Testing The Waters
Megan Glover is the CEO and cofounder of 120WaterAudit, an industry-leading cloud-based water testing software platform born out of the Flint water crisis.
In 2016, Megan recognized the need for more manageable and consistent water testing requirements in order to prevent future disasters like Flint and the current drinking water crisis in Newark — so, with her children’s safety in mind, she took the issue by the horns and built the first water testing kits from her home.
I had the opportunity to interview Megan recently. Here are some of the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its significance on your life.
Megan Glover: I grew up in a small farming town in Indiana called Rensselaer. Population of 7,000.
I am an only child and my parents are both attorneys. Growing up as a young child with two working parents (one of whom; my mother, was breaking down gender barriers within her career) had a significant impact on my life.
I was able to observe my mom succeed despite the obstacles she had to overcome as 1 of just 5 women in her law school class. She was also the only female partner of her firm and a state expert in her field.
I think the significance is that I grew up with a strong female role model who showed me a woman can accomplish just as much as a man, so make sure to you put yourself on equal ground.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Glover: My senior year of college at DePauw University in Greencastle, IN, I was convinced I needed to go to law school. I did all the prep, took the LSAT’s but when the time came to submitting the applications my heart just wasn’t in it. It was hard for me to visualize a future in which I was satisfied in that profession.
So, I took a job with my alma mater working for the Annual Fund. My job was to travel the country meeting with alumni and asking for money. I decided to use that opportunity to pick the most interesting alumni (by job, company they worked for, etc.) I could meet with.
It was during that time I met Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. At the time Angie’s List was around 100 employees based on the East Side of Indianapolis. I was fascinated about how one person was able to start something from nothing and grow it into a million dollar-plus enterprise.
I left my fundraising job at DePauw to join Angie’s List in 2005 and had the opportunity to work in various functions of the business from marketing – sales – operations. I loved being a part of early stage growth (warts and all) and from there on out I decided to focus my career on early – growth stage companies.
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Glover: Many. Hard to pick just one.
I would say I had a couple of mentors (one teacher and one coach in high school) that inspired me more than others to think outside of the bubble I was growing up in. Thinking outside politically, academically and professionally was important during an influential time in a kid’s life where it’s easy to be peer pressured into the views of everyone else around you. Having teachers and coaches to look up to that say “it’s OK to think differently” and “there’s a bigger world out there than you are living right now” is inspiring and motivating.
Griffin: Describe a painful setback in your life and what it taught you. (For example, I lost my dad when I was 15. It was a “hard scrabble” to get my education. It taught me to speak up and ask for what I needed.)
Glover: I got let go from my VP of Marketing job when I was 33. It was the first time in my professional career I felt gut wrenching failure. I had two young kids at home (2 and 5), with a clear professional path to becoming a CMO and I remember waking up the next day unemployed and feeling completely lost.
Little did I know that experience would be quite possibly the best thing to happen to me professionally and personally.
I decided to take some time off and start my consulting business, 3 Dots Marketing, doing CMO-as-a-service work for various startups in Indy. I was also able to carve out time for myself and my family and accomplish things I hadn’t been able to do working for demanding startups that required a bulk of my personal time. For example, I volunteered to help direct my son’s Church Musical, ran my first half-marathon (a discipline I still continue today) and I got to work on marketing and business project with great people that made me fall in love with marketing and business all over again.
The net is that experience taught me that sometimes a painful setback is exactly what’s needed to re-evaluate what’s most important and meaningful in life and in your career.
Griffin: As you rose in your career, what obstacles did you encounter and how did you deal with these?
Glover: Interpersonal dynamics within an organization and as you rise up within an organization on management and leadership teams can’t and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Early on in my career I think I underestimated exactly how important this is for a leader. As I rose in my career I realized that being great in your profession is table stakes; but being great plus having the ability to navigate the interpersonal dynamics of a team at all levels is what sets you apart from the rest.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice you received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Glover: You can be anything you want to if you put your mind to it. – My parents
Having the support system of my parents and husband has allowed me to take risks in my professional career I would not have taken without them. They might have been scratching their heads about some of the decisions I made…but nevertheless supported the journey.
Griffin: Please give me the top three bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
● Do what you love
● Lead by example
● Never Stop
Griffin: What did your startup journey look like and was there a specific event that sparked you to build 120WaterAudit?
Glover: As I mentioned above…I was working at a consultant in 2015-2016 during the peak of the Flint, MI water crisis. I was meeting a mentor of mine, Chris Baggott (cofounder of ExactTarget, Compendium that sold to Oracle and Salesforce), for coffee and he asked me a simple question…Megan – you’re the mom of two young kids, have you ever thought of testing your water?
As a mom of 2 young kids who buys the hormone free meat, organic snacks, etc…I’d never thought about it until Flint, MI. But after seeing these poor children on the news getting their blood drawn and semis of water being trucked to Flint…I started wondering about the quality of water in my home, where I send my kids to school, etc. and more importantly how I could test it.
So that night after coffee I sat on my couch and started market research. I called my water company and asked to get my water tested and they said they didn’t offer the service. I called a lab and they wanted to charge me $3,000 (not an option).
I went back to Chris and said I think there’s something here. So, with another business partner that owned a couple of environmental labs and $135,000 from friends and family we founded 120WaterAudit with the same mission we have today: to help our customers protect public health by providing solutions that transform how they manage their water programs.
Fast forward three years, and a lot of bootstrapping in between, 120WaterAudit’s platform has been implemented in 12 States to manage over 300,000 locations that have impacted over four million lives.
Griffin: How will the recent Series A funding continue to push 120WaterAudit forward?
Glover: The Series A funding is going to provide the capital we need to execute our vision which is to create the market-leading Digital Water Cloud platform that is used to manage water programs.
The water sector, is an antiquated and underfunded industry that is facing some incredible challenges that are leading to public health crises like lead in Flint, MI, Newark.
According to Bluefield research, $35 billion is anticipated to be spent on the Digital Transformation of water over the next 10 years. This sector has been completely underserved as it pertains to modern business applications that have revolutionized other [private] sectors over the last 20 or so years. Our vision is to continue to build the digital solutions that help our clients in the water sector do their jobs better.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious women who want to rise?
Glover: Find a mentor and a support system and be OK asking for this. You need to surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to tell you how it is.
The journey is a marathon, not a sprint and sometimes things might not always go as planned. That’s OK. But having that long-term vision of where you want to be 5 years down the line will help you stay on course.
Be confident. The only person who knows what you’re truly capable of is you. Don’t let someone tell you otherwise and certainly don’t let someone else direct your journey.