Innovator of the Week
Founder & CEO, Clear Pressure
Please provide your 30-second pitch about your social innovation.
Clear Pressure developed a more efficient method of clearing fire hydrants of snow and ice in the winter. We ensure that firefighters can respond to an emergency immediately. Our device aims to replace shoveling, which is the current state of the art. Shoveling takes anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes if it’s frozen, while our device can provide access to a hydrant in less than 90 seconds. Our patent pending technology is a hydrant cover that can be inflated after a storm to displace snow and ice. The device was initially invented in an Introduction to Engineering class at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College and now a team of 5 student engineers is developing the device for manufacturing in March.
Who or what was your best resource for starting your company?
Hanover has been fundamental to the development of our company. From design to implementation, leaders in Hanover such as Julia Griffin the Town Manager and Michael Hinsley of the Fire Department have provided us essential feedback and guidance. Throughout our year of working on this project, we have consistently connected with the locals around us. This past summer we were accepted into Dartmouth’s I-Corps site program, which perfected the way we reach out. Professor Laura Ray and Caroline Cannon taught us best practice in approaching customer segmentation and market research. We found that the most valuable thing we could do for our company was connect with the users, customers, and stakeholders and approach them in the pursuit of knowledge instead of sales.
What was your biggest obstacle in starting your company and how did you overcome it?
Starting a company is not difficult; The real challenge is keeping the company’s momentum as you pivot to accommodate your understanding of the market. Our team receives tons of feedback, criticism, and flat out “no that’s not going to work.” Society tends to be resistant to innovation. This is especially true in local municipalities. We have an idea that can increase efficiency, but we need users to help us make it a reality. We have struggled with gaining market engagement. We started to narrow in on a value proposition that would solve problems across departments. That way we could change the conversation from “no that won’t work” to “how can we make this happen with our current resources”. We are spending more time getting to know our stakeholders’ needs so that we can frame our innovation to their specific interests.
What’s the best advice you have received?
“Don’t solve problems with money” -Gregg Fairbrothers
Before launching a business, there are so many steps and problems you can work out before spending money. When we received grant money from the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, every time a problem arose, legal, design, or compensation our inclination was to spend. Gregg always advised us to take a step back and evaluate whether our actions added value to the company or if it was a distraction. First, agree on an overarching objective for your work. Next, sort your entrepreneurial to do list into Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Important, Urgent and Not Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important. The more you spend your time taking care of the important, the more value you add to your company. You, your team, and bank account are less bogged down, and you stay focused on your priorities. Keep the momentum going by investing your time like money and your money in the essential.
What about the NH lifestyle appeals to you?
The best thing about starting our company in NH has been the community support. Whether we reach out to Concord or Manchester, we have been heartened by the local support and interest. In 2016, the winter of no snow, the Hanover fire department imported 100 sq. ft. of snow from the highway department for testing! This winter we shoveled out Canaan’s fire hydrants with the water superintendent, while he told us about specifications necessary for a successful design. Where else could we hope for these kinds of connections? New Hampshire has a very welcoming community, which provides us an abundance of opportunity for collaboration, not to mention the beautiful local cross-country ski trails that keep us inspired!
What does the future look like for your company?
ClearPressure has a busy next 18 months. Our student engineers will have the final design done by March. We will refine our design with the manufacturer this spring and be ready to order 100 units by August. We have partnered with Hanover for implementation of our device in winter 2017-2018. Hanover is helping us fund and support the comprehensive testing of the technology. As a test site, local towns will be able to come to Hanover to see demonstrations of our technology. Our next steps are evaluating our device in use, gaining user feedback, and connecting to the Public Works community through a trade show.
Connect with Zoe of Clear Pressure on LinkedIn.