How to engage investors focused on profit in solutions for the poor
“Would you drink water with shit in it?” asked Jonathan Levine, co founder and chief executive officer of Folia Water, prompting laughter from investors gathered at the Computer Science History Museum in Mountain View, California.
The next line of his pitch silenced them. “1.8 billion people do every single day. And not just in refugee camps, but in cities around the world: Lagos, Mumbai, Mexico City, Bangkok,” he said.
Folia Water created the first water filter that costs pennies not dollars, said Levine, whose company tagline is “Paper for Pennies. Water for Billions.” Each silver nanoparticle-coated filter paper provides clean drinking water to a family for an entire week. In a pitch to Silicon Valley investors, he focused primarily on the financial returns, explaining how his product presents a cheaper alternative to bottled water for the 3 billion people who spend $20 billion per year on household water. Folia Water manufactures for 7 cents and retails for 50 cents, expecting to reach between $2 and $5 million in revenue by 2018 through sales in retail stores in developing countries.
The company is supported by 500 Startups, an early-stage venture fund and seed-stage accelerator that is based in Silicon Valley, but makes investments all over the world based on its mission to promote entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. Its 500 Seed Program brings startup founders together for four months, where they work on areas such as business strategy, user testing, and growth and metrics. At Demo Day, where they make their pitch to investors, those few startup founders who are focused on problems that face the poor have to make the case that there is money to be made.