Dipak from Seachange Technologies

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SeaChange Technologies is one of six startups to win ~$50K in grant funding from the nonprofit Durham-based NC IDEA Foundation. Since 2006, the foundation has awarded nearly $4.2 million to 104 startups around the state. The six companies were narrowed from nine finalists, 22 semifinalists and 130 total applications for the Fall 2015 cycle. Profiles of the rest of the companies are linked below.

Dipak Mahato is determined to solve one of the world's biggest challenges, and as affordably, efficiently and eco-friendly as possible. 

The former biopharma researcher left a job at the animal health company Zoetis in 2014 to pursue a passion to create a solution to the world's water crisis. He had an idea, to create a water purification and desalination system that turns salt water into a mist that can be pulled through a separator to remove the brine and then recompressed into clean water that can be used. 

It would use half the energy of traditional methods and require a much smaller and less expensive machine. It also reserves the byproduct, an environmentally-damaging brine, rather than injecting it back into the Earth, a regular practice estimated to cost $150 billion and cause earthquakes.

Mahato won a University of Texas Energy Institute Startup Competition, which came with $15,000 to prove his idea valid. He built a mobile prototype over the summer, while participating in Groundwork Labs. And then he took part in the Citrix Accelerators Raleigh Innovators Program, which matched him with investor-advisors from the Cherokee-McDonough Challenge. There, he settled on an industry focus—oil and gas—and lined up some early customers for pilot projects.

With the NC IDEA funds, he hopes to implement at least five pilots next year. Funds are required to modify the existing system to meet the needs of oil and gas companies, as well as perform business development work. 

He'll also work to defend intellectual property—a patent has already been filed in the U.S. and funding will help accelerate its issuing. Mahato expects customer revenue in 2016 will help him fund international patent protection work. He needs about $250,000 to build the machines, monitor them and collect the data.

Mahato says the community has rallied around him as he starts his entrepreneurial journey. Besides Groundwork Labs and the Citrix Accelerator, he's received support from the HQ Raleigh and American Underground communities—he recently pitched at the local Challenge Cup at the AU, winning a spot in the regional competition next spring. Here's the pitch:

SeaChange Technologies is one of three local Challenge Cup winners. Founder Dipak Mahato will pitch at the regional finals in New York City next March. Credit: Patrick Durham/ExitEvent

He's also gotten help from RTI, the UNC Water Institute and Duke University Energy Initiative. Both institutions and RTI have made valuable introductions in the clean tech and energy industries.

"There's no way we could get this off the ground as quickly as we have without the community," Mahato says.

Read about the rest of the winners here: