Wednesday, May 7, 2008

DBLive Team Talks about Solving the Landscape Irrigation Water Waste Problem in the U.S.

Chris Eckhoff and Tom Fairey of DBLive talk about saving a huge amount of water in the U.S. with their predictive landscape irrigation control technology, and give their fast pitch.

What is your offering?

DBLive has a technology that enables its Irrigation Decision Device (IDD) which retrofits existing irrigation controllers and reduces water use by predicting future soil moisture based on 31 current and forecasted environmental variables such as precipitation, soil type, wind conditions, cloud cover etc.

What do you have that is unique?

Automated, global, point weather forecast. It enables weather-aware devices. For years weather forecasts have been given to people, but now we have them going directly to devices so the devices can make decisions about the future without human intervention.

There are five levels of technology in our software engine, each building on the one before. Together they represent a significant barrier to replication by our competitors.

1-Automatic, global, weather-forecast engine
2-Point forecasts for the actual latitude and longitude
3-Scaled up to more than 70 on-demand five-day forecasts per second
4-Ability to overlay weather forecast layers on any electronic map
5-Point-forecastfor soil moisture

You can see a demo of the Point Forecast technology at It presents a Google map that lets you find your target point anywhere in the world. Move or zoom the map and left click on any point to receive a five-day weather forecast for that point.

What is your target market?

Our primary target market is the 25 million home sprinkler systems in the top 100 metropolitan areas of the U.S., and it is addressed through water distributors like major city utilities and municipal utility districts.

What is the hardware unit?

It’s called the Irrigation Decision Device (IDD) and can be installed on existing irrigation system controllers in ten minutes. The unit makes a decision each day whether to allow or suppress the irrigation system’s watering schedule using a small amount of proprietary data broadcast via satellite or FM wireless from our data center.

Are you in pilot tests?

For more than two years. We completed tests at Southwestern University where we did a 4.5 month side by side comparison with an industry standard “ET Smart” irrigation system and our solution saved over 43% against that system. We did pilot tests at Sun City in Georgetown and we saved 83% of their usage, a number higher than usual because of an unusual amount of rain last spring, and the fact that they don’t adjust their water usage based on current or forecasted weather.

What about the city of Austin?

The city of Austin has adopted 20 strategies to build, over ten years, to a 10% peak day water savings at a cost of $1.14 per peak-day gallon. They are uncertain about the ultimate success of some of these strategies. If Austin mounted a rebate strategy on DBLive’s IDD, it would save the same 10% at a cost of only $0.44/peak-day gallon. That’s a huge cost savings. Austin is still giving away toilets. The IDD would save 4 -5x what a toilet exchange saves. The staff of Austin’s water utility worked hard to identify and obtain council approval for their 20 strategies, and they are not anxious to revisit the issue. The elected officials are concerned that we need to save more water and are beginning to understand that an IDD rebate program could produce the desired savings at one third the cost of the 20 adopted strategies.

How many units have you sold so far?

In addition to those purchased by Southwestern University, Harris County Water Control and Improvement District #132 has bought 50 units to start installing in the 264 residential sprinkler systems in their district. We have only received our first production units from our out-sourced manufacturer this month. Eleven more MUDs have added the IDD to their list of conservation devices approved for existing rebate programs.

What’s the biggest issue?

The sales cycle to large cities is slow. They can take up to 2 years to make a purchase decisions. There are more than 400 Municipal Utility Districts in Harris and Montgomery Counties alone (Houston area). They have much shorter sales cycles, and they are our first adopters.

How much does each unit sell for?

$125 per unit in quantity. The IDD’s installed cost is comparable to that of rain accumulators, which are required by law in 15 states, and for which there are established rebate programs. The professionally installed cost of an IDD is comparable to that of a rain accumulator.

Can we hear your FastPitch?

DBLive has the ingredients to become a $300M company:
1) A team of achievers: diverse, experienced, and determined to make it happen,

2) A breakthrough technology with significant barriers to competitors. A complex technology, but such a simple first product that the man on the street understands it in seconds,

3) A market exceeding $3 Billion,

4) A plan to make it happen,

5) An exciting, green product. The population is growing like bacteria but the water supply is static. The best way to make supplies last is effective water conservation.

In two years of testing, this device has saved no less than 40% of water used by expensive competitor systems.

It retrofits existing sprinkler controllers, forecasts soil moisture, and suppresses watering if there are wet conditions ahead.

Its $125 price fits city rebate programs, enables wide spread adoption.

It’s already manufactured and sold.

The public is ready for this green product – and this green company.

Come and join the fun

Best regards,
Hall T.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Steve Wagh of Lakeside Mediations talks about the Mediation Process

Steve Wagh of Lakeside Mediation talks about the mediation process, how it works, and what drives some to reach a resolution.

Why did you get into mediation?

One of the worst things that can happen to a businessman is to get involved with a lawsuit. Whether it is over IP, partnerships breaking up, an unhappy employee, or changing a CEO, I’ve been through all of this. The first thing you do is go to your business lawyer. He or she tries to help you out by sending some tough demand letter. If that doesn’t work, you go get the “hired guns”; the litigators. Then it will cost $20K to $30K or even $5oK for each round and a year or more of turmoil. A pending lawsuit definitely impacts your business negatively. Suppliers and partners don’t want to get involved with a company when it’s going through litigation because they don’t want to get dragged into it. Win or lose, it can kill your company.

Most litigators admit that even if everything seems to be in their favor, they still run the risk of losing a jury decision. If you lose in court, it’s a disaster. If you win big, it will probably get appealed and stay locked in the courts for another year or so. If you win a monetary judgment, you’ll get only about 50% of the stated amount – the rest goes to the lawyers and court costs.

So I asked my trial lawyer friends how often they actually go through a trial? They said maybe only once a year because 95% to 98% of all their cases settle before their trials begin. Judges are busy and oftentimes demand you first try mediation. From a lawyer’s point of view, mediation doesn’t compete with their business because they’d rather settle earlier than later. A settlement is considered a “win” for their client and them.

So how does one get started in mediation?

There’s a forty hour course one takes to get certified.

How does mediation work?

As the mediator, I’m not the judge or jury or arbitrator. I don’t decide who’s right or wrong. My job is to be totally neutral; working hard with both parties to see if there is any way I can help them come to a fair settlement by the end of the day. Instead of a judge or jury making the win or lose decision for them, this is their chance to work out a reasonable deal between themselves.

I know the fear that one has when faced with the possibility of litigation. Sometimes that helps drive people to work harder on the mediation because they know if this doesn’t work they will have to go through depositions, interrogatories, and expert witness testimonies, and the cost is going to be huge in both money and time.

If we don’t reach a settlement by the end of the day there’s no harm, no foul. Nothing said or done at this mediation can be used later in court. I keep strict confidentiality. I can’t tell the other what each one tells me in confidence, unless they say it’s okay. The fact that you almost reach a settlement or were willing to compromise on some issue can’t be used in court, either. Either party can change their mind at anytime.

How does it work from a practical point of view?

I start with both parties in the same room unless they are so bitter that we have to start by meeting individually. We discuss the ground rules for the mediation and make sure we all know the issues and the stakes. After that, I may or may not break them into smaller groups in different rooms so that they feel comfortable laying all their cards on the table for me. Sometimes they don’t want to talk or don’t know what to talk about so we start off talking about their background or the business. After awhile they start to vent about the issues that are on the table and from there we can move forward. So often they don’t know how the other feels because they haven’t been talking to each other. I get to hear both sides of the story and might be the only one who really sees the whole picture.

Even if they don’t come to a settlement during the mediation, the process usually highlights the history of the conflict and narrows it down to a few key issues that can be addressed in the following week or so.

How are you different from other mediators?

There are many attorney-mediators in Austin because they take mediation class as part of their CLE-continuing legal education requirement. Most mediations are for divorces, car accidents, personal injury or medical malpractice. That requires some level of experience with the legal process. I only handle business disputes where I bring 40 years of understanding and experience. If the parties talk about software development and how one is taking code from the other, I understand what they are talking about. If it’s a CEO or employee issue, or a partnership problem, or a contract issue – I’ve been there. I want to help the same people I’ve worked with for so many years. No one should have to go through unnecessary litigation.

How often is mediation successful?

About 75 to 80% of the mediations resolve.

How much does it cost?

Mediators have different rates. I charge $2K for most full-day mediations, with each party paying half. There’s no other compensation from the process.

What do you find rewarding?

When I take on a case, sometimes it starts out with both parties so very far apart and angry, it seems like they’ll never come together. But by the end of the day they usually do. And then it’s over for them. No more bitterness. No more expense. No more effort. And no more stress. It’s a huge relief. That’s what makes it worth the while.

Best regards,
Hall T.