Safe water with certainty.

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


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.


Track outcomes, not outputs

As little as 5% of water purifiers distributed in acute emergencies are used correctly. This is a poor outcome for the recipients, and a troubling statistic for funders. The problem persists because there is little data on usage, and the data that exists is unreliably and costly to collect.

PotaVida presents a revolutionary new concept: accurate data from every device in the field. The Smart Solar Purifier automatically collects its own usage data, which can be easily transmitted to a cell phone and then to a cloud-based database.

One of the biggest challenges is access to accurate, current information. In emergency contexts you need fast answers to hard questions: How many people need access to safe water? How many liters are purified, by whom, where, and when?

You can't improve what you don't measure.

We give you the data. You can see uptake, total water disinfected, and even the locations of the purifiers in near-real time. These data allow you to identify:
• Correct and incorrect operation of each distribution, or of each unit
• Effectiveness of different training protocols
• Total water treated per distribution, or per unit
• GPS locations of distributions, or units

Meet the Team

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


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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

Latest Blog Post

PotaVida Awarded $150K Grant for Pilot Test in Somalia!

WGHA Logo TitlePotaVida was selected by the Washington Global Health Alliance (WGHA) for a $150,000 grant to test at scale their innovative Smart Solar Purifier, a product that provides clean water in disaster relief contexts while automatically tracking usage. PotaVida is partnering with World Concern, a global relief and development agency, to distribute and test 750 Smart Solar Purifiers in Somalia.

This is not the first grant for PotaVida, which has received a development grant from MIT’s D- Lab and won the 2011 Business Plan Competition at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. In 2014 WGHA awarded PotaVida $10,000 to further develop their Smart Solar Purifier technology, which they leveraged to close a seed round of $470,000 in angel investment. “We are thrilled to bolster the work of PotaVida, a repeat WGHF grantee, through this round of funding. WGHF has infused critical support for global health technologies on the verge of wide scale impact,” said Lisa Cohen, Executive Director of the Washington Global Health Alliance (WGHA) which administers WGHF.

The Smart Solar Purifier has been designed specifically for the disaster relief context. It is a 10- liter capacity reusable unit that will operate for 1 year in the field and has a 5-year shelf life. Shipping costs are reduced and further supply chain dependency is eliminated because it packs flat and requires no consumables or filters. The purifier is simple to use: users place the filled bag in the sun, press the start button, and wait for a green light to indicate completion. A red light indicates in-progress status. Disinfection takes a few hours in full sun, allowing up to two treatment cycles per day.

The PotaVida Smart Solar Purifier is the only water disinfection device that automatically tracks every use. The electronic solar disinfection monitor logs usage, which can be downloaded by field staff. Each downloaded usage record is annotated with a location tag, and then uploaded to a centralized database for online access. The usage tracking feature eliminates the uncertainty typical of self-reported usage surveys.

An expert in disaster response, World Concern’s Chris Sheach says, “Tracking the actual usage of a product is hugely helpful, especially if you can access the data from afar. PotaVida’s approach to tracking data can change the way we measure the success of relief efforts.” Chris Sheach is the Deputy Director of Disaster Response at World Concern.

The PotaVida team was motivated by an understanding of the low usage rates of products in the field. Co-founder and CEO, Charlie Matlack, PhD, explains:

We learned that products distributed in acute disasters have usage rates ranging from 5% to 25%. The problem is not that we don’t have products that disinfect water; it is that they are not used. We developed our features to provide accurate and near real-time data from the field so usage rates can be tracked and improved.

The PotaVida Smart Solar Purifier uses a method called solar disinfection or “SODIS,” which is recommended by the World Health Organization1 and the Centers for Disease Control2. The method uses ultraviolet light from the sun. However, solar disinfection has long struggled to achieve high rates of adoption because it is impossible to tell whether disinfection is occurring, and when it is complete, since it depends on weather conditions and other factors. The Smart Solar Purifier addresses these concerns by measuring UV intensity and duration, showing users that disinfection is working and when their water is safe to drink.

The partnership with World Concern represents a first test at scale of the data collection and water disinfection, which were successfully tested in a small pilot in Uganda in 2014. Sheach states:

World Concern is excited to partner with PotaVida, especially in Somalia – an area of great need. Their products will help us provide life-saving clean water to displaced people, and have the additional impact of helping to measure – and continuously improve – the success of our programs.

More blog posts here

Contact Information

Purchase Inquiries

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