Big data meets big water: ABB Technology Ventures wins VC award for its investment in Israeli water-monitoring startup

ABB’s Venture Capital unit wins Global Corporate Venturing award, continues to ply the uncharted waters of tech innovation

Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Jess Holl, a freelance journalist and content strategist whose work has appeared in Billboard, National Geographic Adventure and New York Magazine, among others. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of ABB or its employees.

Imagine maximising the efficiency of something as sprawling and complex as a water network without any physical changes to the network required. Now, imagine having the foresight to invest in the company whose innovations would make this a reality.

“We are like the crow’s nest on the old sailing ships,” says Girish Nadkarni, head of ABB Technology Ventures (ATV), the corporate venture capital arm of ABB. “While the business people are focusing on their immediate challenges, we are looking over the horizon for potential activity which can be opportunities or threats.”

ATV first invested in Israeli company TaKaDu’s cloud-based monitoring solution for water distribution networks in 2012. The system leverages big data to transform the way water networks are operated and managed by using innovative algorithms to read the raw data generated by the network’s utilities. What emerges is a real-time picture of how the network is functioning. The resulting insights can help inform decisions across the entire network, from analysts checking for leaks, bursts and pressure problems to management teams identifying challenges and maximising resources.

It’s this kind of game-changing technology that has made TaKaDu a worldwide leader in its field — and ABB’s continued support of TaKaDu’s innovations was recently recognised at the Global Corporate Venturing Symposium in London. On May 21, 2014, ATV won the Global Corporate Venturing award in the Sub-$50-million Investment of the Year category for its investment in TaKaDu.

The awards celebrate innovation, best practice and service in the corporate venturing ecosystem, among others in the running in the Sub-$50m category were Google Ventures, Amex Ventures, Intel Capital, and Nike – further distinguishing ABB as an internationally recognised, innovative and strategic leader.

“We are very proud to receive this award that acknowledges our targeted investments in early stage companies with technologies of strategic interest to ABB,” says Nadkarni.

Complimenting ABB’s automation portfolio for the water sector, TaKaDu gives ABB access to its field-proven monitoring system, which has been widely adopted by water utilities in Europe, Australia, Latin America and the Middle East. TaKaDu’s innovations allow ABB’s customers to produce, transport, distribute, treat and utilize water efficiently, reducing energy consumption, minimizing losses and improving reliability.

While TaKaDu’s solutions have been internationally recognised as environmentally friendly technology, even winning the Technology Pioneer award from the World Economic Forum, it was investment in the company that allowed its vision to evolve.

ATV’s continuing role within ABB is as its primary scout, testing the waters of tech innovation. “Historically, we thought that build and buy were the only options for new technologies,” Nadkarni says. “Now we have a third option whereby we can take an equity stake in a company in an emerging space and then decide how deep we want to jump in.”


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About the author

Connie Hwong

I’m the Global Social Media Manager at ABB. When I’m not busy keeping tabs on the Twitterverse, I look for interesting stories to tell about ABB and great photos to illustrate them with. Prior to joining ABB, I was the Community and Marketing Manager at Gigaom in San Francisco, and I still occasionally dabble as a freelance music journalist. You can also find me exploring new electro and indie music venues or stubbornly trying to prove that it’s possible to ride a fixie around Zurich.
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