An innovator’s journey from idea to market can be challenging and complicated—but also rewarding. Our Innovator Spotlight series explores how inventor-entrepreneurs in our network have evolved since they started their journey. Our goal is to share key learnings and best practices with early-stage science and technology inventors embarking on a path of innovation and entrepreneurship. Our latest Innovator Spotlight is Julie Bliss Mullen, co-founder and CEO of ASPIRE team Aclarity. The startup has created an electrochemical technology to easily remove pathogens, metals, and other impurities from residential and commercial water systems.
What challenge did you seek to solve with your innovation and why?
Many lack access to safe drinking water. One source of contamination is aging pipe infrastructure. Take Flint, MI. Thousands of residents have consumed water with elevated levels of lead, toxic chemicals, and bacteria. While conducting my PhD research, I was motivated by the growing number of communities like Flint that are impacted from contaminated water. I wanted to find a way for residents to feel confident that their water is clean and safe, offering peace-of-mind to families regardless of outside water issues.
What have you learned along your innovation and entrepreneurship journey?
I’ve learned that it takes a team to make an impact through innovation and entrepreneurship. I now surround myself with people who can provide different perspectives, and who I can trust for advice and support. I’ve become very good at seeking advice if I lack expertise in some area.
Tell us how you’ve integrated environmentally responsible practices into your innovation or process?
Aclarity is a cleantech company. Environmental responsibility is key to our mission. We are constantly working to ensure our products are sourced, manufactured, operated, and reused or recycled to decrease environmental impact. Our technology produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and uses less energy compared to competing technologies. We also aim to power our devices with renewable sources such as solar.
How has support from VentureWell impacted your innovation and venture?
Aclarity participated in the VentureWell ASPIRE program in late 2018 to prepare for an equity financing round. We met with various investors and VentureWell staff who mentored us on pitching, running an effective board meeting, piloting product tests, and preparing us to make difficult decisions. Since the program, we have received regular mentorship from the VentureWell team, which has resulted in introductions to investors, pitch deck reviews, and feedback on company operations. We are extremely grateful for VentureWell support.
What is next for you?
We recently returned from a successful pilot installation in the Bahamas, and are working with a nonprofit to distribute our device to community water kiosks around the Caribbean and Africa. Later this year, we aim to expand our field pilot program to include at least five pilot projects. We are also in the middle of a seed fundraising round, and are looking forward to expanding our team as well as begin the certification process for our first product.