How To Embrace Unexpected Opportunities
"We didn't set out to help penguins, but we did start on ice. Advantix began in the 1980s as Forkor, an air-conditioning system for Israeli skating rinks. Our innovation is simple: We use a saltwater system, rather than a traditional vapor compression system, which naturally absorbs moisture and cuts down on electricity, saving money. When the company moved into the U.S. market in 2010, I came over from McKinsey, where I was a consultant for the energy industry. I quickly noticed our systems were applicable in more than just the industrial businesses we normally target, so I encouraged everyone at every level across the company to suggest new uses.
We do a lot of lunch-and-learns and customer case studies to determine where we're relevant, which allows us to experiment in places we wouldn't normally expect. When we sold a system to a pork-processing plant, for example, they needed us to cool and dry the air. We researched our results and found we were able to remove the dampness in the air, and as a result eliminate the need for the part of traditional air conditioners that often becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
The Jacksonville Zoo reached out to us to explore a problem they were having: Its penguins were at risk of getting attacked by airborne Aspergillus mold bacteria. We installed a system there last spring, and a test run showed the levels of the bacteria significantly decreased. We've worked with the zoo to help its reptiles and are doing studies on a dozen new animal-related uses--exhibits, vets, even dog-food factories. We rarely turn away an unlikely customer. This attitude is key to growth: When we're pleasantly surprised, we capitalize."
Creates an electric generator for fourth grade science fair
Spends summer doing research at the Institute of Soil Science and Photosynthesis in Russia with a Westinghouse Science prep program
Competes in the World Schools Debate Tournament in Australia on the U.S. debate team
Named one of the 15 most interesting seniors at Harvard College by the Harvard Crimson's magazine
Works on first energy-related client engagement as a consultant at McKinsey
Marries Matthew Granade; wedding vows include the phrase "liquid desiccant dehumidification and cooling"
Elected as one of McKinsey's youngest partners
Publishes Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy, identifying the $1 trillion-plus opportunity in capturing energy efficiency; speaks at 20 conferences and events
Photo by Bob Croslin
A version of this article appears in the June 2012 issue of Fast Company.