Indiegogo and Arrow will be choosing another flash funding recipient in the month of April. Sign up for the Arrow Certification Program now to join campaigners like Chris Richter of WaterBot in winning game-changing funds, engineering resources and tools, discounts, and personal guidance from experts.
Do you monitor the quality of your drinking water? Can you say with confidence that your water supply is not contaminated? These questions sparked a nationwide debate during the water crisis in Flint, Michigan in 2015. The contaminated water in Flint concerned many Americans and shined a spotlight on how municipalities regulate water quality in cities across the country. However, Chris Richter of Water Doctors, had already been working on this issue for most of his life.
Since his father started the water treatment business in 1982, Chris has worked alongside of him for the better part of 40 years. Chris could not have anticipated that his frustration with water regulation and management in 2016 would soon turn him into an IoT product entrepreneur who is raising funds on Indiegogo and partnering with Arrow Electronics.
After working on a project for the Water Quality Association of Wisconsin Board, Chris realized that his team was making best estimates about the measurements of contaminants in the water because there was no accurate way to get live updates on the quality of the water supply. He found it ridiculous that in 2016, there was no connected way to have water readings that were continuous, accurate, precise and proactive, especially when dealing with potentially large amounts of heavy metals in the water. It wasn’t until after a meeting where someone brought in a legal pad filled with handwritten data and illegible notes, that Chris realized there had to be an alternative. “What we really needed was data we could trust, and we had data we couldn’t read,” he recalls. Out of this moment of frustration, the idea for WaterBot was born.
Chris along with his father, Bob Richter, founder of Water Doctors and engineer Edgar Duarte, started work on creating the WaterBot and connected it to their water supply. A few months later, Chris received an alert that their water had been compromised by a nearby construction project and debris in the water jumped 40% in a matter of minutes. It was time for this device, that can alert users in real-time when water quality has deteriorated and pinpoint the location, to be brought to mass market.
After building a working prototype, the WaterBot team decided to develop their idea through crowdfunding to find out if the average consumer would be interested in a water quality device like WaterBot. “Our decision came down to one thing, a really optimistic, hopeful dream, and that one thing was Arrow. I know a whole heck about water, but hardware is not my expertise. And the inclusion of a major hardware vendor, that was absolutely one of the big decisions to go Indiegogo verse anything else,” says Chris.
Six months after coming up with their idea, the team launched their campaign on Indiegogo. Within weeks, they were enrolled and certified in the Arrow Certification Program, and having exploratory conversations with Arrow engineers about the hardware of the WaterBot. From the emails between dozens of engineers to the calls with their field office representatives, Chris describes “a completely unexpected level of support” from Arrow. “Just when you’re pounding your head against the wall after dealing with this for so long, and you start to wonder why you started this project,” he says, “all of a sudden you’ll catch an unsolicited email, from somebody asking how they can help. And it can’t be understated how important that is.”
In addition to the support on building the product, Arrow also helps with everything from sourcing components to making adjustments to the WaterBot BoM. “With respect to the hardware, we are absolutely dealing with better components, more reliable suppliers, precision that is absolutely staggering in terms of the measurement coming out of the device, and they’ve driven our costs down,” says Chris. He says that the usual terrors that keep hardware entrepreneurs up at night, like having a component shortage or supply chain issue, have been completely avoided with Arrow.
Now the WaterBot team has a production-ready prototype completed. They took advantage of Arrow’s connections to manufacturing services, which facilitates the entire handoff from production ready to delivery. “I have very little concern when they [Arrow advisers] say it’s worth trying something, because they’ve been right every time,” Chris says.
And now, Arrow has awarded $75,000 in flash funds to the WaterBot team to help scale their product and bring water quality regulation to a national level.
“These funds are dramatically altering the scale that we are delivering on. This is going to allow us to go even bigger and better to market in terms of quantity of devices,” says Chris. Chris and team plan on bringing water quality regulation to a national level, through private-public collaboration between city officials, private water treatment companies and consumers. Through open sourced data from WaterBots, the city will be able to see exactly where in their water supply changes are happening, so they are more intelligent about their spend when it comes to construction and plumbing. Ultimately, this will save cities money for other projects, at a time when infrastructure investments are desperately needed. In just six months the Waterbot transformed from a makeshift device used to help a small water treatment facility into a connected IoT product destined to change water regulation and infrastructure problems across the country.
Are you looking to take your product to the next level? Arrow will be awarding another $75,000 in flash funding to an Arrow Certified Campaigner in April. Enroll in the Arrow Certification Program today, and you’ll receive engineering resources and tools, discounts, personal guidance from experts and the chance to win game-changing funds.