Guest Column | September 14, 2023

From Google To Water — Innovation In Water Through A Fresh Lens

By Vikki Carley, Editor, Atlantean Media

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What do Google and extreme mountain running have to do with innovation and resilience in water? Seasoned business strategist and thought leader, Dr. Ari Veltman, CBO at WFI Group, shares his personal and professional path and explains why a fresh perspective on scaling innovations in water is needed.

Dr. Ari Veltman recently took up a new role in the global water market as the Chief Business Officer at WFI Group. WFI Group is an innovative technology company based in Israel. The company specializes in developing advanced water and wastewater treatment solutions to address global water challenges. Ari brings a unique and well-rounded perspective to the sector and offers insights into the challenges and opportunities in scaling innovations in water.

Ari's journey has been anything but ordinary. With a finance and game theory education, combined with international experiences and a passion for mountain running, he offers a distinct set of skills and insights. Reflecting on his diverse background, Ari shares: “My career began as an economist, working as the Financial Advisor to the Chief of Staff, handling budgets, and economic modeling."

From Finance To Google

Transitioning from finance to working in the dynamic world of Google, Ari gained valuable experience managing diverse teams and understanding cultural openness and flexibility. He notes: “Managing teams from over 20 different nationalities across various international offices taught me how to be sensitive to various cultures, how to keep my thinking flexible, and adapt.”

However, it was during a break from the corporate world that Ari's passion for mountain running took center stage. Recounting this transformative experience, Ari explains: “Taking a break from Google, I pursued my passion for mountain running, which taught me resilience and the ability to overcome challenges. I became completely hooked, even obsessive, about pushing myself to the limits.

“These experiences have provided valuable insights that I later brought with me to the world of innovation and startups.”

First Impressions Of The Water Industry

As we dive into the water industry, Ari shares his first impressions and the challenges he has observed since starting his new role at WFI Group just six months ago. He states: “Based on my limited first impressions, successful innovation in the water industry seems to be scarce despite the abundance of inventions, startups, and new technologies entering the market.”

Addressing the complexities of the industry, he notes: “There seem to be challenges with market dynamics and layers of intermediaries and difficulties for technological startups to thrive independently. From what I've observed, there haven't been many pure technology-driven companies that have scaled independently and made a significant impact.”

While acknowledging the importance of caution in the water business, Ari also highlights the need for embracing new technologies. He explains: “The water business is known for being ‘too conservative.’ However, we should differentiate caution — a vital ‘feature’ to ensure public health and safety, and pure conservatism — a resistance to change, hindering innovation even when it can be the very key to improving the public’s health and prosperity.” 

He emphasizes that finding a balance between caution and embracing new technologies that can provide safe and healthy water is of “utmost importance.”

“We can expect the regulating bodies to move more and more from the role of gatekeeper, to becoming the driving force for adoption of new water technologies. With the challenges the world is facing around water, status quo does not seem to be an option anymore,” Ari says.  

Public Perceptions And Water Resilience

Speaking about the challenges faced by innovative technologies in reaching end clients, Ari points out: “Startups often struggle to navigate the complex market dynamics, including layers of intermediaries and complex procurement methods.” He believes that education and highlighting the unique value of technologies are crucial.   

Resilience, a critical aspect of the water industry, goes beyond stormwater management. Ari explains: “Resilience in the water industry goes beyond just stormwater management. It encompasses the ability to adapt, recover, and withstand challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, and extreme events.”

He stresses the significance of reusing and conserving water, stating: “Reuse and circular economy solutions play a significant role in enhancing the resilience of the water industry. By shifting our perspective on water from being a disposable concern to a valuable asset that needs to be conserved and reused, we can ensure a more sustainable and secure water future.”

Adapting To Climate Change

Discussing the challenges posed by climate change and water scarcity, Ari advocates for a multifaceted approach. He emphasizes: “Climate change and water scarcity pose significant challenges to the water industry. I suggest a mindset shift towards water reuse and conservation, embracing decentralized and localized solutions and evolving regulations to support adaptive measures.”

He also highlights the importance of ongoing education of the public around water’s value and water preservation. “Technology can help a lot, but we, the public, have a significant role to play as well,” he says.  

With his passion for innovation and wealth of experiences, Ari concludes: “By delving into market dynamics, education, and cultivating resilience, we can forge a path toward transformative changes that guarantee a sustainable and secure water future for everyone. Together, let us pave the way for a better tomorrow.”