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Exclusive: Gradiant raises $225M to become a wastewater unicorn

a unicorn coming out of a sewer and sticking its head out of a manhole cover

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Water and wastewater treatment provider Gradiant raised $225 million in the first close of a Series D that pushed the company's valuation past $1 billion.

Why it matters: Re-investment in American mining and manufacturing is reigniting demand for industrial water treatment.

Of note: In a world where seemingly every climate investor wants to "invest in water" but isn't quite sure how, Gradiant has posted huge growth figures and a client roster that includes Coca-Cola, Pfizer and Rio Tinto.

What's happening: BoltRock Holdings and Centaurus Capital led the all-equity round. The company's CEO declined to disclose its final target for the Series D.

  • The startup plans to use the capital to expand further into wastewater treatment for semiconductor manufacturers, mining companies, food and beverage producers, and drug makers.
  • It's also planning to further expand in Europe and the Middle East.

Catch up fast: The water and wastewater sector tends to be segmented across the treatment process.

  • Gradiant offers end-to-end treatment, with a particular focus on private industry instead of municipal water.

State of play: Since launching in Boston 10 years ago, the bulk of Gradiant's business has shifted to Asia and the Middle East, where industrial hubs and rising incomes are together driving demand for water treatment.

Yes, but: The company is seeing that interest come back to the U.S., as government incentives drive investment in new factories and mining operations, especially for the energy transition.

  • Making semiconductors and extracting lithium — both needed for electric vehicles, among other applications — are especially water intensive.

What they're saying: "All of these industries that we work for, if a country is industrializing, then it’s clear that this country is going to be using a lot more water," CEO Anurag Bajpayee tells Axios.

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