K.C. startup helps cities get smart about water infrastructure

As climate change puts a growing strain on the nation’s aging water infrastructure, a Kansas City startup company is offering software to help communities make data-driven decisions about what to replace and when.

Today’s headlines:

🏃🏾 ACCELERATOR: The Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub in Cincinnati unveils eight participants in its SustainableCincy accelerator program, including carbon-tracking app Swrm and Transmissions LLC, which makes software for planning environmentally sustainable events, Cincy Inno reports.

♻️ RECYCLING: A recycling center next to First Solar’s manufacturing facility in Ohio uses custom technology to disassemble and recycle old solar panels, recovering 90% of the materials inside, Fast Company reports.

🚌 TRANSIT: A free-market think tank touts a transit experiment in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that uses technology to replace fixed-route service with a corner-to-corner on-demand service where riders use an app to book trips.

🔌 ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Amazon unveils a prototype of the electric delivery van that it’s developing with Michigan-based electric vehicle startup Rivianthe Chicago Tribune reports.

Now, back to the topic of water infrastructure…

Most of the nation’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems were built in another era — and a different climate. Cities and counties across the country face expensive decisions about how to maintain that infrastructure to stay ahead of intensifying drought, flooding and pollution.

Elango Thevar’s mission is to help communities manage these and other challenges related to water infrastructure. His company, Neer, launched in March, offers a cloud-based artificial intelligence platform to help design, model, monitor and manage water systems.

This week, Neer was named to the latest cohort of the Elemental Excelerator, which focuses on companies trying to commercialize climate solutions.

Thevar grew up in a small town in India, where as a kid his responsibilities included fetching water for his community, which lacked running water. He left for the United States in 2002 and earned an environmental engineering master’s degree at Oklahoma State University.

“Coming here, it felt like magic. You turn on the tap and the water is always there,” Thevar said.

The growing stress facing U.S. water infrastructure, though, became increasingly apparent during his 15 years with a Kansas City construction and engineering firm. Thevar went back to school, earning an MBA at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2016, and launched Neer earlier this year.

The company digitizes all of the available information about a community’s water infrastructure, such as the age, material and placement of the pipes. Once it is compiled, the company’s software creates “actionable intelligence” to help guide decisions about what to replace and when.

The software is unique, Thevar said, for combining drinking water, wastewater and stormwater in one platform. Unlike other software, it’s also affordable for smaller cities. (The company is focusing sales on communities under 50,000). “At the price point we are offering, there is no tool available,” he said.

Customers so far include the city of Raytown, Missouri, and Johnson County in Kansas. In addition to the Elemental accelerator, Neer was also part of this year’s Wisconsin-based Gener8tor program — opportunities that Thevar said are helping get in front of prospective customers. The company has two full-time employees and expects to hire three more over the next six months.

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