Yaron Dycian is chief product and strategy officer for WINT, a groundbreaking company that produces artificial intelligence-powered leak detection and water conservation devices. WINT serves some of the world’s largest organizations including technology, construction and real estate businesses.
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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. This is a very special edition because I’m John Shegerian and I’m here in Fresno, California. And we’re so honored to have you with us today Yaron Dycian, and he’s in Israel today, took the time to have this interview with us. Welcome to the Impact Podcast, Yaron.
Yaron Dycian: Yeah. Thanks, John. Great to be here. Really excited about it.
John: I’m really excited too because you’re doing so many special things that are very important for our audience to hear about the WINT and for our audience members, who want to find everything Yaron’s doing at WINT, you can go to www.wint.ai.
Yaron, before we get talking about this important technology and what you’re doing in water conservation, I would love you to share just your journey, where you grew up, where you got educated and how you even started getting on this journey?
Yaron: Yeah. Actually, I’ve had an interesting childhood. Born in Israel. I was in Israel until the age of around 10, third grade. And then in third grade, my father was a doctor, we flew over to New York where he did his apprenticeship in New York. I was in New York for a year and then flew over to Long Beach, California another year and then flew back to Israel. I finished high school. Everybody here does military service and I kind of did a pretty special program where I studied math and physics at the University. I always wanted to be a scientist. So I did that, then went into a lot of R&D, you know, and many years of products and technology. This will be my seventh start-up at this point. Did everything from e-commerce back in the early days to work for the company that invented the ethernet switch, agriculture, E-commerce, cybersecurity.
And then, you know, I came into this and I said, look, the world is running out of resources and that was maybe three or four years ago when it was well known but maybe not such a big deal. And I said we got to do something. Knowing technology it’s solved many of humanity’s problems in the past. Let’s see what we can apply here and come into this. And I discovered an amazing world where technology is not used so much and can do a lot of good. So, that’s how I landed here.
John: You know, before we get talking more specifically about WINT, your water intelligence products, let’s talk a little bit about Israel. You know one thing, I don’t think the media covers enough, especially here in the United States is, we’re very American-centric. Oh, Silicon Valley, the hotbed of innovation or silicon alley in New York, or San Diego with biotech, but talk a little bit about all the innovation and the creativity that comes out of Israel. Because in my journey as an entrepreneur, I hear so much about innovation that’s coming out of Israel much more than most of the rest of the world. Can you share a little bit about your thoughts and your journey as an entrepreneur in Israel, and now like you said, you’re on your sixth or seventh start-ups, but this is sort of normal for Israel, please share.
Yaron: It’s funny, you know, Israel likes to call itself a Start-Up Nation. Seriously, it’s the mentality here. And the search Israel Start-Up Nation, even our Tour de France road cycling team is called Israel Start-Up Nation.
John: I didn’t know about that.
Yaron: And it goes to the level where you’ve got two kids in school and they’ll talk, and one of them will have an idea in the slang here is that’s a great idea, it’s a Start-Up. That’s what they would tell each other. So, it’s really deep in the culture, you know, go find an idea turned into something, build it. If you build it, they will come. It’s very strongly engraved in the culture.
John: Just from a very young age? You’re saying, from a young age?
Yaron: Absolutely, all think of start-ups. It’s even if they don’t think of a start-up, it’s in the slang. Good idea equals start. That’s how it goes.
John: Wow, and you’re saying it’s a national pride issue to be called Start-up Nation. It’s so interesting. That is so wonderful. Talk a little bit about, so now, you’ve had many successes in your rear-view mirror and you’re thinking about it now as most of us get to a certain age we start thinking about the legacy we leave behind and also where we are as a world, as a planet, as climate changes have become real. And the sciences there. Talk a little bit about how you found this, you chose this part of the environmental intelligence pie to go attack. Why water? And why now?
Yaron: To be honest, this always has some element of planning and some element of luck as everything in life.
John: Of course.
Yaron: So, I was thinking about what can I do as a startup that will change existing Holden Industries. I used to do things for banking, for e-commerce. These are all super high-tech and got always the latest and greatest technologies. But when you look at buildings, facilities, construction, the industry they’re way back there. I’ve got customers who use equipment that was built in the 1960s. So, that’s not benefiting from everything that’s happened over the past 60 years.
Yaron: I said to myself, that’s an area where everything is old. And old means you can you contribute a lot, you can make a big difference. And I started looking around there and a friend of mine came up with an introduction for me to somebody else, to my partner who was going into it. And we spoke and decided to take it. So, you know, a combination of planning and luck. What can I say?
John: Perfect. And I’m so glad you said that because so many successful, entrepreneurs when they’re talking about their success they never give enough credit to luck. You and I both know. When you get to a certain age and level of success, luck plays a large part in what comes together sometimes.
Yaron: Napoleon said it. Don’t bring me, smart generals, bring me generals with luck.
John: I’m glad you said it too because not enough people say it. So now you and your partner come together to put together and to get WINT going and WINT is Water Intelligence. Now, explain what the problem is. As a world, are we wasting water on a regular basis? Not only as people in our household but also, when it comes to like, you said to industrial, office buildings and industrial facilities, is water wasting part of all of our cultures around the world?
Yaron: Oh my God, you wouldn’t even believe it and I’ll get down to examples. But yeah, here’s the thing, water for many, many years has been treated as a commodity, right? You want water, take water. It’s cheap. It’s easy. It’s everywhere. Never mind. So, nothing has really been built to conserve water. Now, we’ve got the statistics, we go into buildings, we put in our systems and we consistently see the waste of about 25%, 25% of the water that goes into a building is waste.
Now, there’s no magic about this waste. You won’t find a little Gremlin stealing the water. You won’t find aliens stealing them. It’s your toilets leaking. Your taps are not well closed. Your irrigation is misconfigured. Your HVAC system is losing enormous amounts of water to evaporation and so on and so forth. It’s just endless. It’s very difficult to find. These are practical day-to-day problems. How do you find all those leaky toilets? How do you know when the irrigation is misconfigured? It just happens. Nobody notices. There’s nothing monitoring yet impossible to find. The result, on average 25% in extreme cases, 70% of the water going into a building gets wasted.
John: Wait a second. You just mentioned five or six things? Toilets, water, irrigation sinks, HVAC. If we think about it as a boat, it’s leaking from so many different areas. It’s incredible. So when you go in, there are so many opportunities to create savings, you’re saying, and that’s what your intelligence does. For instance, I own a factory with a thousand workers. How do you come in and do this assessment? How does your technology take me from 1960? Like you said to 2022?
Yaron: Yeah, so we will monitor the water flows in your equipment, on your pipes, wherever it’s relevant. So, we’ll kind of do a mapping of where we need to monitor water. We’ll put in standard absolutely off-the-shelf water flow meters. And we will read them at a very high frequency. We need that high time resolution. Maybe 10, 100 milliseconds, and then we look at that flow. We look at this flow and we apply a lot of artificial intelligence signal processing machine learning to it. And you can think of a water flow pattern if you think of the flow rate over time that creates a signal. It’s a graph, right? It’s a time graph. You look at this graph and it has a pattern and you can learn this pattern.
Using the right technologies, identify what is good and what is bad in that pattern. What is anomalous? What makes sense? What doesn’t make sense? And when you apply to different use cases from just your standard office building floor or your manufacturing facility that manufactures tons and tons of whatever. You can identify the anomalies and when you identify the anomalies, you can pinpoint them. You can’t always pinpoint them to the exact specific location, but you can give a strong enough hint that anybody who knows that place within 5 minutes to identify the source. And it’s the combination of that set of insights that we bring with the artificial intelligence in signal processing that machine that does the job.
John: Had you applied in your other entrepreneurial ventures you had on– Did you apply artificial intelligence before so you already had an understanding of it? Or was this new to take a problem and to apply artificial intelligence? Was this a new world for you as well?
Yaron: Actually AI, this is the first time I’m doing the AI.
John: Really? No kidding. That’s so interesting. Okay. So now you come into a building, you apply your technology. So then, how does the remedy start to happen? Do you go in then and bring in a group of specialists who then goes in and remedy the problems you found to create the savings or how does the fix actually happen then?
Yaron: So, the fix happens in two ways. The first is, where applicable, we can also deploy automatic felts[?]. If you’ve got something that’s leaking horribly, in Covid it was very apparent. The irrigation system leaked and everybody’s stuck at home, then we shut off the valve remotely. The system does it automatically. By the way, water is also hugely damaging with extremely negative environmental consequences. You blow a pipe from the 20th floor, it destroys everything down to the ground.
The carbon impact of emptying all that destroyed stuff is very deep. Let alone the financial planner. So, you know a valve will solve that. In other cases, you know, it’s not really an expert. All you need is, you’ve got a toilet leaking on the 10th floor, you send the maintenance guy looking for it and it’s not, it’s an expert, you know, to that level or if it’s a production line. They know their line, you tell them, here’s the symptom. Here’s where it’s coming from, here are the three places to look for, that’s what they do for a living. So the staff on-site always knows based on the feedback that we provide, where to find problems.
John: Comparatively speaking, I assume there are other companies that were doing what you’re doing now before, but applying AI and applying machine learning to it gives you an edge. How has that given you an edge and where are you in terms of– What’s the total addressable market for you with regards to what you’re trying to accomplish?
Yaron: Okay, so these are two questions. Let me start–.
John: Yes, sorry. I’m sorry.
Yaron: That’s okay. So, first question is, how does AI give us an advantage?
Yaron: And look, we are in computer terminology, we are an anomaly detection system, right? You look for– you train yourself in what’s normal, and then you identify the anomalies and anomaly, the parameters that define the success of an anomaly detection system are to[?] your true detection ratios, which means if there’s a problem, what’s the likelihood that you’ll detect it? You want to be at 100% there but nobody ever is in any system whatsoever.
Yaron: Including ICBM detection. And on the flip side, you want zero false positives. You don’t want the bug the team on the ground with false alerts, or they’re running around and there’s nothing wrong because they’ll hate you pretty soon and you’ll get kicked out the door, right? Now that’s the balance and it got certain levels of– if you ask me insufficient quality before AI was around. And when we started employing our AI and machine learning, we saw a huge jump in the performance of these things. So that’s the difference. We provide better detection and fewer false alerts in dramatic numbers[?].
John: For someone who’s not successful– who hasn’t applied AI the way you have, does AI that you have created here to this problem specifically, does it continually learn? So every time you go to a new building and then you’re actually applying more knowledge now to the next building and continuing to increase the performance and the results of– from job to job, as you evolve as a company.
John: That’s great. That is just wonderful. So let’s go to the second question. How big could this be? Because this sounds like a problem that obviously is not systemic just to Israel, that this is a worldwide problem and you’re really solving something that’s really big here. How big can your company grow in terms of solving this big problem of water conservation and water savings?
Yaron: So, the problem is everywhere. We’ve got customers from the US west coast all the way the far east and everything in between and Europe and whatnot. Everybody’s buildings are doing the same stuff. And you know how big is the market, take a look around. Every building out there, every apartment out there, every manufacturing facility out there is wasting 25% of the water that goes in.
Now, Lake Mead is drying up. What are they going to– How are they going to bring water to Las Vegas or Los Angeles in 15 years? Nobody knows, right? You look at some of the movies online about this and CNN, CNBC, or whatever I mean everybody is freaking out. The problem is everywhere. London is going to become a water-stressed area. So, it’s big. The question the market is pretty big.
John: So, how do– I know you’re a very humble guy, Yaron. So I’m going to just say some of the names, Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, they use your technologies. Obviously to improve, to impress those kinds of brands and many others. You’re doing something super right. So now you and your partner, you’re entrepreneurs. So part of the balancing act of an entrepreneur, you have a total addressable market. That’s massive, obviously. And it’s important that it’s solved and that these issues are fixed. How do you break down? Because every company has a version of resources or limited resources in terms of how to attack their total addressable market. So how do you go and see the world and break and carve it up in terms of sequentially and efficiently, while you manage your resources, going to attack that total addressable market?
Yaron: That’s a very good question. And the first and probably most important segmentation you do is geographical. We don’t sell worldwide. We do have systems installed worldwide that were taken there by our partners or if we’ve got a multinational who’s using us in one place, there are other facilities wanted. But our focus currently is the US, the UK is number one in Europe and a couple of other European countries as secondary and Israel, of course, that’s our home base. [crosstalk] Beyond that, we’re poor– we’re carefully opportunistic. We’re not making sales and marketing efforts right now, but that will come with the right partner, that will come.
John: Right. Got it. With regards, you mentioned Lake Mead, you mention Las Vegas, you mentioned London. Listen, I’m sitting in Fresno, California. California had a water problem, a long time and it’s getting worse as you point out. This is serious. Is this something homeowners? Is this a technology that eventually homeowners are going to be able to leverage and use to help save water in their homes as well?
Yaron: Absolutely. Yes, we’re installed. Right now is part of that Focus. We are providing solutions to homeowners but mostly through homeowner associations or building management companies for the relatively higher-end, simply because we can’t pick up the whole market but we’ve got some of London’s fanciest apartments. I’m talking, 20 million dollar apartments. They’re pretty nice. I was out there actually awesome. You know, they’re using us, they’re using us both to conserve water and prevent water damage, which is horrific, and apartments as well.
John: So what I love is also you’ve embedded yourself and I want you to explain it more with CBRE and JLL, to the biggest facility and property management companies in the world. What does that mean for the properties that they manage?
Yaron: Both of these companies and many other facility management companies want to bring their customers best of breed advanced solutions in everybody. Just everybody cares about sustainability today, right? I think COP26[?], seriously, I saw a huge change in the way people perceive sustainability and their desire to invest in it. Companies like this who managed for their customers’ properties of endless square footage can bring these technologies to their customers and make them more sustainable and more immune to the damage of water leaks in buildings.
John: Let’s talk about that COP26. You bring up a great point because a lot of people came out with lofty[?] goals but it seemed a little bit like disingenuous kicking the can down the street. What I mean by that is when people came out and said, we’re going to be net-zero by 2050 but wait for a second, as you point out you’re on– we have problems today in terms of water and other conservation and carbon emissions and things of that such. So if I have a building and I use your technology, you’re going to be able to tell me how much I was wasting before I use your technology. How much I’m saving now and I’ll be able to report that to my shareholders and other constituents as well?
Yaron: Of course, we work with some of the names you mentioned before. They’re chief sustainability officers and this is pretty new as well. Right? Three years ago, you didn’t have sustainability officers. Now everybody has, which is great and I mean, that’s part of that movement. Anyway, they look at our data and we provide them reports on how much water we save them every year. We actually use some of them and we look[?] quarterly and they get these reports through dashboards, through our customer success team, and they know I just saved 500 million gallons this year in my facilities.
Now, here’s another thing. So needless to say, after half an hour speaking, how important water sustainability is, but here’s the thing, water has a huge carbon. So when you drink that much water, you are having someone pull it out of the ground, treat it, transfer it, sometimes, hundreds of miles away. Pull it up the building into the umpteenth floor, if you’re on a high floor. Sometimes it gets salinated which is extremely energy-intensive. And then you drink the water or you use it. Well, if you drink it or not, but if you use it, and it goes back into the sewage, then it gets transferred to the sea[?] which is more energy, and then it gets treated and through the treatment which takes up energy. You’re actually releasing carbon– not carbon but greenhouse gases.
So you’re releasing methane and you’re releasing sulfur dioxide. So every cubic meter of water that you use emits, depending on the specific processes of distance and whatnot. Every cubic meter is about 30 to 40 pounds of carbon emissions. So the carbon footprint issue around water and water wasting and water conservation is also massive. In terms of, we’re going to really get to net zero as nations go, as corporations go, as with other organizations go and cities and municipalities go, we’ve got to get this water thing balanced out. So we’re not wasting 20, at least 25% in everywhere we operate.
In fact, you said municipalities, so some interesting statistics. About 13% of US electricity goes into the water. The whole water process, 13% of electricity in the US, some municipalities 70% of their electricity usage goes to water, 70% in some municipalities. So now think you’re going to cut down water waste in buildings by 25%, what does that mean for the municipality? You just cut down about 20% of your electricity bills for the municipality. Forget all the other benefits, it’s just your pure cost.
John: You mentioned what we just saw over at the big carbon conference in Europe, talk a little bit about the investment community. It’s my impression that institutional investors throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States are very interested in investing in the circular economy, in ESG technologies, and companies that support good ESG and circular economy behavior. What are your thoughts on that? And is that going to help fuel the growth of your company WINT?
Yaron: I totally agree. I think it’s another really interesting trend, right? Like we did not have chief sustainability officers three years ago. We did not see that much sustainability investment even a year and a half ago. This is flipped. It’s crazy. It is flipped. Every generic venture capital now wants to put in money into sustainability and there are just– I can’t even keep count of the number of funds that are dedicated to sustainability and ESG.
So I mean the world has changed in that aspect. With all the cynicism about COP26 and the challenges they have, this is super difficult, right? You’re asking countries to make massive changes. The mind shift is going to be super impactful, I think. Companies are now really doing it. They used to talk and it was lip service. They’re putting money into it and they’re investing and this will change the world.
John: Will that help? With all the interests like you said[?] just like the last 18 months or so. And I know it’s going to continue in the years ahead, it’s not going away anytime soon. Will that help fuel the growth of your company faster than you even imagine three years ago?
Yaron: I believe, yes. And I’m very hopeful because look, now people are more interested in buying our products and have the drive to do that. It’s as simple as that and investors are more interested in investing in this kind of technology. So you have to say yes, right?
John: Right. And do you have offices around the world? Or are they mostly just in Israel right now?
Yaron: Israel, the US, and London are where we have permanent offices.
John: You’re a young guy still and you’ve already done six or seven ventures. Is this the last big one or is this just a part of the long journey for your own [inaudible]?
Yaron: I certainly hope it’s not the last one because that’s what I like doing, find a problem nobody solved before. It’s tough. It’s difficult but you’re carving your own way. You’re making things up as you go and you help the world in some way. I hope. I sure hope not.
John: I love what you’re doing. I still love it. I want to give you the last word before we sign off for today, but I’m going to have you back to continue this important journey about water, water intelligence, water conservation, and WINT, your great technology, please. I want to give you the last word before we have to say goodbye, just for today.
Yaron: Yeah, let’s make this a better world is all I can say. Our times up, we are counting time now and I think whatever people do this should be– It’s next generations. It’s our world. It’s our grandchildren’s world. Let’s take care of it.
John: You know, Yoran, you’re the reason we do this show. We don’t take any advertising for it. We’ve built up a big audience over 14 years, and I’m just grateful to you for making the world a better place, a greener place, a more sustainable place. For people that want to find Yaron, his partner, and his colleagues, and all the great stuff they’re doing at WINT, please go to www.wint.ai. We’re thankful for you. I can’t wait to have you back on to continue this journey and continued success. You’re on DCN.
Yaron: Thanks a lot, John. Great being on the show. Had a great time. Appreciate it.
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