Dealing with the unexpected while trying to stay on course is part and parcel of any entrepreneur’s experience when building a young company, and sometimes distractions can steer a company off course.
But what Joshua Zoshi, president of Saltworks Technologies, has found is that sometimes the unexpected can present amazing opportunities for advancement; the challenge is to recognize when it’s time to change direction.
“There is no shortage of shiny objects at the side of the road,” Zoshi said. “It’s tricky to figure out if it’s a distraction or not.”
When Zoshi and Saltworks’ CEO Ben Sparrow founded the Vancouver-based water treatment solutions company almost five years ago, they were unsure of the company’s direction and target market. What they did know was that they wanted the company and its technology to make a positive environmental impact; they just didn’t know how to get there.
“We assumed the drinking water market was where the most impact would be realized,” Zoshi recalled. “We had no idea.”
Zoshi and Sparrow were working on the technology to pursue this market when they realized they were being pulled in a different direction as word of their company spread.
Demand in the industrial water market turned out to be much larger. “The market size is bigger and because the amount of water being used in the industrial sector is much larger, there is much greater opportunity to create a positive environmental impact.”
They consequently decided the company needed to change direction in order to fulfil their vision of making a difference.
Zoshi said that clarity of direction has yielded a positive payoff for the company. Its two major investors are a mining company and an oil and gas company, both of which are interested in the industrial water applications of Saltworks’ technology.
He added that water use will become ever more critical as industry’s environmental impact increases.
“We’re going in the right direction. We have a great opportunity to provide the maximum environmental impact and the maximum benefit we can with our technology.”
<strong>On taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity</strong>
“When we were presented with the NASA opportunity [to develop a unit for testing water recovery systems on the International Space Station], we had to scratch our heads and say, ‘Is this something we should be doing?’ It seemed so far out there … literally and figuratively. That was an application that we had no idea that our technology would apply to. It turns out that’s been a fantastic direction for us, not only for the obvious PR value but also some of the learning has spilled over into other areas of innovation.”