IT WAS a trial by fire for several water entrepreneurs yesterday as they wooed investors at Singapore International Water Week's first Hydro Pitch Day.
Given three minutes to present their ideas and five minutes to field questions, six teams had to interest eight venture capitalists and 30 water firms in the audience and, in one team's case, even handle slide projector hiccups.
"I'm here to talk about disasters," said Mr Melvin Tang - as a technical glitch briefly froze the slides on his group's work.
His WateROAM team was pitching a mobile water filtration device for natural disaster victims to get clean water quickly. It will also donate filters to rural villages in Bintan and Cambodia, partly to collect data on their efficiency.
The teams had been selected from 17 groups put through a new nine-week programme to help them commercialise their ideas and set up their own firms.
About 100 people had applied. About 60 - half of whom were Singaporeans and the other half foreigners - were selected and matchmade into the 17 teams.
Yesterday, the top six teams handled questions probing their expertise and business plans.
Mr Chen Bo's Hydro-CLEAR Tech team had created a material that absorbs up to 190 times its weight in oil and organic solvents. This could help clean up spills in rivers and seas and remove oil contaminants in waste water. "You can even squeeze it to recover the oil and reuse the material five to 10 times," said Mr Bo, 27.
When an audience member pointed out its reusability would limit sales, a teammate replied: "We intend to sell business services to the customers. If you squeeze it, you may damage the material, so we will do it for you."
Mr Henri Lambert, 35, a partner at London-based Apsara Capital , said he was impressed by the pitches. "They were very structured and clear about how much funding they needed and what their business plans were."
The other teams' ideas included a more cost-effective device to detect toxic pollutants in water, and a product to let divers use messaging apps like WhatsApp and Twitter underwater.
On Sunday, five local water firms which had commercialised products but were seeking more funding and partnerships also pitched to investors and firms at the TechXchange programme.
Opening Hydro Pitch Day, PUB chief Chew Men Leong said the start-ups could help cut water production costs and develop new treatment methods to meet global need. "The creation of water start-ups and ventures will also help to contribute to the vibrancy of the ecosystem here, growing Singapore as a global hydrohub."