In the midst of the record-breaking California drought in 2014, three Cal Poly students decided to use their senior project to try to help stop water leaks.
They began designing a device that would monitor a consumer’s water usage during the month and hoped it would inspire people to pay closer attention to their consumption. Eric Adler, James Fazio and Jeff Hufford named their senior engineering project Flumetech, now a company with more than 25 employees and a nationwide reach.
“Nothing is more important in day-to-day life than water,” CEO Adler said. “So we’re trying to create a more intimate relationship with that, so people better understand what they are actually using and don’t just treat it as a commodity that’s always going to be there.”
Flume’s affordability and simplicity is what sets the company apart, Adler said. Flumetech’s device can be installed in around 15 minutes.
The device currently costs $200 and is compatible with 98 percent of water meters. Adler said that it operates similarly to Alexa, and data can also be viewed through an app on your phone.
Flumetech CEO and Cal Poly Alum Eric Adler said that creating Flumetech has been the most difficult venture he’s ever undertaken.
Adler added that co-founder Jeff Hufford slept on the hothouse floor for almost a year in the company’s early stages.
“Starting a company is really difficult,” Adler said. “Everything, no matter how long you think it’s going to take to do, is going to take twice as long.”
However, Adler said that the process is highly rewarding and that he is glad he took a chance on the less popular route of creating a brand-new company. He said Assistant Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Thomas Katona believed in the team’s idea and gave them the go-ahead.
“Right in the beginning, the only reason we were able to do this was because Tom Katona said, ‘sure, you guys can start this project,'” Adler said. “Without that, nothing would have happened.”
Most competing products are difficult to install and unaffordable, according to Adler. He said that Flumetech’s device can be installed in about 15 minutes.
Flumetech has plans to expand to 15 to 20 water districts within the next year. Adler said they plan to conduct a study with the City of San Luis Obispo with their device in 250 homes.
He said his advice for senior students is to take a chance and to not worry too much about landing a big job immediately out of college.
Adler said that rather than hiring interns, he focused on hiring employees with up to 20 years of experience in the field, and that choice has helped the company grow at a faster rate.
“Whatever you’re looking for right now, that same job is probably going to exist two years from now,” Adler said. “You’re not wasting time doing it, and right when you graduate from college, it’s the perfect time to try something.”