Startup Spotlight: Lebanon-based Mruna Brings Its City Resilience Options To The UAE

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This article is a part of an ongoing sequence on startups which have been a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program.

They say that resilience will nearly all the time guarantee entrepreneurial success. But whereas the trait is one that the majority of us will affiliate with a tenacious and disciplined particular person, a Lebanon-based tech startup Mruna gives options that create resilience on a a lot bigger scale, city resilience to be exact. At its core, city resilience merely refers back to the skill of a given city system to proceed to operate sustainably within the face of exterior shocks and stress. That would clarify why the startup is called after a unfastened translation of the Arabic phrase for resilience, مرونة. “Our mission is to develop and implement solutions that deserve our namesake,” stated Ziad Hussami, co-founder of Mruna. “Technological improvements abound, however how we leverage them is most necessary. Many typical corporations find yourself utilizing know-how to extra effectively proceed enterprise as ordinary. We use know-how to use latent alternatives within the constructed atmosphere and to shake up typical considering.”

Launched in 2019, Mruna gives a mess of companies targeted on city resilience, and the Beirut-based startup presently has workplaces in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Its companies embrace environmental assessments throughout mission design and building, information improvement and spatial evaluation instruments for resolution making utilizing distant sensing and geographic data programs, in addition to the event of environmental administration plans required for regulatory approval in building.

However, Mruna’s foremost providing is BiomWeb, a decentralized nature-based wastewater therapy system. With a design philosophy that “there is no waste in nature”, BiomWeb may reduce upkeep and operational prices. “The solution is simple and elegant: it purifies wastewater on site with a series of water tanks that mimic aquatic habitats in nature,” explains Hussami. “It also doesn’t require added chemicals, sludge removal or huge infrastructure investments. BiomWeb looks like a bouquet and reuses the treated wastewater for irrigation. Green thumbs, rejoice!”

The idea of city resilience is now supported by the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), a United Nations program that works in the direction of sustainable city improvement. The Urban Resilience Hub – UN-Habitat’s technical associate for city resilience – even describes it as “the starting point for a sustainable urban future”. But as with many city resilience methods, the accountability for wastewater therapy historically lies with the federal government or public sectors. However, Mruna is on a mission to alter that. “It is clear that the global future demand for water cannot be met unless water management is revolutionized,” says Hussami. “Public funding sources alone won’t be sufficient to satisfy greenhouse gasoline emissions discount targets [generated on-site at traditional wastewater treatment plants]. The worldwide improvement group has targeted on the personal sector as a supply of extra funding in sustainable improvement. However, personal funding for the water sector has been lukewarm. BiomWeb gives an answer that enlists the assist of the personal sector to select up the place the general public sector left off.”

Mruna’s BiomWeb resolution, within the type of a bouquet, treats the wastewater on web site with a sequence of water tanks that mimic aquatic habitats in nature. Source: Mruna

However, along with the public-private debate, there’s one other hurdle that BiomWeb needs to handle: the environmental issues that come up because of centralized wastewater therapy vegetation. “Our solution achieves both a technological innovation and a business model innovation aimed at decentralizing wastewater treatment in the same way that Solar City – the Elon Musk-founded organization that provides residential and commercial solar energy – offers decentralized power generation,” added Hussami. Now, for years, centralized programs have been the commonest method to deal with wastewater, even in probably the most developed city ecosystems. But certainly one of its many negative effects is that it will increase a big carbon footprint. That has led to decentralized wastewater therapies gaining the assist of organizations such because the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA, decentralized vegetation can result in environmental safety and conservation, in addition to public well being safety, among the many many causes the entity deems it “a sensible solution.”

And that additionally appears to be the thought adopted by Mruna. “Instead of selling the system at a high upfront cost of capital, which is prohibitively expensive for most potential customers, the goal of our project is to bill customers for on-site water reuse as a service provider,” explains Hussami. “This will result in small-scale facilities across a country, enabling independent, locally maintained facilities that scale effectively through a network of partnerships and sales channels for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Complemented by the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) ), owners can monitor and control the system remotely using a smartphone. Our solution fosters a formidable alliance between nature, the Internet of Things and SMBs that will disrupt centralized sanitation in the same way solar and smart-grids have done with energy utilities.”

Related: Startup spotlight: Brazilian biotech startup Biosolvit is leveraging circular economy techniques as it makes its way to the UAE

Now, in the midst of all this technical jargon and environmental knowledge, it’s important to enlighten readers on how the concept of BiomWeb got to Hussami in the first place. A few years ago, the co-founder worked as a sustainability consultant, which is when he first came into contact with Abu Dhabi-based real estate company Aldar. “At the time, Aldar, our client, had challenged our team to design a sustainable villa,” Hussami remembers. “But during the design process it became clear that to be truly sustainable, especially in a region where we rely heavily on fossil fuels for desalination, a circular water infrastructure is needed. But when you work at a business consultancy, the timesheet is king! inventing infrastructure was not in the budget.”

Then, with one thing leading to another – a journey Hussami describes as falling down “an accidental rabbit hole” – Hussami got a pleasant twist of fate. “What could have been a passing idea in my cubicle in Abu Dhabi led to a series of events that took me to refugee camps in Lebanon, founded a start-up, opened the doors of a factory and came full circle in the UAE and Aldar, with whom we installed our first demo project last year!” he says. Today, as a startup in the pre-seed stage, Mruna has managed to stay afloat through grants and awards. “Our research and development, and investment in our manufacturing capabilities, have been supported by partnerships, grants, and awards, including Japan International Cooperation Agency, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” Hussami shares. “As we focus our attention on the UAE and GCC, we bring with us a team of four: co-founders and employees experienced in the production and delivery of our systems. In the near term, we aim to leverage debt financing to deliver projects on among our key customers before engaging with investors to rapidly scale across the region.”

Source: Mruna

In Mruna’s transfer to Dubai – a metropolis Hussami describes as “a honeypot for the world’s greatest technological solutions” – the MBRIF has succeeded in taking part in a significant function. “There are many accelerator programs in the world, but many seem to be primarily concerned with achieving growth as quickly as possible,” notes Hussami. “Yes, growth is important, but the MBRIF also cares about impact and provides the patience and continued support to nurture organizations that will fundamentally change an industry and have a positive impact on the UAE and the region.”

But whilst Hussami makes his method by means of the UAE market, he stays cautious that initiating a shift within the ecosystem would require him to flex his entrepreneurial muscle groups with full drive. “Usually I urge actors in a conservative sector to think more creatively,” Hussami admits. “To do this, on behalf of our partners, I map budgetary and resource constraints and guide them through the development of a high-level strategy that is aligned with all stakeholders. Think about it: if a partnership doesn’t help both parties to achieve” objectives, that will not take lengthy!”

It’s this mindset that would probably also explain his approach to technological advancement – a position that could serve as important parting advice to the entrepreneurs reading this piece. “Like us, I think many entrepreneurs fall into the comfort zone of product innovation at the beginning of their journey and invest a lot of energy into showing off the wizardry of their technology, rather than the value it brings to their customers,” Hussami says. “Our success depends on shifting perceptions, fostering adoption and illuminating the latent value of undertaking a new strategy. At its core, what resonates most is not the business model or the technology. Our customers have taught us what really it’s not about the product specifications… It’s about the extra warm feeling they get when they give a flower from a garden as a gift, made possible by a strategic partnership!”

Related: Startup Spotlight: Sharjah-Based Merlin Farms Addresses MENA’s Water Scarcity and Food Security Issues Through Aquaponics


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