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Startup of the Week: Amazi

This week we feature Amazi, which was founded in Glen Rock, PA on January 2013 by Crystal Plew and Devin Lyttle.

Mission:

Amazi, is a location-based app and website to find clean water sources—from grocery store water machines to public drinking fountains—to end the consumption of bottle water. Our goal is to make filling reusable bottles as easy as buying a new one.

In the US alone, 66 billion disposable water bottles are bought annually; 87% of those are not recycled, only to end up in our landfills, lakes and oceans where they take 1000 years to biodegrade.

There’s growing awareness on the dangers of plastic, impurities in tap water and assumptions that bottled water is better for you (it’s not). Many cities, campuses, grocery stores and businesses already have, or are rapidly installing, purified water stations, drinking fountains, and dispensers—and are even banning the sale of bottle water—to aid in the fight against contaminated tap water and plastic consumption. However, there’s currently no effective way to locate them.

Although studies have proven most bottled water to be no cleaner than tap, years of effective marketing has convinced the public otherwise. We aim to educate the public on the quality of their water by also offering data on the local municipal water supply, so they can make an informed decision when refilling their bottles from dispensaries or taps.

Through education we create awareness; by connecting consumers with clean, local water, we bridge the gap between awareness and action.

Reflect a bit on where you’ve been as a business, and where you aim to be in 3 years. 

As a recent first place winner at Startup Weekend—a global 54 hour event where developers, designers, and startup entrepreneurs come together to form teams, build products, and launch startups—we were able to complete market validation from both businesses and consumers, develop a functional mobile prototype, and create a winning presentation. As we continue to develop our mobile app and acquire location/water data, we are focused on building strategic alliances to develop Amazi-branded filtration systems, bottles and products, which we will sell in our online marketplace and directly to businesses.

In three years, we want to be the leading source on everything water-related: refill locations, municipal water data providers, a trusted educational resource, and a premier marketplace. Through these efforts, we strive to completely eliminate the need for bottled water. We also aim to be on the forefront of the Ban the Bottle movement—from influencing businesses, festivals and events to forego bottled water in favor of refill stations; encouraging university students to petition their schools to introduce a ban on plastic bottles; and speaking with local and national policymakers to introduce legislation that will prohibit the sale of bottled water.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?

In a world that often measures success in dollars and cents, it can be difficult to gain recognition when your barometer for success is based on how many lives you impact. Likewise, in the startup world, technology tends to reign supreme. While we are a tech startup (mobile and web) by nature, we are also a social enterprise with an altruistic mission: make clean water available to everyone, everywhere.

Our atypical approach to business has made us the underdog in many of the startup competitions and programs we have participated in. However, by winning Startup Weekend, we’ve proven that a good business model can start with a good cause.

The challenge to be accepted as both a tech startup and a social entrepreneur is a challenge we would prefer didn’t exist; but one that we feel we have, and will continue to, overcome.

What remains the biggest obstacle?

Our biggest obstacle is the 50 billion dollar a year bottled water industry and swaying the public from an action that many find to be second nature: buying bottled water. Nearly everyone owns a reusable bottle these days, yet only a fraction use them on a regular basis due to the accessibility of bottled water and the uncertainty about tap water. Our solution is to create awareness surrounding the unsustainable practice of supporting the bottled water industry—from plastic pollution to water scarcity—and inform the public on the quality of their water so they can confidently fill their bottle, no matter where they are.

Are you currently looking for financing?

We are currently looking for impact investors who believe in our vision and respect our core values. It’s important for us to work with an investor who understands the benefit of social enterprises and recognizes the impact Amazi will have in the reduction of plastic consumption and aiding in clean water initiatives around the world.

Any last words?

Amazi means ‘water’ in Rwanda. As a company, we understand not only the environmental crisis caused by the consumption of bottled water, but also the dire need for clean water across the globe. Nearly 800 million people worldwide lack clean water—343 million in Africa alone—resulting in 3.4 million people losing their lives every year from water-related diseases. Cutting bottled water consumption in the U.S. by just 1/6 saves enough energy, oil consumption and money to fund these relief efforts in developing countries. In addition to making it our goal to reach this figure by offering the public an alternative to bottled water, we are also donating a portion of our profits to ensure clean water is available for everyone.

Here is how to stay connected to Amazi: Facebook , Twitter , LinkedIn

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