CEO & Founder of Stor Water
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Q&A WITH BENJAMIN
Could you tell us about your role at Stor Water and how you founded the company?
Stor Water is the successful pivot from my previous venture with Emilio De Jesus at Stor Energy. While at IE University, I entered a competition held by Energia de Portugal. Long story short, I was randomly paired with my future partner and we won designing a service that EDP could provide their customers based on Narrowband IoT.
Now this is to be prefaced with both my background as a Nuclear Machinist Mate operating on S6G Reactor Plants and Emilio’s background as an electrical engineer for the Dominican Republic electric grid.
Fast forward a year, Emilio and I have founded Stor Energy. We would be invited to present at the Energy Web Foundation’s annual Event Horizon recognizing energy start-ups and promoting their blockchain technology. Emilio went on to be invited to be the host of the Dominican Republic Forum for the Electric Grid and I was invited to pitch by the World Energy Council.
Ultimately, we had troubles landing our first client when a water giant dragged us into the water industry. We were asked if we could build a digital twin, digitizing many of the processes and create a better UX for the operators.
Stor Water is currently tackling one of the largest problems for the water industry, distribution leakage, which accounts for 40% of the worlds potable water. Stor Water is developing a platform that will centralize smart meter data to allow for Machine Learning tools to detect distribution leakages.
How did your experience at IEU prepare you for your professional career?
My time at IE University was as much about the people I met and the projects that I was able to work on as it was the classroom. The people that you are around, the mindsets that are fostered, and proximity to decision makers makes IE University unique.
Along my entrepreneurial journey, I have been supported by fellow IE Alumni from the MBA Program, which introduced me to Adel Haddad (Stor Water’s CFO) and Professors like Alexandre Bussutil who has been my key early stage adviser alike.
What is the competitive advantage that studying at IEU provides or has provided you?
Studying at IE University creates a young professional that is focused on the future of work, who is aware of the importance of soft skills and confident in their ability to present themselves, their projects and their ideas.
Do you have any advice for IEU students and alumni who are looking to start their own company?
The most important part of starting your own company is to ensure that it isn’t ALL your own company…this may sound trivial or redundant, but it’s not.
When energy is transported a very long distance, they use 3 phase AC. A brief answer why is that when one frequency is at a peak the other is in a trough, this creates a middle line average in which there is no ups and downs, aka more stable.
What this means in a start-up is that some days are hard… some days are harder, and some days are just downright terrible, but having a co-founder or two will help and be able to pick up the slack when you are down.
And one last tip – hopefully your co-founder has a completely different skill set than you – not from the same degree or even university maybe.
Also – don’t worry the average founder is 45, it takes time.
What skills do you consider are needed to succeed in your field?
As a founder, the most important skill is the ability to learn and adapt. Things move fast and opportunities move faster, trying to catch up once something has passed is hard.
On a daily basis, I feel like I am the idiot in the room, but that’s also how I know I am doing it right. As a founder, I need to have people that are better than me in every aspect of the company, relaying the options to me, before I take the global perspective and ultimate decision.
Monday, I may be sitting in a meeting discussing the different data retrieval methods and parameters to monitor, while the next day discussing the structure of a convertible note and where the legal structure is and what are/if any legal implications exist.
Ultimately, mental fluidity and the ability to think entirely on a subject and then changing to another is a trait that is highly rewarded in this space.
Tell us about the IEU alumni community and the impact they have had in your life and/or career.
It is impossible to go any further talking about the IE Alumni Community than to start with my first early stage advisor Alexandre Bussutil. Alex is both an Alumni of the MBA program and a professor at IE. Originally, a few years back he overheard me on a call with an energy company and we got to chatting. Long story short, he has been my early stage advisor along the road and introduced me to many other important figures at our early stage.
Which brings us to Stor Water’s CFO Adel Haddad, who was introduced to us by Alex. Working with Adel as an external CFO/Fundraising Advisor has worked out very well for us.
There are many other Alumni in the community, but for me most notable Eiso Kant, that have added a lot of value to myself along the way. Ultimately, networking is about reaching out and being willing to learn.
Why do you think it’s important to engage with the IEU alumni community?
The Alumni Community is ultimately a passport to the entire world. The hardest part of getting into an organization or to be a trusted partner is finding common ground. IEU’s Alumni Community provides an open door into almost every country on earth. If we work together we can achieve synergetic goals.
What skills would you recommend job seekers develop in order to make them more competitive in today’s workforce?
It is probably overstated but being data savvy will never go out of fashion. Currently the world is changing, and the amount of data is ever growing. It may seem initially scary or unachievable, but working on some small personal projects with data and becoming familiar with different tools depending on your area of expertise is highly desirable. If a business development professional comes to me being able to create her own reports, I will be much more likely to hire her than the competition without the same capabilities.
There are many resources on the web available from YouTube channels, forums, and specific learning websites.
What’s the best career advice you have ever been given?
Keep learning! The most important thing in a job is that you are learning. If you are not learning, the job market will outpace you. Being a great employee today is an employee that is at the crossroads of expertise and can creatively suggest new solutions to old problems from unrelated learnings in their work/life experience.
If someone was considering going to IEU, what would you tell them?
It is a great place to create an international network and it affords you an amazing quality of life with a Spanish backdrop. Ensure that you explore your creative itches outside of university from music, to a hobby, or club. Oftentimes the best connections will be made around common likes and business ideas come from your need for a solution.
Why did you choose the BBA program at IE University?
I chose the BBA because it provided me with a well-rounded transition from the engineering side of operations as a plant operator to a more business focused and international mindset of a start-up.
Looking back, the BBA is still a great option, but moving into the future I think a BBA with more technical skills will be necessary for the workforce.
What is one thing you wished you knew, when you were a student?
That when you are looking to start a business, it’s not about the ideas you have, but the opportunities you are presented with. Create those opportunities by interacting with people and know that learning to be sociable is one of the most important aspects of university. Enjoy it. Grades are a sign of following instructions, while solving problems and understanding how much is necessary to get the job done is entrepreneurial.
Now, that is not to say that you won’t work more than anyone else because you will, rather you will know when the product is good enough to release. Perfection is the enemy of success (entrepreneurially), because by the time everything is perfect, you are already out of date. Now this is not to say that in another line of work perfection isn’t necessary – I expect very high quality from my engineers, but as an entrepreneur you need to be able to move fast and assess situations with the assets you have at hand and make great decisions.