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The Water Council Raising $5M Fund, Names Next Accelerator Startups

The Water Council is raising a $5 million venture fund to take its water technology startup investments to the next level.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee organization announced the companies selected for its third session, beginning in the fall (see below).

During The Water Council’s annual Water Summit held this week, the group celebrated the graduation of its second batch of accelerator companies and offered new details about the first investment fund it’s planning.

The Water Council’s year-long accelerator—dubbed “Business. Research. Entrepreneurship. In Wisconsin,” or the BREW—offers participating companies up to $50,000, an office in the council’s Global Water Center near downtown, and access to mentors and business training.

In the first two sessions, the $50,000 was a grant provided by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. But as Xconomy reported in March, that $50,000 will be in the form of an equity investment from The Water Council, starting with the third class that begins in September. The WEDC is still providing the funding, but it will not take an equity stake, so any returns from exits by BREW companies will go to The Water Council. (Disclosure: The Water Council and WEDC are Xconomy underwriters, but our coverage is determined independently by our editors.)

The Water Council’s stake in each BREW company is still being determined, but it will be in the low single digits, president and CEO Dean Amhaus said. It’s possible that future returns from those investments could be pumped back into the BREW’s pot to create a self-sustaining accelerator fund.

At the same time, The Water Council is trying to raise $5 million from private investors for Wisconsin Water Seed Fund I, Amhaus said. For the most part, the council is staying tight-lipped about details during the fundraising process, but Amhaus said about half of the money has been raised, and the goal is to close on the fund by mid-September at the latest.

The venture fund will be separate from the pot of money guaranteed for accelerator participants, although it could also invest in BREW companies, Amhaus said. “It’s sort of open-ended,” he added.

The venture fund provides another way for The Water Council to discover emerging water tech companies located across the country and support them over a longer period of time. “It’s opening up a whole other area of engagement for us,” Amhaus said. The overarching goal isn’t necessarily to make lots of money, Amhaus said, although clearly the venture fund is potentially a new source of revenue for the six-year-old nonprofit.

Here are the companies selected for the BREW’s third session:

—Iconac: This Canadian company created a smart sensor system for real-time monitoring of water pipes and predicting possible leaks.

—IX Power Clean Water: This Colorado company is commercializing technology for cleaning the water discharged during production processes in the oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, and construction industries.

—Optiktechnik: This Wisconsin startup makes optical sensors and other instruments that help monitor and control particles during water and wastewater treatment operations.

—Oxymem: Based in Ireland, this company developed technology to improve the aeration process during wastewater treatment, with a goal of increasing efficiency and lowering the cost of operations.

—Radom: This Wisconsin company is developing plasma-based technology to improve the measurement of toxic trace metals in water, wastewater, industrial processes, food, and drugs.

—Solar Water Works: This Wisconsin company is developing a system to purify water using ultraviolet light, eliminating the need for chemicals or an external power source.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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