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This article was prepared for the October 30, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane
Water supplies are shrinking, and water bills are rising
— up tenfold in 15 years. This provides an incentive for owners
of multi-tenant residential buildings to staunch the flow, or at least
to shift the burden elsewhere, namely to their tenants.
Wellspring International has the technology to make this shift possible.
With offices at 830 Bear Tavern Road, the company is a spin-off from
American Standard, and started life in 1996 as Water Management Inc.,
continuing the performance contracts business that provided capital
improvements to existing buildings, funded through reduced utility
At the time American Standard was getting ready to divest itself of
Water Management, Wade Smith was in China selling air conditioners
for Trane, a division of American Standard. Smith, a graduate of the
University of Wisconsin at Madison (Class of 1972), joined American
Standard right after college. He was transferred to Piscataway in
1992 to run the company’s U.S. Plumbing division, a $300 million business.
Then in 1995 it was off to China to sell air conditioners to eager
consumers. "China is not a Third World economy," he says with
some heat. During his year in the country, he saw that "most families
did not own a car or pay for lodging." Earning $4,600 a year and
living in state-owned homes, Chinese families had money to spend,
and air conditioners were a priority, not far behind televisions and
"People would buy one, two air conditioners," he says. "Three
if they could afford it. China was the biggest air conditioning market
on the globe."
So business was good, but when the call came from Brian Brittsan,
now president of Wellspring, asking if Smith was interested in going
in on taking over the business of Water Management, he jumped, eagerly
choosing New Jersey over Shanghai.
New Jersey? "Trust me," says Smith, "there are many places
less desirable than New Jersey. I’ve seen most of them." He and
his wife settled in Montgomery with their two children, a daughter,
now 15, and a son, who is 12.
Smith set about reinventing Water Management. He had
worked with David Saar, an independent, Princeton-based consultant,
on several projects while he was with American Standard, and called
upon him to develop the wireless that is the core of Wellspring’s
Smith and Brittsan’s company is now called Wellspring International.
Its Wireless Utility Services division sells submetering to the owners
of multi-resident buildings. The devices detail water and energy use
on every plumbing fixture in each apartment. The data moves wirelessly
to a central point in the apartment building, and from there is transmitted
by phone to Wireless’ meter reading system.
Tenants, who now pay for their own water, an expense formerly covered
by their rent, can call an 800 number or can go online to see exactly
how much water they are using in each fixture.
For example, Smith explains, a renter’s account might show that, during
a particular month, he took 87 showers, spending an average of 12
minutes under the water, which was cascading onto his head at a rate
of 3.7 gallons a minute. Given a bill — and all the gruesome details
— renters with submeters watching their water consumption tend
to use less, 27 percent less to be exact.
The obvious appeal to the apartment owner is cost savings. Installation
of the submeter runs about $400, an amount Smith says can be recouped
in as few as nine months. And how do landlords sell the shift in water
responsibility to their tenants? "By including it in the lease,"
says Smith. There is no way to switch existing tenants over to the
system, but when new tenants move in, they have to agree to shoulder
responsibility for their own water consumption.
For this reason, Wellspring does not operate in New York City, where
chronic tightness in the rental market, combined with rent control
and rent stabilization, adds up to very little apartment turnover.
But, says Smith, "We did a 750-unit building in Philadelphia,
and we have three projects now in Chicago." Other clients are
up and down the eastern corridor, and in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.
Wellspring, a company with 24 employees, is about to add to its product
line by rolling out submeters for electric and gas usage in multi-unit
The company has received $10.5 million in venture funding, and is
about to close on $8 million more. Princeton’s Early Stage Enterprises
was an early investor, and has participated in succeeding rounds.
Other investors include no fewer than three socially responsible funds,
which were drawn to the company because of the water conservation
aspect of its business.
Given current market conditions, Smith says it is unlikely that Wellspring
will go public. A more likely future, in his view, is acquisition,
possibly in another three to six years.
Meanwhile, he is busy growing the company. He spoke about Wellspring
with great enthusiasm during a cell phone interview on his way through
security en route to a flight to San Diego, where the company maintains
an office. He was traveling on a one-way ticket, and therefore was
deemed a high risk passenger. He gracefully continued talking while
being searched twice, removing his shoes, and at one point sending
his cell phone, still connected, through a metal detector.
After being corporate man, and working for the same company for 20
years, Smith enjoys running his own show. "It was a very positive
change for me," he says. At American Standard, he says, it was
necessary to be "politicized to survive. You had to weigh the
best interests of the company against your own best interests,"
he says, "and often the two were not aligned. I had trouble with
Being a business owner — one of Wellspring’s five principals —
has brought challenges of its own.
"You have to sweat the payroll," he says. Another pressure
is the need to raise capital. "I had no experience," he says.
"I wasn’t comfortable." That has changed, though, he says,
and it is not hard to believe. A man who can give an engaging interview,
making the monitoring of plumbing sound like the most fascinating
subject in the world, while passing through multiple airline checkpoints
obviously has well-developed people skills.
Smith is just as engaging when asked about any entrepreneurs or inventors
in his family tree. None came immediately to mind. Then, after a pause,
he laughs, and says "my grandfather was a plumber. He invented
a joist spacer. When I was a kid, I was just fascinated."
On a roll, he recalls a great uncle who invented the hose in gas stations,
the one that sounds a "ding" whenever a car runs over it.
His plane about to taxi, he speaks about one more relative — Uncle
Bert. Not exactly an inventor, Bert was famous. "He played Clarabelle
the Clown on Howdy Doody," Smith says. He is just describing a
pyramid trick involving juggling that Bert came up with when his flight’s
stewardess starts to prepare the plane for take-off.
While a meter that counts flushes and measures the water in the tub
is unlikely ever to have the entertainment appeal Uncle Bert had,
it is undoubtedly a nifty trick, and one that is growing a company,
while, at the same time, making conservationists smile.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Suite 301, Ewing 08628. Wade Smith, CEO. 609-530-1990; fax, 609-530-1991.
Joseph Baicker, president. 609-466-4300; fax, 609-466-4302. Www.radon-test.com
Joseph Baicker, founder of Princeton Gamma Tech, moved his environmental
remediation firm about five miles from the bank building at Montgomery
Shopping Center to Skillman Road earlier this year. Radiation Data
used to sell solar designs and do uranium logging, but now it concentrates
on its core business, radon testing and mitigation, and also waterproofing.
It has 15 employees and 3,000 square feet.
Baicker retired from Princeton Gamma Tech, the maker of scientific
instruments located at Routes 518 and 206, and took over this division
of Gamma Tech in 1983.
Now Radiation Data does the laboratory tests for 700 home inspectors
across the country. In New Jersey it also offers mitigation services
— installation of venting to prevent radon inhalation. It also
does basement waterproofing.
"Most of the radon business is generated through real estate sales,"
says Keith Baicker, Joseph’s son. He is a graduate of Drew University,
Class of 1982, and earned an MBA from Rutgers before joining the family
08540-1437. Andrew Okun, partner in charge. 609-683-8200; fax, 609-683-9312.
Home page: www.watermarkgroup.com
The Watermark Group, a private investment firm, moved from 5,000 square
feet on Thanet Circle to 7,000 feet on Hulfish Street. The 16-person
firm was founded in 1988.
Industrial Park, Suite 15-A, Box 338, Windsor 08561. Barry Cutler,
owner. 609-799-3312; fax, 609-799-8964.
The carpet maintenance company has expanded from 19 Washington Road.
Established in 1990, it has five employees.
08528. Kevin Sweeney. 609-279-1311; fax, 609-279-1387.
The structural engineering firm moved into an office formerly occupied
by a retail store in Kingston. The four-person firm, founded in 1993,
has architects, contractors, and developers as its clients.
224 West State Street, Trenton. David J. Pascrell. 609-394-5300.
Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione has opened a government
affairs practice in Trenton, headed by David J. Pascrell. Also to
be based here are Paul J. St. Onge, and Christina Woodward Strong.
Based in Newark, the 170-attorney firm also has an office in Manhattan.
Princeton 08543-5300. Satyam Cherukuri, president & CEO. 609-734-2000;
fax, 609-734-2040. Home page: www.sarnoff.com
The Sarnoff Corporation offers a new see-through turret visualization
system that it developed with United Defense Industries (NYSE: UDI,
www.uniteddefense.com). Eight cameras, fixed outside the vehicle,
beam a 360-degree continuous view of the battlefield to a palm-sized
device held by a soldier who is inside the closed tank. The view from
five cameras on the front of the tank toggles to the rear view, where
three cameras are mounted. United Defense Industries has this prototype.
Sarnoff’s contribution, derived from its spinoff Pyramid Vision Technology,
is to blend these images with an on-board computer to provide the
seamless panoramic view.
SRI International and Sarnoff Corporation will jointly lead a task
force of more than 40 organizations to work on next-generation information
systems for both military and private sector use. The Rosettex Technology
& Ventures Group has a five-year contract from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics
Command at Fort Monmouth that could be worth as much as $24 million.
Early projects include satellite-on-the-move communications, mobile
ad hoc wireless networking, and visualization technology for situational
awareness in command, control, communications, computing and intelligence
Edison State College, Trenton 08608. Rush Russell, president. 609-695-1997;
Four agencies have received nearly $377,000 in new grants from Children’s
Futures, the RWJ Foundation-funded initiative to strengthen early
childhood development in Trenton that has contributed more than $3
million to Trenton’s prenatal, early childhood and parenting programs.
The newest grants will support the Trenton School District, Homefront,
The National Council on Aging, and the First Book-Mercer program.
They include parental training and bonding programs, an emergency
shelter dedicated to pregnant women, a literacy program, and a program
to train seniors in child care. @head 14 = Leaving Town
Road, Building 1, Cranbury 08512. 609-426-0030. Home page: www.inx3.com
Information Infrastructures Inc. has closed its Cranbury office and
calls are being taken at its headquarters at 1285 Avenue of the Americas,
Suite 3501, New York, NY 10019-6028, 888. 922.INX3; fax, 516.754.6918.
The firm focuses on IBM’s WebSphere MQ family of products — a
messaging middleware environment — for large scale systems for
financial services. Members of its team had taken part in the initial
development of the MQSeries and were responsible for some of the first
large scale MQSeries based solutions. The company does requirements
analysis, architecture & design, project management and planning,
implementation, quality assurance, training, documentation, and ongoing
Marlton 08053. Lillian C. Rodriguez, sales representative. 800-486-6152;
fax, 846-596-1705. Home page: www.libertymutual.com
The insurance office at 10 Schalks Crossing Road, Plainsboro Plaza
has closed and Lillian Rodriguez, sales representative, is handling
calls from an office in Marlton.
program in her Princeton home.
been associate director and assistant to the director of the Institute
for Advanced Study.
for PHS/Aetna in Cranbury.
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