Next in our serial entrepreneur series is a fascinating interview with Norwegian entrepreneur, HP Michelet, who is Executive Chairman of Energy Recovery Inc, known more commonly as ERI. As you would expect, HP is a serial entrepreneur, involved with 8 different businesses from software to cleantech to – hold your breath – a cod farm, however in this interview we focus on his efforts and experiences with ERI. This interview provides insight into the process of starting a company from the viewpoint of a venture capitalist, who later on became hands-on under situational demands. In part 1 HP provides an overview of ERI.
SM: HP, I want to start with asking you about ERI in your own words. ERI is one of your eight different ventures, right? HP: Yeah … whether it’s eight I don’t know, but I will tell you about ERI. ERI is the world’s leading manufacturer of energy recovery devices. Our core innovation is a ceramic pressure exchanger called the PX. We can go into more detail about what specifically it is. But, the company as such, we have close to 50 employees all around the world and we will be close to 60 by the end of this year.
As to the numbers we are a privately held company, but, we should see revenues to the tune of at least 40 million dollars this year. So we are de facto doubling the revenues from 2006 to 2007 and going forward we have a pretty clear visibility of looking at 100 million dollars in about two years time.
SM: Great! And where are your customers? HP: We sell our product directly to our customers all around the world and we have just opened an office in Shanghai. We have a big set up in Madrid, Spain. We also have an office in Oman.
SM: What is the energy recovery Business HP? HP: The energy recovery business today is we are into the desalination industry, meaning converting seawater to fresh water. This is historically a very energy intensive process. And what our device does is it recuperates up to 98% of the energy of the brine or the rejected high pressure stream and circles this energy back into the loop. But the practical consequence of this is that we de facto reduce the energy consumption of converting seawater to fresh water by two thirds. Amazing economics: today, it costs $6-8 to desalinize one gallon of sea water and turn it into drinkable water; with this technology, one is able to do this for 80c.