Waterly's Startup Story
Waterly grew from a well-loved regional product to rapid nationwide growth with the support of CivStart
September 1, 2022
Waterly was a regional startup focused on rural customers looking to expand across the country with a small team in a niche water-utility market.
Waterly joined CivStart. Waterly doubled its Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) every year, expanded its team, and scaled its operations to bigger horizons.
Rapid Growth: Waterly, initially serving a handful of rural customers, witnessed substantial growth during the CivStart Accelerator. ARR increased by 6x during the program, reaching over $1M by 2024, and the team expanded to over a dozen members.
Market Expansion: CivStart encouraged Waterly to think beyond its traditional domain, leading to a strategic shift. The company expanded its product to cater to utilities of all sizes, addressing pain points in digital transformation journeys.
Customer Insights: Through live events, webinars, and virtual networking, Waterly was able to learn how to approach the national market, and learn better ways to engage the marketplace of ideas in government.
Founder Growth: Chris was a Founder taking a big risk in going a year without a salary while supporting a family. CivStart provided the encouragement and validation that the product was the right fit for a scalable company.
Alumni Oppportunities: Chris is now joining CivStart as the first water-focused mentor — giving back as an expert in water utilities, and as an entrepreneur and founder to the network of startups and entrepreneurs joining CivStart's Accelerator in the future.
CivStart was pivotal in our startup years. They had and have the right people and collective desire, passion and drive to really boost entrepreneur morale and guide them as they navigate the complex and often 'lonely' govtech startup world. When I joined, my average contract size was a thousand bucks. You taught me to think bigger.
Chris Sosnowski, Founder & CEO, Waterly
The Project in Detail
Waterly joined as part of the 2nd Cohort of CivStart’s Accelerator. Waterly had a niche market focused on rural water utilities in the Midwest, with the founder wearing multiple hats. CivStart's support proved pivotal, supporting Waterly as they 6x their ARR annually and helping to propell it into a national presence. CivStart's influence went beyond the immediate needs of water utilities. It encouraged Waterly to explore how its technology impacted local government and city managers, influencing policy and accelerating technology adoption on a larger scale.
Chris Sosnowski, Founder & CEO of Waterly, attended a lot of the webinars offered by CivStart and learned how to network more effectively in varying situations. The webinars gave him the right tools to enter the national marketplace, demonstrating better ways to engage the marketplace of ideas in governments. Several webinars offered by CivStart’s preferred legal partners, Wilson-Sonsini, played a crucial role in getting Waterly's legal house in order.
The program instilled confidence. Chris notes, "Everything was valuable, but the primary value CivStart gave me was energy." The startup journey, often lonely and challenging, found a boost from the CivStart team and network’s passion, and drive. More concretely, the program provided exposure through demo days in DC, where valuable feedback from key stakeholders shaped Waterly's product and direction. The visibility gained through CivStart led to exposure in GovTech Top 100, and Waterly's inclusion for three consecutive years speaks volumes about its impact.
Finally, connection to other founders helped Chris grow as a founder and someone pitching in the local government space. This network helped him navigate complex issues, understand where founders were doing well, and also what to avoid in how a founder approaches local government officials.
CivStart's role in introducing Waterly to the wider govtech community, providing guidance, and instilling the confidence to navigate challenges has been pivotal to its success.
As the entrepreneur's journey continues, the lessons learned and connections made through CivStart lay the foundation for ongoing success and growth. This, along with our other Startup Stories serves as a testament to CivStart's role in shaping the future of civic innovation and entrepreneurship.