Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Water Is the Next Oil

VC hopes to capitalize on an increasingly scarce resource.

  • April 9, 2008

Oil, of course, dominates world economics and politics. But it’s conceivable that some day, alternative fuels and other clean technologies, combined with the rising costs of extracting oil, could diminish petroleum’s influence. But by that time, another scarce commodity–water–could come to dominate geopolitics, and venture capitalists are starting to take note.

The thinking goes like this. Biofuels are enormous consumers of water, says Jim Matheson, a general partner at Flagship Ventures, a venture capital firm in Cambridge, MA. And water is not always abundant where it’s most needed. “So, increasingly you’re going to see water as a scarce resource. I think it’s going to drive not just economics but also a lot of geopolitical dynamics. So, we’re trying to find technologies that can allow us to plug into this enormous value chain.” He’s interested, for example, in membranes and other water-treatment technologies that will allow biofuel-makers and others to reuse water. But he says there’s a big challenge to making these new technologies successful. There has to be a way to scale them up to bring down costs. “The problem is that water is like the Internet. People love it and they use it all the time, but they don’t want to pay for it,” he says. “So the question is, how do you come up with a business model that actually works?”

One option, he says, is to develop technologies that can both clean up wastewater and extract energy from the waste, effectively adding value to the water. Matheson spoke as part of a panel on “green technology” investment at the Venture Summit East conference in Boston yesterday.

Want to go ad free? No ad blockers needed.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
More from Business Impact

How technology advances are changing the economy and providing new opportunities in many industries.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.