Keri Waters of Calliope
Welcome to Founder Friday, where we learn about the people behind the Highway1 startups.
Today’s founder is Keri Waters, co-founder and CEO of Calliope.
What is your background?
I received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Shortly after getting my MBA, I started my first company, Chopwood, with my current co-founder Joel Boutros. Unfortunately right as we we finished our alpha product, Amazon released the same product, only finished. So we learned to focus and get products to market faster. We started a second venture, Arqetype, a real-time gamification and messaging platform, which was sold to a UK-based edtech company.
Where did the idea for Calliope come from?
I really wanted to get back to my roots and build something physical. I’d been watching the explosion of IoT and wanted to get involved. I also wanted to work on a big problem that I was passionate about, where I could make a difference in the world.
One day I read this article and was shocked to learn that 18% of in-house water use is wasted through leaks. Indoor use is half of residential water use. Eliminating leaks could account for half of the targeted 20% reduction in per-capita water use in California.
As a person who likes her long showers, this resonated with me. I began to think: if I could install a single device that could identify and eliminate water waste, and tell people how and where they were using water overall, they’d have better information to make their own water budgeting decisions in a shifting water landscape.
How did you get the company started?
Joel had firmware covered, thank god, because it turns out that’s a very hard skill to find! I was able to find in my network a couple of really awesome key team members to get started. Carroll Wainwright, our data scientist, is not only fantastic at disaggregation and predictive algorithms, but he’s got a strong sense for information visualization. David Macintosh, our full-stack dev, has a lot of breadth but in particular brought depth to frontend development. We hunted around our network to find the right mechanical engineer and scored a coup in recruiting Layne Clemen, who can not only MacGyver a prototype for just about anything in a day, but also happens to be an energy harvesting expert.
Hilary Bryant is our secret weapon. I approached her early on as an advisor, as I knew she was strong on water policy from her time as mayor of Santa Cruz. It turns out she also has a strong marketing background.
How did you find out about Highway1?
One of our key advisors is Jay Adelson, a general partner at cen.vc. He loved the idea and said that I should go to a top-tier hardware accelerator to do it. He recommended Highway1, and connected me to Brady.
What’s your biggest surprise or key learning been thus far at Highway1?
I have so much to learn about getting a supply chain going from scratch. It’s one thing to work for a hardware company that’s already reached some scale. It’s another problem entirely to bring a brand new product to market on a tight budget and build all the initial manufacturing relationships you need to get the product off the ground.