no one, as far as Deemer knows, is using the material for water extraction as
the UTEP team plans to do, she said.
The UTEP startup's first niche market is grease-collection companies that need to separate huge amounts of grease from huge amounts of water, she said.
Deemer, 28, an El Paso native and Franklin High School graduate with a UTEP degree in chemistry, late last year learned about the Paso del Norte Venture Competition and jumped at the chance to enter it.
However, while she had a good idea and technical expertise, she needed others with more business acumen.
She was introduced to Alex Pastor, a UTEP marketing student interested in getting involved in a water-recycling project.
Pastor, 22, also an El Paso native and Coronado High School graduate, once operated an El Paso seafood stand, which earned him an entrepreneurial scholarship. He's an intern at the Hub of Human Innovation, an El Paso technology incubator where American Water Recycling is now being mentored -- one of their prizes for the team's El Paso venture competition victory.
Pastor recruited another Hub of Innovation staffer, Diego Capeletti, onto the team. Capeletti, 32, moved to the United States from Argentina several years ago with his wife, and came to El Paso in 2011. He received a master of business administration degree from UTEP on Saturday. He also has an accounting degree from an Argentina university.
When they started formulating a business plan early this year, the UTEP students were only focused on competing in the El Paso venture contest, Capeletti said.
After their wins, Deemer chimed in, "everything got real." Their business dreams began.
They've already lined up their first customer.
"I told them I would buy the first two systems they get," said Greg Jarvies, owner of American Waste Removal in Albuquerque.
The company pumps grease out of traps from restaurants and other places, and also operates two New Mexico plants where grease haulers each day dump thousands of gallons of grease/water gunk.
The plants uses a slow heat process to separate grease from the water.
"It's a nightmare to get it (water) cleaned up. I've been trying to find something better for 30 years," Jarvies said. "With this, we would just have to run it through the filter and it could go into the city water supply."
Deemer said her graphene membrane can extract grease from the water and clean the water much faster than existing water-filter membranes. Other membranes can process about 30 gallons a day while hers can do 30 gallons per hour, she said.
"Our niche market is a nasty little market nobody has heard of. But the water-treatment market is huge," Deemer said.
Gary Williams, director of the UTEP Center for Research Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which helps nurture UTEP-based startups, said the UTEP team's technology comes at a time when drought is on the top of minds across the nation.
"This can be part of the solution," Williams said.
The team is made up of hard workers and Deemer does an impressive job of conveying her technical knowledge, Williams said.
This is the first UTEP team to ever compete in the Global Venture competition, he added.
The UTEP students are now armed with business cards carrying their executive titles in their young company. But their pay for now is "sweat equity," Pastor noted.
They are now pursuing a $300,000 state grant to help pay for a proposed, year-long test of the graphene-membrane technology at a septic-tank pumping company in Las Cruces.
They also are honing their business plan, which calls for hitting sales of $33 million in a five-year period as the company branches out in the future to various water-treatment and water-recycling markets.
The young entrepreneurs will likely tap into the leads to investors and others they collected at the venture competitions.
"We have a lot of cards and a lot of people to contact," Deemer said.
(c)2013 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at www.elpasotimes.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Most Popular Stories
- Bipartisan Budget Deal Gets Key Support in House
- Bitcoin Clones Lurch Onto Financial Scene
- Clinton to Keynote Annual Simmons Leadership Conference
- Scotch Whisky Sales Raise Distillers' Spirits
- Holiday Shopping Off to a Slow Start This Season
- Budget Deal Will Cut 220,000 Californians Out of Jobless Benefits
- Fake Deaf Interpreter Was Hallucinating, Has Schizophrenia
- Tea Party Glum in Face of Bipartisan Budget Deal
- Health Coverage Disparities Emerge Among States
- Futures Fall, Holiday Spending and Unemployment Up