PotaVida

Safe water with certainty.

PotaVida is lowering the cost of providing safe water in disaster relief and development contexts, while automating recording of usage behavior to enable effective monitoring and evaluation.




Need


Point-of-use water treatment is too expensive and aid agencies can't easily tell what's working in the field.

Providing Safe Water: There are 700 million people without access to safe water, resulting in preventable disease and death. In Haiti, for example, $9B has been spent on disaster relief, yet over 700,000 people have been infected with Cholera, a waterborne disease, and over 9,000 people have died as a result. Aid agencies and governments need a lower cost method of disinfecting water reliably that does not depend on consistent supply chains.

Efficient Use of Resources: Aid agencies conduct in-person surveys to collect usage data on water purification systems. Surveying a household takes 20 to 30 minutes, and the resulting self-reported data is biased. More reliable and detailed usage data is needed to effectively monitor, evaluate, and improve aid programs in the field.





The Smart Solar Purifier


Simple to Use, Easy to Monitor


PotaVida's Smart Solar Purifier consists of a 10 liter hydration bag with an electronic dosage indicator that shows when the water is safe to drink and records usage data. Our technology uses the process of solar disinfection (SODIS) to reduce the cost of water treatment and eliminate the need for replacing filters and chemicals. Each batch of water is ready in as little as 2 hours in sunny conditions, or up to 2 days during the rainy season. Our product has a shelf life of 5 years and design lifetime of 1 year, making it an ideal disaster relief supply. To use, simply fill the bag with water, place it in the sun, push a button, and wait for the indicator's green LED to show that the water is safe.
For ordering information and sales inquiries, please email sales@potavida.com.


The disinfection monitor electronically records its own usage, including attempted/incorrect usage as well as completed cycles, thus capturing the total water disinfected by each unit. This data can be wirelessly downloaded to a smartphone with a simple attachment, and tagged with GPS information before being sent to a centralized database. Aid agencies can see usage in real-time down to the level of individual users and their locations.



Meet the Team


PotaVida brings together experts with a passion for sustainable and scalable global health solutions.



Charlie

Charlie Matlack, CEO

Charlie is the technical architect of PotaVida’s Smart Solar Purifier. He led the effort that garnered a $40,000 prize in a design competition for our original concept and conducted our recent field trial in Uganda. He has a BS in engineering from Harvey Mudd College and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Washington. His dissertation work was on novel interfaces for enabling individuals to control prosthetics and computers using individual neurons in the brain. He is an entrepreneur who understands how to leverage for-profit business and technology development models to provide market-based solutions to the developing world.

Tyler

Tyler Davis, CFO

Tyler has a background in public policy and economics, and 3 years of field work experience in developing countries. Tyler was the PI for Technology and Social Change at the University of Washington for a 6-country study of benefits and costs of access to information and communication technology. Tyler builds the business models and leads PotaVida’s grant writing efforts. A Ph.D. candidate at the Evans School of Public Policy, Tyler's dissertation work is third party certification of environmental goods. His research experience also includes economic modeling of subsistence economies in Indonesia and development of principles and standards for benefit cost analysis for social programs.

Jackie

Jackie Linnes, VP

Jackie oversees biological compliance and has conducted field trials in Nicaragua and Zambia. She is an expert in evaluating and implementing health solutions in low-resource settings. She is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue University, and holds a PhD in bioengineering and a certificate in Global Health from the University of Washington. She is an expert in pathogen detection disinfection and engineering solutions that improve global health. Jackie has extensive global health implementation experience, including leading an assessment of user response and usage of improved cooking stoves for Engineers Without Borders in rural Bolivia. Jackie has taught at MIT, Harvard, and Boston University.

Randy

Randy Strash, VP of Sales

Randy Strash is a 34-year veteran of World Vision, credited with launching a number of programs and campaigns that yielded over $1B cash and $10B in-kind donations during his tenure. He has extensive field experience in several countries in Africa, including opening World Vision's office in Rwanda, and is well connected in the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector domestically and internationally.

Ron

Ron Paulsen, Adviser

As a veteran of small start-up ventures and large multinational companies, Ron brings a diverse set of business experiences and technical knowledge. His specialties include product development planning, ramping products to volume production, and engineering management of hardware and software development. Previously the VP of engineering at Impinj and Snupi, Ron now operates a consulting firm. He has been advising PotaVida since 2013, helping us select contractors for engineering design, rapid prototyping, and user interface design.

Sarah

Sarah Daniels, Adviser

Sarah helped lead five venture-backed companies through rapid growth periods, changes of strategies, fundraising, and acquisitions. Sarah has been a CMO at a publically traded company, Market Leader, acquired by Trulia in 2013. She is a passionate leader with a deep commitment to marketing and sales strategies. Sarah advises PotaVida on marketing and sales strategy.

Bill

Bill Hughlett, Adviser

Bill Hughlett is the CFO of Voyager Capital. He brings over 30 years of industry and public accounting experience to the team, most of which has been focused on the technology sector. Prior to joining Voyager in 2000, Bill was a Senior Manager in Arthur Andersen’s High Technology practice, serving companies such as aQuantive, Blue Nile, BSQUARE Corporation, and Loudeye Technologies. At Arthur Andersen, Bill specialized in planning and execution of corporate transactions and equity compensation strategies. Prior to rejoining Arthur Andersen in 1998, Bill had responsibility for strategic planning, corporate development, and the worldwide tax function of Spacelabs Medical, a public medical device company.



How it Works


Solar disinfection is a proven process, recommended by the WHO


The Smart Solar Purifier treats drinking water using solar disinfection, often abbreviated SODIS. SODIS is a process that uses the UV in sunlight to inactivate pathogens in water, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. The process takes a few hours, depending on weather, water clarity, and the UV transparency of the container. In addition, temperatures above 45°C increase the speed at which pathogens are inactivated. SODIS is a highly effective process that is recommended by the World Health Organization. Until now, it has been challenging in practice because of the impossibility for the user to know how much sun the water has received, just like it's impossible to tell whether or not you'll get sunburned on a cloudy day. PotaVida's Smart Solar Purifier takes out the guesswork, and even the need to be trained on SODIS; just wait for the green light and drink with confidence, as we've taken care of the details!

The table (source: EAWAG) provides a list of pathogens that SODIS has been verified to inactivate. It is true that cryptosporidium requires more exposure than other pathogens, and that amoebas require heat for inactivation. However, the vast majority of common pathogens, usually caused by fecal contamination of drinking water sources, are readily dealt with.


Contact Information


Purchase Inquiries

Please email sales@potavida.com to learn more about ordering Smart Solar Purifiers.


Latest Blog Post


Kentaro Toyama says technology alone is not a solution


In Uganda, I learned first-hand a lesson that is laid out as a broadly applicable framework in Kentaro Toyama’s new book, Geek Heresy.

IMG_1122-Spiridon-talkingThe person who drove that lesson home is Spiridon Atukunda, the man you see explaining our purifier to a rapt audience in this picture, while I sit nearby and come to terms with how much better things are now going because he stepped in. The context is a refugee camp in Uganda, where moments before I was struggling to communicate, but now was watching understanding register on faces.

This brings me to Toyama’s thesis, which is so simple that it’s nearly self-evident: Technology is only an amplifier of human effort, and does not constitute a pre-packaged, transferable, or scalable solution on its own. If this sounds non-controversial, the utility of the book becomes apparent as soon as he begins pointing out the hypocrisies in how technology is applied to aid and development work, both abroad and in the US. In the context of international aid and development work, that means technology’s success depends on leaders, implementers, and beneficiaries.

At the end of the day, our Smart Solar Purifier is simply a tool that can allow effective aid organizations to amplify the outcomes of their safe water projects, by offering external validation of the results of their work. We offer fast, reliable data on usage where before there was none. Similarly, for end users (beneficiaries) who are motivated to treat their drinking water, we’re offering a tool that lets them do so with much less effort and much higher certainty of success than their existing alternatives.

Understanding and appreciating the appropriate role of technology in aid and development work allows us to make intelligent design decisions, and to take an appropriate role in working with our customers: that of empowering already-effective institutions and individuals to amplify the positive results of their efforts.


More blog posts here