Utiliz Wins 2022 Spring Crossroads Pitch Competition: Software uses machine learning to predict pipe failures for water utilities
The Mill, Bloomington’s center for entrepreneurship, announced today that Evansville-based startup Utiliz won first place in the Spring 2022 Crossroads Pitch Competition, held Saturday, March 5, at The Mill. CEO Jackson Bolek and his team will receive $10,000 in cash and a package of startup and business services.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” Bolek said of the win, “and our team is excited to be developing software that will change how utilities look at their infrastructure. Utilities of all sizes need access to cutting-edge tools at a price point they can afford, and we believe that we’re equipped to deliver those tools later this spring.”
Utiliz won by unanimous vote from the three finals judges: Alex Shortle, Partner at EO Advisors, the spotlight sponsor for the spring competition; Julie Heath, VP of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems at the IEDC; and Elise Young, Director of gBETA Bloomington-Columbus.
Utiliz solves a critical problem for water utilities: how to know which pipes are most likely to fail next. Many utilities don’t have data, or useable data, to predict breakage. As a result, they’re forced to guess which pipes should be replaced next. In his winning pitch, Bolek explained that the age of a pipe is a poor predictor for breakage, but is nonetheless often used by utilities without access to better data. This highly inaccurate system of risk assessment results in huge expense for the utility and its consumers: unnecessary replacement of sound pipes, and emergency response to failed pipes.
The subscription-based Utiliz app aggregates data from various sources, including from their partner Frontier Geospatial, to provide a user-friendly asset management dashboard that shows which pipes are most at risk—with 75% accuracy out of the box. As utilities collect and add their own data, accuracy rises to 87%. Directors can use the app to map out liabilities, plan for future replacement, and manipulate data to examine the impact of various scenarios.
Bolek, a data engineer, first began exploring the problem of how to predict pipe breakage as an 18-year-old undergraduate student doing research for a professor. Utiliz CTO Jon Kline is a software engineer, and their advisory team brings expertise in GIS and water utility operations.
Utiliz has enrolled three utilities in a private beta that begins in April and plans on releasing its MVP (minimum viable product) in May. As data security is essential, the MVP will be SOC 1 and SOC 2 compliant at launch.
“I think we all understand the urgency of ensuring reliable access to water,” said Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming. “Utiliz is creating a user-friendly, essential solution that benefits not just their customers, but also communities and citizens as a whole. Its human-centered design makes insights from complex scientific data understandable and actionable, on one of the biggest infrastructure challenges facing cities across the county.”
Bolek estimates the US water asset management market at $2.1 billion. Utiliz hopes to eventually expand to other structural assets such as gas and electrical lines, increasing the potential market size to $102 billion.
Crossroads Pitch Competition, now in its sixth year, is open to any Indiana-based startup with less than $250,000 in annual recurring revenue. A panel of over 30 entrepreneurs, investors, and business experts selected four finalists. The other three finalists were NanoBio Designs (CEO Ryan Skaar, Indianapolis), Paradise Spreads (CEO Emily D. Edwards, Schererville), and WayZada (CEO Adam Ward, Bloomington).
“Crossroads is one milestone of many yet to come for these finalists,” said Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming for The Mill. “They’ve made already remarkable progress in terms of patents, partnerships, product validation, sales, and other measures. It’s truly thrilling to see the range of innovation coming out of Indiana.”
Download the 2022 Crossroads Lookbook of startup competitors.
Launched in 2017 as a regional event, Crossroads Pitch Competition is now one of Indiana’s biggest pitch competitions, attracting startups from all over the state. In 2022, for the first time, The Mill will host two competitions, one in spring and one in fall. The Crossroads brand also includes Crossroads Collegiate, for Hoosier students; the Crossroads Platform, white-label support for regional pitch competitions; and the Crossroads Idea Competition, for entrepreneurs exploring very early stage business concepts.
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