Mike McCluskey, president of InnoH20 Solutions, is nearly two years into his journey with Ben Franklin Technology Partners. In May of 2017, he and Jerry Hudson, a Ben Franklin portfolio manager, began discussions on how InnoH20 may benefit from the support of Ben Franklin. Once they determined there was mutual interest in working together, McCluskey describes the process of working with Ben Franklin as “about as painless as you can get.”

After initial discussions in May 2017, McCluskey and InnoH20 made their pitch to the portfolio managers at Ben Franklin at University Park. Though he did say the process wasn’t like Shark Tank, it was certainly “an opportunity for a lot of people to ask a lot of questions” – and that was the most stressful part. Aside from that, having prior experience working with the Department of Defense and government contracting, nothing Ben Franklin threw at him was unmanageable.

“Nothing they put forward was anything I hadn’t seen,” McCluskey says.

Because InnoH20 pitched at the end of a quarter, when Ben Franklin typically assigns funding, the process was only about four months from initial conversations to when they knew they’d been funded. After that came the paperwork, which McCluskey admits may have been intimidating had it not been for his prior experience. Nonetheless, it’d be something McCluskey encourages businesses considering Ben Franklin to push through.

“The guys at Ben Franklin, if you ask for help from any of them, they are there to help,” McCluskey says.  “They will help you put it [the paperwork] together, put your pitch together or do anything you need them to do. My recommendation would be not to be afraid of it, but embrace it and have fun with it.”

One of the things that Ben Franklin looks for from startups is a solid business plan and projections, as any investor would want to see.

“They’re really looking for your business plan and what your vision is,” McCluskey says. “We had a pretty good vision, with a strategic vision of where we were, where wanted to go, and how we were going to get there.”

Ben Franklin’s funding supported InnoH20 in the production of two demo units for their business. They were completed in June 2018, and both have helped them find great success thus far.

“Both of those pieces of equipment have been leveraged into a sale at different points,” McCluskey says.

Some of InnoH20’s greatest progress is linked to one of the pieces. It was originally going to be a piece to recycle shower and laundry water, potentially for the Army, and it’s now running mine water through it – and with great success.  When an opportunity presented itself to run mine water through the unit, and talks with the Army were slow moving, InnoH20 fell into a new niche and vertical to market themselves in.

“We’ve been running mine water through it ever since,” McCluskey says. “We’ve used it with great success, it’s a great marketing tool. We would never sell it, because for us it’s a capital piece of equipment that means a lot to the business model that we have.”

The future looks bright for InnoH20. They’ve progressed into a full service business model over the last couple of years, rather than simply producing units, which makes them very attractive to clients. Thanks to the support of Ben Franklin, the success of the demo units, and as McCluskey puts it “luck more than anything,” they’ve grown from a team of one to a team of five, and plan to hire 3-5 more employees by the end of the year. They will likely end the year only slightly under projections from two years ago, though in part that is by design. McCluskey is wary of growing too much too fast, and is overall very pleased with InnoH20’s niche and progress over the last two years, with bright plans for the future.