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Tampa startup behind WaterCube water generator wins ‘most fundable’ prize

Genesis Systems is one of just three U.S. startups to claim top honors in an annual contest run by Pepperdine University.
The WaterCube, a water generator which coverts moisture from the air into pure water, is pictured by Port Tampa Bay, during an event by developer Genesis Systems in September 2021.
The WaterCube, a water generator which coverts moisture from the air into pure water, is pictured by Port Tampa Bay, during an event by developer Genesis Systems in September 2021. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Oct. 14|Updated Oct. 14

Tampa water-generation company Genesis Systems has eyes on one day becoming a $1 billion “unicorn.” A new award may go a long way in helping it get there.

Genesis Systems received a top award in an annual “Most Fundable Companies” competition organized by the business school at Pepperdine University in California, topping thousands of entries nationwide. It was one of only three companies to earn the contest’s top, or platinum, ranking.

Genesis, which relocated from Kansas to Tampa last year, created a device called a WaterCube that’s designed to harvest water from the atmosphere in areas where it’s needed. The company estimates water to be a $5 trillion-a-year business by 2028.

Related: Startup behind 'WaterCube,' aimed at water scarcity, picks Tampa for HQ

“I would not be here if I did not believe this was the most investible and the most important mission that I can do with my life,” co-founder and CEO Shannon Stuckenberg said. “This is the most important thing that you can invest in, because without water, there is no life, there is no commerce.”

It’s the second prominent national honor this year for Genesis Systems. In January, the company took home the Breakout prize at the annual Startup of the Year awards, given to startups who’d grown too fast to qualify for other categories.

Related: Tampa mental health service Cope Notes wins Startup of the Year prize

Earlier this year, the company closed an oversubscribed seed round of $10.3 million. Co-founder David Stuckenberg, Shannon’s husband, has said the company is planning another round that could give it a billion-dollar valuation “in months.” Shannon Stuckenberg declined to offer a funding target, but said the company would announce the new round this fall, on top of recent and upcoming military contracts.

“I like to underpromise and overdeliver, but let’s just say everything is pointing to us being a unicorn very, very quickly,” she said.

The Pepperdine contest attracted more than 4,000 entrants nationwide, with contenders judged by their financial projections, potential market size and competitive advantage among peer companies. The winners get a high-profile platform and access to investors from Silicon Valley and beyond.

The other platinum companies on this year’s Most Fundable list were New York veterinary diagnostic firm One Health Group and green tunneling company EarthGrid PBC. Four companies received gold status, five silver and four bronze. Genesis Systems was the only Florida company on the list.

The contest involved “the deepest due diligence I have ever had with the company,” Stuckenberg said, but the payoff — including a trip to California to network with investors gathered for the award ceremony — was worth it.

“We’re running out of water, and what we’re doing right now, it’s not sustainable,” she said. “So if unicorn status comes along right alongside that, fantastic. All the investors and all the people that have come behind this mission of Genesis, they’re going to see enormous upside financially in that regard.”

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