Defying the odds Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

Hans Peter Michelet has been called a serial entrepreneur because he’s constantly starting and developing a variety of businesses, but one of his most ambitious efforts is as chairman of Energy Recovery Inc., which manufactures energy recovery devices used in seawater reverse osmosis desalination plants.

Michelet was an early investor in ERI back when it had only two employees and was still just an R&D venture, and he’s overcome many obstacles to ensure the company’s success today.

Michelet was originally told by engineering experts that ERI couldn’t manufacture a pumping device out of available ceramics technology that could withstand the pressure and tolerance specifications required. He and the inventor defied their expectations and proved them wrong.

He also had to make changes to ERI’s management team. He believed that the company needed the right team for the right time, and that meant ousting the founder of the company. On top of that, he moved the company from Virginia to California to be near a new management team.

Then financially, the company was burning through cash as it developed its technology. Michelet was able to convince a small group of investors to commit to the process more than most venture capitalists would probably tolerate.

Today, as a result of Michelet’s leadership, the company is a market leader and changed the economics of desalination. On top of that, this executive chairman has created jobs. What started out as a two-person start-up has turned into 54 employees in the United States and another 13 in offices in Shanghai, Dubai and Madrid.

HOW TO REACH: Energy Recovery Inc., (510) 483-7370 or