For water technology companies, entering new markets is somewhat of an art. The same approach is never used twice; it requires a customized approach based on working knowledge and understanding of each market’s culture, legislation, and language.
As part of its go-to-market strategy, Toronto-based UV Pure Technologies starts by targeting markets where there is an acceptance of or requirement for ultraviolet (UV) disinfection for water treatment.
Early in his company’s life, CEO Rick VanSant recognized the need to find entrenched partners that that could represent the company in those markets. Today, UV Pure puts potential markets and partners through a process. “We try to be diligent and not fall prone to ‘ready shoot aim’ approach. We’ve learned that it’s a quick route to wasted time and money and lost opportunity,” he says.
For starters, UV Pure tries to have a minimum of three candidates for representation in each market, he explains. “That approach helps us waste less time. We also incorporate learning and support available through Ontario’s outreach programs and trade consultants.”
About a year ago, VanSant attended an Ontario-sponsored seminar about Colombia and Mexico’s water sector. He learned that Colombia had approved a US$60-million budget for potable and treatment in small community applications. He also saw a business associate, Jose Maria Gonzalez, vice president of business development for Ottawa-based Clearford Industries, presenting at the seminar.
On a parallel track, UV Pure had been speaking with Clearford Industries as a direct customer. UV Pure offers secondary treatment—a “finishing” disinfection treatment—that works well with companies that deliver primary wastewater treatment solutions, such as Clearford, or companies that require additional treatment before returning effluent to the environment.
“We have a good relationship with Clearford; they know and accept our technology,” he says.
With VanSant’s growing interest in Colombia and Gonzalez’s experience in country, the two kept in touch over the next few months. Eventually, Clearford tabled a request for UV Pure to consider the company an exclusive partner in the Colombian market.
“Clearford had been on the ground in Colombia for a few years, and they understood regulatory and government requirements,” VanSant says. “We did the analysis and ended up with a partner that can offer knowledge and provides a synergistic technology. As an added bonus, Clearford is our neighbour in Ontario. They’ve been taking our product to market for a few months now, and the response has been excellent.”
WaterTAP was material in facilitating some of the introductions that led to the partnership, VanSant adds. Introductions to Clearford’s Chairman, Rod Bryden, led to meetings with the company’s president and CEO, Kevin Loiselle. “The introductions from WaterTAP had a direct impact on principals of each company getting to know each other, which drove toward the relationship we have today,” he says.
Part of WaterTAP’s value is the facilitation of stronger relationships within the community of earlier stage water technology companies in the province, he adds.
VanSant also credits WaterTAP for an introduction to MaRS Discovery District’s cleantech group, which now supports work on UV Pure’s business strategy.
VanSant believes more Ontario companies need to explore opportunities to partner in foreign markets. “This is a great story about UV Pure and our potential in Colombia, but it also celebrates the ability for two Ontario companies to work together effectively,” he says.