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Sam Saintonge: “We are seeing an acceleration in the adoption of digital solutions"

  • Sam Saintonge: “We are seeing an acceleration in the adoption of digital solutions"
  • XPV Water Partners is a specialized private equity firm investing in companies that make a positive impact on water resources and the related processes, applications, and industries that it enables.

About the entity

XPV Water Partners
XPV Water Partners is a leading investment firm focused on high growth water, related waste and environmental businesses globally.

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Water has an impact on everyone and every industry, as nothing can happen without water resources. Recognising this pivotal role of water resources, the experienced water entrepreneurs, operators, and investment professionals at XPV Water Partners are committed to making a difference in the water industry. The firm invests in and supports water companies, helping them forge strategic partnerships, open new markets, and build a stronger customer base. We interview Sam Saintonge, partner at XPV Water Partners about the role of smart technology and priorities in the water sector.

Firstly, we would like to briefly know your career path and your current role in XPV Water Partners.

Answer: I joined the three founding Partners of XPV as the first employee right after I finished my undergraduate degree. As a member of a small team, I had a chance to get involved with a little bit of everything over the years. These days, as a Partner at the firm, I’m responsible for leading a team that makes new investments – this means doing our research to identify new themes we want to invest in, developing relationships with business owners, performing due diligence on investment opportunities, and ultimately making those investments. I also sit on a number of our portfolio companies’ boards of directors and in that capacity, I support those companies in their continued growth.

This crisis will accelerate the adoption of certain types of solutions as utilities grapple with tighter budgets and reduced crew sizes

Q: Where in the world does your company and its partners work?

A: We are based in Toronto, Canada and have made direct investments in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Our portfolio companies are active on all continents.

Q: What trends do you expect with regards to the adoption of smart technologies by the water industry in the post-pandemic world?

A: I think this crisis will accelerate the adoption of certain types of solutions as utilities grapple with tighter budgets and reduced crew sizes (whether those are temporary or more permanent remains to be seen). For instance, we are seeing an acceleration in the adoption of digital solutions that allow utilities to make better decisions regarding opex, capex, and compliance. More specifically, companies that allow utilities to leverage advances in hardware, software, and telemetry are able to provide utilities with a “force multiplier” effect which allows them to do more with the same amount of resources. There are also companies that can help utilities address specific COVID-19 issues such as microbiological testing in water, sewage, and the environment.

We are seeing an acceleration in the adoption of digital solutions that allow utilities to make better decisions regarding opex, capex, and compliance

Q: What could be effective ways to scale up and mainstream new technology solutions in the water sector?

A: Companies that are successful at widely deploying new technology solutions are those that have the patience to create solutions to existing challenges, build credible references, take the time to ensure that they can scale up effectively, and build a reputation of standing behind their solutions with good service. To achieve this, companies need to find the right mix of employees that share this vision, identify early adopters who can oftentimes help improve the product, and they also need to find a way to finance the company until it becomes profitable.

Q: Water scarcity, emerging contaminants and wastewater management are some of the priority issues for the water sector. What trends do you expect to see in the future in these areas?

A: There is an increasing realization that all these issues are interconnected. Take scarcity and wastewater management, for instance – you can help address both issues with a comprehensive wastewater reuse program at the industrial, commercial, and municipal levels. This can include combining remote sensing capabilities with weather forecasting and new treatment technologies to work in synchrony. Emerging contaminants and how/when to tackle them are a bit more of a regional issue. We’re also seeing a shift away from traditional approaches of tackling issues by building more infrastructure to more nimble approaches that look to retrofit existing infrastructure or use existing resources more effectively with the adoption of new enabling technologies.

Companies that allow utilities to leverage advances in hardware, software, and telemetry provide utilities with a “force multiplier” effect

Q: What do you think about the role of business models versus the role of technology in terms of enabling water circularity and sustainability?

A: Some great technologies have never had a chance to achieve mainstream adoption because they were not supported by a viable business model for this industry. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to business models, but ultimately any business model that will succeed in the long term needs to be able to balance meeting customer needs while keeping employees happy and generating enough profits to sustain the company.