When Hank McCarrick joined the Palm Springs iHub — an incubator for startups in the tech, energy, and healthcare spaces — in 2013, he was the CEO of SecoSys; he had an idea and an early-stage prototype. Six years later, his company, renamed Subeca, has transformed into a business poised to be a significant player in worldwide water conservation. Now a graduate of the Palm Springs iHub, McCarrick is Subeca’s chief strategy officer.
McCarrick, who founded his company near San Diego, brought his prototype water meter to Palm Springs for a demonstration on a blazing hot day in August 2013. He made a strong case for the need for his device, which helps water users save resources by detecting leaks in real time. His model was already in the testing phase at the San Marino Home Owner’s Association in Rancho Mirage, and he was realizing water savings of more than 40 percent. Considering that California perpetually battles water shortages, his idea won the attention of the Palm Springs iHub team.
By that fall, McCarrick had presented his innovation and won the Silver Award at the World’s Best Technology Conference in San Diego, a unique distinction among business based in any of California’s 16 iHubs.
Under the mentorship of Palm Springs iHub engineering and finance professionals, McCarrick and Subeca began to commercialize the design of their prototype.
Evolving the Hydrometer
Under the mentorship of Palm Springs iHub engineering and finance professionals, McCarrick and Subeca began to commercialize the design of their prototype. This involved crafting a business plan, which was continuously revised over several months to satisfy the critical eye of potential investors.
It worked. McCarrick and his small team attracted the investment dollars needed to advance the concept. Simultaneously, between revisions of the business plan and investor pitches, McCarrick also continued to refine the product, artfully designing the prototype as it evolved from a breadboard device into a fully hardened wireless “internet of things” (IOT) water meter.
Roughly 20 percent of the electricity consumed in California is used to move water from one place to another. Significant losses of the liquid resource also drive to the need to identify where and under what conditions these leaks occur. When deployed correctly, the Subeca Hydrometer has the capacity to detect leaks, which in turn will save both water and electricity. When used in a residential home, the technology will identify leaks, drips, and defective flow devices like toilets that are in need of repair. While this is important to all homeowners, it especially appeals to part-time residents who can benefit from monitoring their water while they are away, avoiding costly damage that occurs from extended leaks.
Hank McCarrick’s system offers real-time analytics and controls.
Another pilot program — this time with the Mission Springs Water District in Desert Hot Springs — created the need for a platform to communicate Subeca water meter data without exceeding local bandwidth capacity or requiring hard-wired connections to other devices. Comcast stepped up, installing enough of their MachineQ IOT Gateway devices to cover all of Desert Hot Springs. The platform enables a plethora of IOT devices that make smart cities and smart homes possible. These include sensors for parking detection and traffic flow optimization, concrete-curing monitors, and the Subeca water meter. Without machine-to-machine communications, none of these opportunities is possible in a sustainable manner.
In the future, the MachineQ IOT platform can expand to the other eight cities in the Coachella Valley. Complete MachineQ coverage will position the region for development and deployment of IOT–based products, creating good-paying, year-round jobs.
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Next Steps for Subeca
Subeca could have grown faster than it has, but a more deliberate pace has allowed McCarrick to scale the company in a measured and manageable way. He believes that patience, not being “too greedy or too anxious,” gave him time to identify the right partners and employees.
Though California’s drought has officially ended, McCarrick believes that water conservation will continue to be a high priority for water agencies.
McCarrick developed the real-time water metering system to deliver rich data and instant analytics while offering remote, cloud-based shutoff capabilities.
If the recent drought taught anybody anything, he says, it’s that water management technology needs to be in place before the situation is dire. Judging by the company’s trajectory, that theory holds true: Subeca has provided more than $4 million in quotes since graduating from the iHub in May. Within four years, McCarrick expects that Subeca will have reached $20 million in annual sales, with service, sales, and development teams based in Greater Palm Springs.
Palm Desert iHub
The Palm Desert City Council has partnered with CVEP and the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus to establish a “digital iHub” adjacent to its Cook Street location to help attract and retain data-intensive technology businesses in Greater Palm Springs.
Members of the Palm Desert iHub Partnership reached out to Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) to ease the area’s bandwidth limitation. Through this partnership with CSUSB Palm Desert Campus, the Palm Desert iHub received access to the CENIC fiber optic line at its terminus on the campus. CENIC offers state-of-the-art speed — 100 Gbps — and provides a connection to all of California’s academic research institutions.
CSUSB has one of the top cybersecurity programs in the nation and will be embedding a program in the Palm Desert iHub. With 360,000 cybersecurity job openings today and 3 million more projected in the next few years, the Palm Desert Campus could be a path to a six-figure salary. CSUSB will also offer an entrepreneurship course in the Palm Desert iHub.
CVEP Supports Small Business
Programs and services of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP) have the organization’s mission in mind: to incite vision-driven transformation in the Greater Palm Springs region. In addition to the long-term support and mentoring provided to companies admitted to the Palm Springs iHub, CVEP services include short-term business assistance, geographic information systems (GIS) consulting, monthly business education workshops, and an annual fast pitch competition.
Although CVEP doesn’t focus on main-street retail and hospitality businesses, it does offer support services, such as business plan guidance, loan readiness preparation, marketing plan development, and other project-based business assistance.
The organization makes GIS consulting, typically an expensive service employed by large companies, available to small businesses needing data for their decision-making. GIS maps and reports provide detail on potential customers, drive times, demographics, and psychographics, illuminating patterns that are used to support marketing strategy and business location decisions.
David Robinson oversees GIS services for CVEP.
As an outreach service to local businesses, monthly Small Business Forum workshops offer an opportunity to learn and make valuable connections. With topics ranging from intellectual property to finance to marketing and public relations, the Small Business Forum series is designed to answer questions that business owners may never have thought to ask.
Held annually as part of Riverside County Innovation Month, Fast Pitch Greater Palm Springs draws innovators out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Each year, the competition attracts entrepreneurs in a Shark Tank-style competition where they refine their presentation skills while competing for cash. Winners move on to the Riverside County Fast Pitch Finale and compete for larger cash prizes.
Joe Wallace also contributed to this article.