undo that, not just physically, mentally, everything where I ended up being penniless afterwards. I was actually homeless. Things were like really, really bad.

I went from. Being super comfortable to like things were so bad. I was stealing food, just the bottom of my life. And we were lucky that we got a grant through Alberta Invest to build the first pilot. So it was like, okay, we’ll figure it out. And we did an incubator. This is where I really started to get outside help on the business side of it.

It was called the Creative Destruction Labs where It was kind of like the shark tank thing, except they do a lot more coaching. It was absolutely fantastic program where I ended up meeting Melanie there where she was doing her MBA and I knew that I want to concentrate on the technical, the business development and, really not, you know, run around doing the raises, things like that.

So if Melanie wanted to come aboard and then I had Melanie aboard to kind of do , the business administration infrastructure. Sure. Melanie was absolutely fantastic. I really can’t say enough about her. At all, especially in this industry, it’s a very hard industry for, young woman to take a dominant role.

And she did actually fantastic, especially when she hasn’t done raises or anything like that before she’s learning. And then when Melanie moved on and Rob in, it was a change. Definitely. It was a change in the experience and leadership. And a lot of different ideas. I think it’s hard for a founder to let go of that control.

And I think in a situation like that, It’s always key that you have a really good board, a really experienced board. Because if you as a founder say, this is why I’m really good sales, I’m really good technically, that’s where I bring the most value to the business. It’s important that you have a spectrum of experienced people to make sure that the business decisions are the right decisions moving forward.

Antoine Walter: You mentioned your board. I guess you must have your investors on the board. So maybe I’d like to understand that one as well. You’ve been raising, you told the story of, your first round with the angels, I guess. And then you had Mazarin coming on board for the venture round. So how do you interact with your investors?

Peter Christou: I’m actually really close with my investors just because my life was in such dire situation when we did the CDL, like I was sleeping on a friend’s couch and people still put the faith to invest in me and I’m the type of person where, you know, I’m shown an ounce of kindness and I, take it to heart. And I have some investors that I still go out with lunch with.

asked them for advice all the time. Really try to get them involved as possible. Because they’re a big part of the story, You know, they’ve been a big part of, how swirltext was formed, how it recovered where we are now. And I’d like to make sure that my investors are excited about the possibilities and know what’s going on.

CDL side. Now that we have such a plethora of investors and we have a lot of small investors and things like that, too. I haven’t had a chance to meet all of our investors, but our key investors that came on at the beginning, all extremely close with us.

Antoine Walter: What I’m interested also is to understand the grit and the resilience, because mentioned how you went through that low where the conjuncture was against you, the timing was against you, a lot of outside elements you can’t control are against you, and on the same time, you’ve proven in the past that in a different job, in a different vertical, you can do well, so, Aren’t you tempted to just say, okay, I gave it a shot.

Didn’t work. Let me do something else.

Peter Christou: Yes. When things were really bad. Yeah, just because it didn’t spark out yet. It’s not wasn’t even a thing. And it was more of me saying, if I let it go, I am. Going to be 75 dying of cancer in my bed, just with nothing but regrets, right? And I said that I have to finish this, I have to give it my all.

I’m good enough hands on technically that I knew there was something really special about it. And if it wasn’t that good I wouldn’t have stuck with it just because in our industry, , especially with membranes, people haven’t done something different and unique with membranes in a long time.

It’s stayed very stagnant. And if you get like a 20 or 40 percent increase in flux in members, that would be huge. The fact that we’re easily getting 100 percent increase in flux and, doing that using 70 percent less energy was Thanks. Always stuck. I didn’t even know that it’s going to be 70 percent less energy.

I just knew the increase in flux I stuck even during COVID. I was living on a cot in a crawl space above our office. And. then I was like, okay, we’re making progress. doing this. It wasn’t a matter of, okay, want to quit. It was a matter of, how long can I last for it?

I always say that, being an entrepreneur is like running a marathon. Where you don’t know where the end is going to be. And it sucks your energy. It sucks your STEM. It sucks your money. You’re lively. Don’t get a girlfriend, but the thing is you can’t concentrate on running.

And you can’t concentrate on the finish line said, you just have to enjoy the process and enjoy that you’re going for a run.

Antoine Walter: If we fast forward to 2022, which we touched on with this full scale with Arc and to, where you are today, it seems like it was worth running because. Spectacular took off.

I mean, I found the figure for 2022 with Nutanix in revenue. I didn’t find , , the figures for 2023. Did you keep up that Tenix space or,

Peter Christou: yeah, we’ve been doubling since then. We’ve really been doubling our revenue every year, and I think we’re gonna be tripling it in 2025, which is nice. The good thing about our membranes are really high capacity, like our standard train does 1000 cubic meters a day. So it doesn’t take many of these big jobs to really get going. And because we’re, concentrating on industries, industrial industries, the peels happen much faster.

I was just almost straight municipal or remote camps, but industrials Projects where they have that pain point that problem and you have a solution. It’s a lot quicker. So it’s a lot easier to build up the revenue.

Antoine Walter: Revenue is one thing, but are you profitable today?

Peter Christou: We’ll break even this year and I would rather us just spend money than break even right now.

But same. Time we are going through a race round right now we’re going through a race so we have to be a little bit careful about what we spend

Antoine Walter: so when do you expect to close the ground hopefully by the end of april so. 2022 10 x 2023 to x to x and you. 4C20253X, you’re on the path to be a unicorn.

My question is, what are you building?

Peter Christou: I’d like to build a membrane company that really changes the aspects of what we can do with membranes. I feel that membranes are going to change drastically in the next 10 to 15 years, everybody in the industry is really going with these turbulence promoters and membranes.

You see it with Pentair, you see it with, and the reason why it’s because they work, they really, really work. But the key is if you have that. Cross flow directly on the membrane down the length of membrane without a turbulence promoter. It really makes a difference. And you see this trend a lot with vortex membranes, et cetera, where the people are figuring out it’s not so much the membrane, but how you use it.

Which is the really important thing. I think it’s going to change just like we had. Everything was packing density at one point. What’s the packing density of your membrane? Nobody really cares about that. I think in the future it’s gonna be how well are you using the surface area that you have instead of, throwing as much in there as human possible.

It’s what is your flux and how are you actually using that surface area a lot more efficiently.

Antoine Walter: Membranes have a lot of perks and i would agree with you that something’s happening and something is on the verge of happening bigger but membranes have a major downsize usually i’m in the other side of the same coin which is.

Manufacturing for high volumes is a big investment and a lot of capex, which you have to immobilize in your assets. So what are your plans for that? Do you solve it fully with the fact that you’re sourcing the membranes for your two suppliers? Or do you still need to build up manufacturing capabilities?

Peter Christou: we’re just sticking with the strategy from our two suppliers and not building up our internal manufacturing capabilities. We still use our OEM and fabricators to build our skids, like our main membrane trains, but we have no plans to build the membranes ourselves. We’re going to stick with manufacturers that we have just because it’s a lot faster it’s better financially to have somebody else manufactures membranes when they have the expertise to do so and the financials for us to manufacture our own membranes here in North America just aren’t there yet on the volumes that we are selling.

Antoine Walter: North America is one thing but what do you see on the midterm would you go worldwide or would you double down on what you know best.

Peter Christou: Definitely, think doing more projects in the states with the next few years is definitely going to be happening right now. A lot of our projects have been in western Canada. We do have one in eastern United States, but I think after 2025 really branching out, especially in the oil and gas plays in the Middle East.

And really taking that technology and finding those channel partners in different geographic areas that can incorporate the membranes into the standard systems,

Antoine Walter: if anyone. Doubted the fact that you’re setting yourself up for spectacular growth on your website i spotted nine job openings so how many people work for today and how big of a company are you in five years.

Peter Christou: Right now we have less than ten employees i think we have eight employees overall. We easily, easily need to double our employees, our staff to keep up with the work that we have minimum one of the way that we’re really trying to combat that staff shortage that we have is finding channel partners that will use our membranes in the projects to do the project management and everything around it.

That’s been one way to keep the momentum going, being able to sell a product without having that infrastructure around it to support it using these OEMs that you know, have the operators, have the commissioning staff, et cetera, to really kind of help us out. And then they supply a lot of the equipment for the project as well.

Antoine Walter: Last question for me in that deep dive. It’s a bit of a crystal ball question. If you look five years, 10 years down the line, what do you want to build and what will tell you that you had an impact?

Peter Christou: That’s a tough one that’s one that my kids always ask too. They’re like, what is this going to do to others? Is this going to make an impact? Is it, is it going to be worth it? Cause they’re very, very green kids that want, to see, the water reuse aspect of it. And I think for me on the technology, the ball is rolling now.

And I think for me, after all the sacrifices and hardships that I kind of went through I’ve kind of changed my perspective on what I’d like to see, and a lot of it is using the product to be able to justify everything that you kind of went through and it has to be more than money. It has to be.

being able to sit down with my kids and say, look, this is the news clipping of where we recycled the water here. And even in the produce water side of it is showing, you know, that water would have gone to waste. And now we’re being able to reuse that water. So I hope the technology leaves a legacy of water reuse and a different way of really kind of looking at membranes really.

that legacy of understanding the hydraulics and seeing what other products or processes really spin off from what we’re doing as well.

Antoine Walter: Well, Peter, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you a lot for the openness in that deep dive and for sharing that path. I told you that I was expecting to be fascinated and I was beyond what I expected.

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Rapid fire questions:

Antoine Walter: What is the toughest challenge in your opinion for a water tech startup?

Keeping it simple. What would be your best single piece of advice for the founders and managers of the about 1, 000 early stage water startups?

Peter Christou: Concentrate to what you’re the best at. How do you know at what you’re the best at? if you don’t know what you’re the best at, then that’s the first question.

Figure out what you’re the best at.

Antoine Walter: That’s a very good one. What’s a drop of knowledge you wish more investors knew about the water sector?

Peter Christou: The time that usually it takes to do these these are multi million dollar projects and they take years sometimes to plan out and not just, somebody writing the check.

Antoine Walter: What was your most unexpected partnership and what did it bring you?

Peter Christou: I think my most unexpected partnership was when I met Melanie at the CDL and I knew that I needed a CEO because I screwed up so bad on the last investor, Snafu. that was probably one of the most unexpected partnerships and probably one of the most beneficial companies that we’ve had as well.

Super short profitability or growth? Growth, growth, growth. You have to spend money to make money. and in a situation like this, I mean, you should get times to on the money that you’re spending to build that infrastructure out definitely.

Antoine Walter: And yet you’re expecting to become profitable this year. I know, I

Peter Christou: know it’s, we need more money to be able to spend it.

Like I said, it’s, the raising round where we just have to be careful with the timing. What’s the next profile you’ll hire? I would give a kidney for a senior process engineer. I’ll be on the record for that.

Antoine Walter: thought we were paying with money in the sector, but now we’re paying with kidneys. That’s where we are.

Peter Christou: We’ll get money too. But anything I can do to get one at this point in time.

Antoine Walter: When you hire, do you look for sector experience or startup experience? Sector experience. Opening new markets or doubling down on the current ones? Doubling down on the current ones. What’s that tool nobody speaks about, but you couldn’t live without Grammarly.

that would be mine. I thought I was alone, but apparently I’m not. Absolutely changed my life. What’s the single piece of insight your ideal customer profile needs to hear right now?

Peter Christou: Just how we’ve made membrane simple. We really have complicated process, but we’ve done it in a simple way.

And just because we’ve done it from an operator’s perspective as well. A lot of the old things that weren’t really thought about have been corrected.

Antoine Walter: What are you desperately needing and want to raise an open call for right now?

Peter Christou: Senior process engineer. Staff, if, Swirltex sounds like something that you want to get behind, that you want to be on this, fun adventure with this startup, doing things process wise that, you don’t get the freedom to do normally as an engineer.

Send me an email, call me, I will definitely answer.

Antoine Walter: When you answer twice the same and two different questions, that means that’s really the one which is top of mind. I really, really underline that one. Not to sound desperate, but yeah. Last one, what can and should I do for you?

Peter Christou: I really love your investment pages on YouTube where you talk about the different companies and how they’re doing, especially with like an exfiltration, you know, you’ve done it twice.

It’s one of my favorite is you don’t get that anywhere else in the industry whatsoever. I would love to be part of, or I’d love for Swirltex to be a part of that conversation just to track its kind of unicorn status as because we’ve had such a crazy startup. It would be such a great Story when we kind of make it it would be great to have us as part of that conversation as well.

Antoine Walter: I’d be delighted to. So sounds like we need to mark our calendars because at the pace you’re at that should happen 2025.

Peter Christou: Sounds good. Yep. October 2025. Okay. It’ll be like a crazy time for us for sure.

Antoine Walter: Checked my calendar. I’m open in 2025 in October. So that’s set. Sounds good. Peter, it’s been a pleasure.

If people want to follow up with you, for instance, if they are senior process engineers and they want to reach out, what’s the best place to reach out to you?

Peter Christou: Without giving you guys my full email address right now, just reach out to the website submit your resumes, or if you want to get ahold of me through LinkedIn, you can too.

try to answer questions and inquiries through there as much as possible as well.

Antoine Walter: As usual, the links are in the description. I will find also that job offer for the senior process engineer and put it in the description. That way we have a full run on that one. Peter, it’s been a pleasure. I’m super happy and looking forward to October 2025 to have the sequel to that one.

I hope our paths will cross in between because that’s, that’s still quite far in the future. And yeah,

thanks a lot.

Peter Christou: Well, thank you. It’s been an honor and I really look forward to talking to you again.

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