If you own a pitcher-style water filter like a Brita, you know how it goes: you fill the pitcher with water, wait for it to filter and then pour it into a cup. Which is fine but… what if you’re on the go? Does anybody really want to be the only weirdo on the bus with a pitcher of clean water?
What Jay Parekh and Aakash Mathur have done is eliminated the middle man and built that filter right into the cup; and they’re calling it Hydros Bottle.
They might not be the first to do it, but they’re the first to do it this way: designed for mass-market appeal, featuring a sleek, ergonomic bottle made from Tritan™, the same material used in Nalgene bottles, and a sophisticated filter that quickly removes chlorine, chloramines, and particulates.
Right now, the bottle is only safe for those with access to potable tap water that’s been treated by a municipal center, but Jay and Aakash, COO and CEO of Hydros Bottle, respectively, envision its scalable, proprietary filtration technology becoming advanced enough to someday filter water in developing countries. Their idea is to eventually produce filters targeted to combat each country’s own specific water pollutants.
If that sounds ambitious, it is – and they know it.
“This filtration platform will develop as technology develops,” explained Jay. “Right now, it’s just about having more convenient and better-tasting water.”
So basically, this isn’t a bottle you’d take along on an expedition to Mt. Everest or Mexico City. It’s a bottle you’d take along when you go shopping, to the gym or to a game — anywhere you’d normally take or purchase a bottle of water — because hey, we have a water crisis of our own right here in the United States.
According to a recent study by the Pacific Institute, it took 17 million barrels of oil to produce the amount of water bottles consumed by Americans in 2006. Even more ridiculous, it took three liters of water to produce every one liter of bottled water.
Considering that Americans reportedly bought a total of 31.2 billion liters of bottled water in 2006, that’s a lot of water we’re wasting: a sad irony when millions of people in other countries have little or no access to water that’s safe for consumption and, according to the EPA, over 90 percent of water systems in the U.S. meet its standards for tap water quality.
Enter Hydros Bottle. By partnering with all-local manufacturers, Jay and Aakash are producing Hydros Bottle sustainably, with environmentally friendly materials: the bottle is BPA-free and resistant to chemicals and heat. It’s designed to be reused indefinitely, improving the taste of tap water and providing a better, more cost-effective alternative to water bottles made from petroleum and other chemicals that are potentially unsafe for reuse and require a significant amount of energy to recycle.
The idea for Hydros Bottle originated at the University of Pennsylvania, where Jay studied engineering and Aakash attended the Wharton School of Business. They both knew the makers of the proprietary filter technology that’s now used in the bottles as all three were employees of a local material-science company. Those developers put the two in touch. “We had a technology and we had a need,” said Jay. “Hydros Bottle is the bridge between the two.”
Jay and Aakash began work on a business plan – Aakash for a course, Jay for an entry in the Dell Social Innovation Competition, in which he was a semi-finalist – and realized, once it was written, that they wanted to take it to the next step: off the paper and into the hands of consumers. “We basically thought, ‘If we’re enjoying it, why not do it full time?’” said Aakash, who formerly had plans to go into consulting. “Being [this kind of] an entrepreneur means you get to do things where every day you’re contributing to a greater vision.”
What began as a business plan in May of 2009 is now an actualized product, expected to be delivered to its first customers in February 2010. Already, more than 1000 preorders have rolled in, and the only marketing the guys have done so far is establish a website, www.hydrosbottle.com, set up a Facebook and a Twitter page.
But even that seems a bit much, because, “We’re aiming to be very transparent and establish an evangelistic consumer base that will promote the product itself,” said Jay.
“In that case, we won’t need advertising.”
One aspect of Hydros Bottle is likely to help facilitate its spread: $1 from every bottle sold will help fund a water-infrastructure project in Gundom, Cameroon and provide 2,000 gallons of water to a community in need.
Dubbed “Operation Hydros,” this project collaborates with Penn’s chapter of Engineers without Borders (EWB), an NGO committed to leading sustainable engineering projects worldwide. Aakash and Jay, a former member of EWB who has been involved with development projects in both Cameroon and Honduras, chose the organization because “…all the money goes directly to buying supplies in Cameroon. They’re purchased on the ground there, so there are no overhead costs and everything goes to the project.”
Both guys have plans to visit Cameroon in the future and praise the EWB for its direct involvement in helping solve the global water crisis. Its members work in partnership with communities to help carry out projects and ensure community members are able to build and maintain those projects on their own. “We don’t want to be a company that just writes checks; we want to be involved in the solution,” Aakash said.
The solution offered with this particular EWB project is to help the rural agrarian community of Gundom, one of the poorest in the mountainous Bome Valley region of Cameroon, build a spring-water distribution system that will deliver fresh water to each household via a storage tank and connecting channels. The Gundom community, in partnership with EWB, will construct this system entirely from locally sourced materials. Currently, Gundom residents use water from creeks for drinking and cooking during the rainy season – the same creeks they use to bathe in and wash their livestock. In the dry season, women and children often have to walk more than 30 minutes to find a water source.
Jay and Aakash plan to continue to partner with a charitable cause as long as they produce Hydros Bottle, though they’re committed to causes that they say can help “…bring light to the [global water] crisis,” because “…there’s no (PRODUCT) RED for water.”
Hydros Bottle isn’t available for purchase in any stores yet. If you’re interested, check out the website, www.hydrosbottle.com, to purchase a bottle for $25.