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KC Startup Builds Water Management Solution with Global Impact

Posted on Apr 02, 2021

Elango Thevar is intimately familiar with the impact of poor water infrastructure. He grew up in a small town in India, where the majority of households in his community lacked access to running water. As a young boy, going out to fetch water became a part of his daily routine. 

When he moved to the United States for college— and noticed the significant differences in water infrastructure— he naturally developed a curiosity for water systems, their design and the potential to optimize them. That curiosity led him to launch KC-based startup, NEER.

Water is an invisible resource. Most Americans spend very little time considering what it takes to provide clean water to homes, remove waste or keep streets from flooding during a storm. We sometimes become acutely aware of this infrastructure when it fails, but Elango, Digital Sandbox KC awardee, would argue that’s far too late. 

Every year, more than 14 million properties are at risk of flooding in the United States. Furthermore, over $60 billion is spent on reactive repairs and routine maintenance alone. As climate change continues to impact our environment, our water systems are becoming less efficient; they are stretched- to their limits.

Aiming to develop a sustainable solution to this reality, Elango created NEER, a real-time water infrastructure management platform that helps cities predict and mitigate failures before disaster strikes.

NEER – named aptly as the word for “water” in multiple Indian languages – uses machine learning to analyze a city’s water infrastructure and identify leaks, predict failures and help officials prioritize maintenance of their drinking water, sewer and stormwater systems. By helping cities better understand their water infrastructure, Elango and his team hope to improve operational efficiency, reduce water loss and optimize capital improvements by up to 30%.

Elango’s vision is clear: he looks forward to a day when everyone around the world will be able to easily access safe drinking water. After receiving funding from the Sandbox in 2018, he set out to build an affordable solution for communities across the globe. 

In May 2019, NEER was an incorporated company, and just a year later, Elango was able to make this passion project his full-time career. 

“Without Digital Sandbox…we would not be here today,” said Elango. “I am forever grateful for that. [The program] is doing some amazing things for the Kansas City startup ecosystem.” 

NEER has been adopted by 19 cities and is in partnership with multiple organizations to reach further national and international markets. The company recently received $50,000 from Arch Grants to provide free predictive water asset management services to 10 Missouri communities through 2021. 

In October 2020, the water management startup was accepted into Hawaii-based Elemental Excelerator, in addition to receiving $200,000 in funding. Cohort members are chosen based on their ability to create solutions for climate change — particularly for communities that are significantly impacted by pollution, vulnerable infrastructure and limited economic opportunities, according to the accelerator’s website.