Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fellow Blog Series: The Sun Never Sets on the Driptech Fellow (Part Three)

Mountain View, CA, USA 06:00 PST
Jessica Martin

“A single entry bond covers only one entry through U.S. customs. The bond amount is for the F.O.B (otherwise known as Freight on Board) value plus duties rounded to the next hundred. The charge for the bond is $4.00 per $1,000 of the bond amount with a minimum of $40.”

Ok, I think to myself. So that means a $25,000 bond would cost (I jot the calculation down)

$25,000/$1,000= 25*$4.00=$100.

So at what point would a continuous bond prove to be cost effective for us? I shuffle back through our customs invoices…

Jean: Jess…Jess.

Me: Yes, I say as I shake myself from the computer screen and take a break from the various intricacies of importing into the U.S. I take a look at the piece of paper Jean hands me from across the desk. It’s her latest draft of the job description (JD) for the China and India business development positions we are trying to fill in the next month or two. Along, with designing a system to manage our supply-chain, I’ll have a hand in hiring as well, mainly by narrowing down which recruiter in India, if any, we feel comfortable hiring to help us with our search for a local business development manager.

I‘m nearly through reading the JD when Peter bursts out of his office with a clap of his hands and a big smile. “Just had a great call with a potential investor!" Since I arrived at Driptech at the end of February, Peter has been busy with cultivating investors for the company’s Series A investment round while simultaneously growing the business. His days have been filled with investor calls and pitches from early in the morning to late into the evening. It’s not uncommon to have one or two of these potential financiers drop by for a tour of our part office, part engineering workshop, and part factory tucked in a discrete commercial-neighborhood of Mountain View.

Driptech’s mini-milestones and not so mini-milestones have been helpful in attracting attention from investors and the pace at which we continue to accumulate these milestones seems to be picking up. The day I started here at Driptech I was greeted by a blurry-eyed but triumphant looking group as I entered the office for the first time. The team had all been in since before 7am that morning packing punched tubing into a 40 foot shipping container. This marked Driptech’s very first full container shipment to India, or the most tubing sent to fill an order in India yet. You can watch Peter’s “Smashing Send-Off” here.

Whit loading Driptech's first full container

Back at my days as a research analyst on Wall Street, growth expansion was just a phrase to determine what bucket an investment fell into, but the phrase is much more tangible to grasp as it plays out here everyday before my eyes. Not a day has gone by since I started that a strategically important decision didn’t have to be made. The atmosphere reminds me of the summer after 3rd grade when my shoe size jumped from a kids size 12 to a woman’s size 6. My mom ran out to buy me new sneakers but was reluctant to invest in a new pair of dress shoes for fear I would jump another size by the end of summer. My project around supply chain management begs similarly ambiguous questions like, what are the right solutions, at what prices, that will work today but will also be dynamic enough to evolve with the company in the future? However, unlike my shoe conundrum, this project I think will be slightly more challenging but exponentially more exciting.

My day on the production line far from the subways, skyscrapers, and pinstripe suits of Wall St.

The sun has set here in California. All the managers have gone into Peter’s office to huddle around the computer for the weekly global managers call. I decide to head home to catch a bite to eat before jumping on a 10 o’clock call with a recruiter in India.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fellow Blog Series: The Sun Never Sets on the Driptech Fellow (Part Two)

Pune, India 15:00 IST
Sarah Lee

“No need to meet me at the corner,” I tell my colleague over the phone as my rickshaw enters traffic. I’ve been to our test plot a few times before and think I can retrace my footsteps: second gas station on the right, over the little bridge, right at the school and around the corner. It’s 3pm and having worked on my laptop all day, I’m excited to hear that a water tanker will come fill our tank so that we can do some testing at our drip irrigation demo plot nearby our office.

Only one wrong turn later, I walk up to the warehouse to meet a field assistant, Rupesh. Despite a significant language barrier, Rupesh and I mime our ways through an afternoon of expanding our demo plot.

The task is to determine the area that we can irrigate using a gravity-powered system. We know what has worked for us in the past, and we’ve read the reports, but we want to test the specific configuration that we will use in an installation in a few weeks in a remote part of the country.

Rupesh and I start with a trip to the plumbing store to get the fittings we need to connect the water tank with the ball valve, filter and sub-main water line.

Sarah in search of the right fittings

After measuring out the plot dimensions for testing, we put together the sub-main line, drill holes in the PVC pipe, insert grommets, fit the takeoffs in the holes, and attach the laterals. Then comes the challenge of making the tank connection. We’ve used a stack of shipping pallets to create a stand 1m high for the water tank. With some huffing and puffing, we manage to lift a nearly empty (but cumbersome) water tank up onto the stand. The city’s water supply is turned off but our water tanker arrives and fills the tank for about 1 rupee/ liter.

Rupesh manning the water tank at Driptech's test plot in Pune, India

Since we need to be able to adjust the filter and plot configuration for future tests, we don’t glue the fittings together. Because PVC pipe is made to approximate dimensions to keep the cost low, our fittings wiggle a bit before the system is completed. As the delivery tanker fills our water tank, this wiggly connection suddenly flies off. Rupesh presses his palm against the outlet to save our precious water and I grab the pipe to reconnect. “1, 2, 3” He releases his palm, we are sprayed with water again, and I quickly jam the pipe back in place. In the middle of a 38 degrees C afternoon, getting a little wet is actually quite refreshing!

We run the system, note the results and make a list of what we need for tomorrow’s test. After securing the removable portions of the demo plot inside the locked warehouse, I follow Rupesh along the top of a high wall of an unused sewer system as a shortcut to where he parked his scooter. We hop on the scooter and head to the plumbing store again to place an order for different pipes and fittings. It’s 7pm and the shopkeeper at the plumbing store wants to close up. We make a plan to meet back at the store the next morning to try to beat the heat.

Fellow Blog Series: The Sun Never Sets on the Driptech Fellow (Part One)

As featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article, not all multinational companies are big; they can be small like Driptech, too. While there are always pluses and minuses to having a global operation, one thing is for sure: someone is always on the job and in this case it’s the Driptech fellow. Currently, Driptech has three fellows based in all of its locations around the world so literally speaking the sun never truly sets on the Driptech fellow. In the following blog post we composed a chronicle of Driptech fellow activities over one full rotation of the earth.

Beijing, China 08:30 CST
Frank Lee


There are precisely two lessons for a foreigner to learn in Beijing to better adapt as a “Beijinger.” The first lesson is the ability to read the hidden messages behind traffic lights for pedestrians. Contrary to the other city traffic systems, Green Light in Beijing actually means proceed with caution. Red Light actually means GO! GO! GO! The second lesson is to avoid riding the subway at all cost during peak traffic hours. This morning, I am making the 40-minute trek on foot from my apartment near the Shuangjing subway station to the Beijing Driptech office near the Jianguomen subway station. Along the way, I see high-rise building after high-rise building. If one wants to witness the economic boom of China, one only needs to walk around the nation's capitol.

The main agenda item for today is our interview with a local media outfit. Global Times is the most read English publication in China. I initially met the reporter Cong Mu during a clean energy networking event. Driptech has been very fortunate with our coverage in the press. Through international media outlets such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Businessweek, we have been able to share our social mission with the world, connecting with business partners in the process. One of our main goals in China is to connect with the local press to help expand our business partnerships with the Chinese government, private ventures, and NGOs.

Around 10 a.m., Cong Mu arrives at our Driptech Beijing office, a space converted from a 4-person conference room. I like to think that our humble office space showcases the scrappiness of Driptech and our resourceful approach. Cong Mu first explains that he is interested in writing about the tremendous water shortage in China, and the $600 billion investment that the government is planning to make over the next 10 years on water conservation projects. He thinks that Driptech is the perfect lead in for this story. Over the next hour and a half, Cong Mu interviews my China colleague Xiaoli and me, on various topics. I detail Driptech's history and manufacturing technology advantage over traditional drip irrigation manufacturers. Xiaoli shares her field experiences working with farmers when we sold systems to greenhouse farmers in Shanxi province. Cong Mu concludes the interview by asking our motivations to join a social venture like Driptech. I explain that understanding how to market a product to small-scale farmers is intellectually stimulating. At P&G, I worked to improve established brands. At Driptech, our team has to build our brand in the hearts and minds of small farmers. How do you sell a product to low-income farmers, who need the product to improve their own standard of living? This is a question that our team strives to chip away and answer everday. At the end of the interview, he explains that the article will be published in the next two days, marking Driptech's official entry into the Chinese press!

You can read the Global Times article here!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Driptech Inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame!

Today, Driptech was one of the first six organizations to be inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame! I was honored to accept the award on behalf of Peter and the Driptech team! The new Hall of Fame is designed to recognize individuals and organizations for outstanding achievements in the green industry and provide an educational forum for the international public. Driptech was honored among a number of extremely accomplished individuals and organizations including, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Grundfos (an industrial water pump supplier), the City of Fresno Recycling Program, Duke Smart Home Program, and Josh Dorfman (a.k.a The Lazy Environmentalist).

The stage and awards before the inductees had been revealed

The induction ceremony was held on the UC Merced campus, which is ambitiously pursuing the highest standards for the sustainable use of energy and other scarce resources. The details of these standards and plans were presented by the campus architect Thomas E. Lollini, FAIA, LEED AP followed by a motivating speech by Rob Diridon, Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, on the significance of high speed rail to not only the development of California but also the world.

The inductees were then announced and asked to give a little speech. I commented on the appropriateness of Driptech being honored on the UC Merced campus since it was on another nearby university campus (Stanford) that Driptech was conceived. Students from several local high schools attended the event, and I encouraged them to dream big because their school projects could one day be the basis for a company, too.

A very excited Jessica and Gwen Lauridson, who accepted the life-time achievement award on behalf of Ray Anderson of Interface, Inc.

Sam Geil, IGIHOF Chairman, and Jessica

After the ceremony I was interviewed by Susan Frank from The Better World Group on how Driptech’s product creates solutions for our customers. You can view the video of the interview here.

After a full day, I drove back to Driptech headquarters, and we celebrated in the office. This award inspires and energizes us as we continue our work here at Driptech, alleviating poverty one farmer at a time, and contributing to a more sustainable global economy. Thank you to Sam Geil and the IGIHOF team for honoring Driptech with such a distinction.

Peter and Jessica back at the office

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Driptech System at Hanslok Ashram

It was a pleasant Tuesday morning in the capital – New Delhi. Sarah Lee, an LGT fellow and myself, Aarthi Vijaykumar, India Product Manager, drove to Hanslok Ashram, a retreat camp about 35kms from the center of Delhi but still within the Delhi city limits. A beaming Ms. Sapna met us at the entrance and showed us around the Ashram – the meditation centre, the cow sheds, the mustard farm, the orchards and the huge auditorium under construction which would have a seating capacity of 5000. As we explained the system to Ms. Sapna, its design and benefits, we had a very unusual audience also listening intently – MONKEYS!

Ms. Sapna soon showed us the plots of land. The vegetables grown supplied the Ashram Kitchen. We were to complete a half acre installation and we keenly looked for a piece of land which was yet to be planted. We decided to install the system on the land where 1/4 acre was bare and the other half had potatoes which were soon to be harvested. We noticed that the current method of irrigation was through furrows which were about a foot and a half deep. It took the caretaker 2 days to completely irrigate the entire farm of 1 acre. We then made a list of all the fittings that would be required to connect the water source to the Driptech system and went with Ms. Sapna to the local pipe store. We requested that the owner send us the pipes at the earliest possible time. He said he would deliver them to the farm at 8:30 am the next day.

Wednesday
Sarah Lee and I hurried through breakfast to get to the farm on time. Beaming Ms. Sapna greeted us at the Ashram and we left immediately for the farm. On arriving at the farm, the store dealer said it would take another 10 minutes to have the material delivered. We decided that as we waited for the PVC pipes and other fittings to arrive, we could begin cutting the Driptape to the length of the plot. Ms. Sapna called the farm hands together to brief them of our plan and asked them to assist. Almost immediately, the farm hands divided into two groups and some men started walking away. Numerous questions plagued my mind – do they not want to help, are they insulted to have women instructing them, what is the real issue?! On enquiring, I realized that all the workers who were uneducated were being sent off. Immediately I explained to Ms. Sapna that a Driptech system was non-technical. It is straight-forward and can be installed by following simple diagrams. Ms. Sapna gave a loud yell and we had more enthusiastic hands helping with the installation.

It was almost lunch time and numerous calls had been made to the pipe dealer but the delivery hadn’t arrived. We realized that empty stomachs made us more annoyed and we headed to the Ashram Kitchen for lunch. The all vegetarian lunch was amazing and the salad was as fresh as ever. We returned to the farm and were happy to see that the pipes had finally arrived. We explained the system to the caretaker of the farm and the plumber. The caretaker was unimpressed. He said that he didn’t think the system would add any value. Ms. Sapna told him that we would install it, he could have a look and then give us feedback. His sarcastic smile said it all. The local plumber on the other hand was eager to see and called his teenage son to be trained to set up the system. He soon connected the water source with fittings to the submain of the Driptech system.

With all the fittings in place, we began our performance. We laid out the submain, drilled the holes, fit the grommets and take offs, and flushed the system to remove all particles of plastic and mud from the pipes. Then the interesting part began, we closed the pipes with end-caps and connected the laterals to the take-offs. It was five in the evening and the sun had begun to set. We decided to turn on the system. Everyone stood back. Little kids soon passed the news to the neighbours who looked intently over the wall. One of them even climbed the tree to have a better view. The water came from a ¾ inch outlet and slowly began to fill the submain and shoot out of the holes from the laterals. Driptech once again had created an environment of awe. The caretaker broke the silence.“It is wonderful, “ he said, “something I never could have imagined.” Almost immediately, everyone started praising the system. They all saw the value and savings in terms of water and labour.

The Driptech team trained the caretaker on usage and maintenance of the system. The Driptech system with its water spouts looked brilliant in the setting sun. Chips and chai from the caretaker’s wife was a loud gesture of their gratefulness.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Job Posting: China Research Consultant


Come join our for-profit, socially minded, high visibility startup, named by BusinessWeek as one of the world’s most intriguing new companies and recently featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Economic Times.

Driptech is an international water technologies company based in Silicon Valley, with offices in Pune, India and Beijing, China. Our mission is to alleviate poverty by creating extremely affordable, water efficient irrigation solutions for small-plot farmers in developing countries. We are currently scaling up for high-volume commercial rollouts in India and China. By joining the Driptech team you will be part of a compelling social venture that aims to produce a global impact, reaching millions of small-plot farmers in the coming years.

Driptech is seeking an experienced and highly capable Consultant to conduct high level research and analysis, resulting in strategic recommendations to Driptech’s executive team for our China market development. This position will start as a 3-4 month part-time engagement with the potential to transition into a permanent, full-time position.

Responsibilities:

The Consultant shall provide research and analysis in the following areas:
  • Government and Policy: Map the political landscape as it relates to the intersection of agricultural development and water conservation, identifying key initiatives, funding and projects. Identify government ministries, individual decision makers, and important stakeholders at the central, regional, and local levels, in particular, those working closely with smallholder farmers.
  • Academia: Research and identify academic institutions (universities and research academies) that are relevant to Driptech from an advising and/or partnership standpoint. Identify the key academic influencers to the Chinese government, both individuals and institutions. Research and analyze initiatives, such as those addressing water efficiency or adoption of new technologies that may represent opportunities for Driptech.
  • Industry: Research and analyze the agriculture industry and competitors with effective business models targeting smallholder farmers. Identify the key players with relevant distribution infrastructure. Understand competitor product offering and pricing structures.
Deliverables:

At minimum, Consultant shall provide a concise written report and presentation to Driptech’s CEO and China team.

Background and Skills:

  • Minimum 3 years of relevant academic research or work experience in agriculture, water management, rural development, etc.
  • Familiarity with agriculture industry players and policy landscape
  • Experience living or working in rural China and interacting with all levels of government
  • Fluent in English and Mandarin
  • Strong communications skills, both written and verbal
  • Minimum of Bachelor’s degree
Compensation:
Competitive pay will be offered that is commensurate with Candidate’s experience.

How to Apply:
Please submit a CV and a cover letter explaining your interest to jobs@driptech.com with "China Research Consultant” in the subject line.
To learn more about Driptech, please visit our website at http://www.driptech.com/

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Job Posting: Business Development Managers – India and China


Come join our for-profit, socially minded, high visibility startup, named by BusinessWeek as one of the world’s most intriguing new companies and recently featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Economic Times.

Driptech is an international water technologies company based in Silicon Valley, with offices in Pune, India and Beijing, China. Our mission is to alleviate poverty by creating extremely affordable, water efficient irrigation solutions for small-plot farmers in developing countries. We are currently scaling up for high-volume commercial rollouts in India and China. By joining the Driptech team you will be part of a compelling social venture that aims to produce a global impact, reaching millions of small-plot farmers in the coming years.

Driptech is seeking an enthusiastic and highly capable Business Development Manager in each of China and India to drive expansion of our distribution network. The India position is based in our Pune office, and the China position is based in our Beijing office. Both are available immediately. This is an ideal position for someone looking for entrepreneurial experience in a high-profile startup as well as the opportunity to have major social impact.

Responsibilities:
  • Develop and execute a channel strategy for a new agricultural product, through developing criteria for qualifying and prioritizing distribution partners and formulating processes for effective engagement
  • Develop distribution partnerships with companies, governments, and NGOs with strong access to small-plot farmers, through market research, networking, presentations, sales meetings, management of demo installations, and contract negotiation
  • Manage relationships with distribution partners – including follow-on sales, marketing support, training of partner staff, logistics, and management of junior sales staff• Contribute to Driptech strategy for business development, product development, and marketing
  • Promote Driptech at agricultural exhibitions and to the press• Maintain strong knowledge of end-customers and market through regular visits to farmers and industry research

Background and Skills:

  • 5 - 10 years of professional work experience, including experience in the agriculture industry and in sales or business development
  • Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree
  • Fluent in written and spoken English and Hindi or Mandarin; fluency in other local languages desired
  • Ability to perform well with the limited management and support inherent in a multi-national startup, demonstrating initiative, independence, creativity, and resourcefulness
  • Ability to communicate effectively in a variety of settings – formal presentations, informal sales pitches, planning and discussions with Driptech team, meetings with farmers in villages, etc.
  • Experience working in a multinational organization preferred

Compensation:

Driptech offers a competitive salary commensurate with our funding stage.

How to Apply:

Please submit a CV and a cover letter explaining your interest to jobs@driptech.com with "Business Development Manager" plus “India” or “China” in the subject line.

To learn more about Driptech, please visit our website at http://www.driptech.com/