Glenn Rink created Smart Sponge, a popcorn-shaped material that cleans large quantities of water affected by oil spills. The product now has other uses in the oil and gas industry, and a newer version helps eliminate bacteria from stormwater and industrial wastewater. Rink says his work earlier in busy restaurants gave him communication, problem-solving and other skills he needed to start a company and raise $20 million in private funding.

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