This might sound like the beginning to a bad joke. In fact, it was the beginning of many beautiful friendships and intellectual adventures, between participants, entrepreneurs, and faculty advisors alike.
The pump room we walked into was that of a dynamic startup, Advanced Pumping Technologies (APT), where we joined a team of experienced engineers and businessmen who had developed a revolutionary new pump technology with potentially lucrative applications worldwide in many industries, but concentrating initially in the oil and gas industry. Our mission: to add value to the company and to help it prepare to launch in the American market.
At the outset, our entrepreneurship Professor Benoit Leleux had warned us with a smile: “For this project, you will need lots of coffee!” But we have been energized in other ways too – particularly by our faculty advisor, Arnaud Chevallier, who has helped our team apply MECE (“mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive”) analytical thinking using his “powerful problem solving” situation-complication-question (SCQ) approach.
Over the last few weeks, we have learned more about our startup company: its challenges, its strengths, and its people. One interesting feature of the revolutionary pump is its lack of pulsation when operating – or, as our German engineers would say, its lack of Hammerschlag. Its key defining feature is its lack of friction in its moving parts while pumping. In the same way, we have learned how to operate as a team with comparable smoothness and tranquility. This creates greater operational efficiency, much as our startup’s pump is significantly more efficient than the standard models.
When we first read about our startup, prior to meeting with the project team, we didn’t expect to discover that the technology was not brand-new, but already tested, validated and proven over many years of study by highly experienced engineers. Third generation prototypes existed and were being tested; this was no seed company, but an enterprise already accelerating down the runway towards liftoff. Our task: to help the conservative oil and gas industry accept something fundamentally new.
We were likewise surprised by the theme of rejuvenation that runs through our project. One of the key features of our startup’s technology is its bellows design. Cow skins have been used since ancient times to hold water, but modern materials science allow bellows or accordion-type designs to compress that water at enormous pressures. In the same way, the modern entrepreneurial spirit can strengthen the resolve and commitment of individuals and teams, allowing them, like a revolutionary pump technology, to achieve great things under high pressures. And like this new pump, we can operate with much greater efficiency and with less maintenance than pumps using conventional technology.
Over the next few weeks, our team will explore ways to bring the current design of pump to the American market, particularly targeting key market segments such as marginal oil wells, enhancing water injection/flooding, hydraulic lift, and saltwater disposal.
Going forward, the sky is the limit – this new pump technology could be applied to industrial chemicals, mining, desalinization, municipal water treatment, and many other fields. The transformative potential of APT’s invention carries on the proud tradition of innovation and dynamism within the IMD startup competition winners.