Graphene filters change the economics of clean water
New approaches to filtration and extracting moisture from air promise to alleviate the world's looming water scarcity crisis. Filtration ...
Harvesting clean, safe drinking water from air for people living without access to water
Prototype can generate 10 litres of water in 24 hours
Solar-powered, not reliant on electricity grid connection
783m across the world today do not have access to clean water and forecasted that water scarcity will impact 1.8bn by 2025.
PAYG business model enabling broader customer access, strong recurring revenues and long-term profitability
Winner of the inaugural EDF Pulse Africa start-up awards in Paris
Featured in the Financial Time’s '50 Ideas to Change the World'
Incubated at Singularity University, with a Google-funded scholarship
Access to clean drinking water is a huge problem; today 783m people across the world do not have access to clean drinking water. Drinking dirty water causes 2m deaths per year.
Traditionally this was a cleanliness problem and solutions focussed on ways to clean dirty water (e.g. filtering or boiling) or providing access to cleaner water sources (e.g. wells or boreholes).
However, increasingly water scarcity is a problem, freshwater reserves are being depleted as populations grow, agricultural use skyrockets and changing climates impact the hydrological cycle which means there’s no water to filter in many parts of the world.
The map below shows freshwater availability per person by country in 2007 and shows water scarcity or stress across huge swathes of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Source: Vital Water Graphics. UNEP
The world water scarcity situation is forecast to get much worse; by 2025 the UN forecasts that 1.8bn people will experience absolute water scarcity, and 2/3 of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.
This growing water scarcity and drought is apparent across the globe, in the US headlines mentioning drought and water rationing in places like California are increasingly common, but in other parts of the world like Kenya (where our CEO Beth is from) the headlines are more stark; schools shutting because there’s no safe water for children to drink, dangerous diseases like cholera, water-driven conflict and animals dying.
The map below shows projected water scarcity in 2025, rapidly growing to cover more of Africa, Asia and South America.
Source: FEW Resources.org
Luckily alternatives to groundwater exist; there is 6x as much water in the air as there is in all the rivers in the world. You see this when dew forms in the morning or water condenses on a cold can of soda.
Majik Water provides the c.780m people in the world who are living without access to water with the opportunity to access clean, safe water pulled directly from the air. It uses solar thermal energy and sponge-like desiccant materials that to do this in a low cost, energy efficient way.
How it works:
Air is pulled into the device using a solar powered fan
Desiccant material adsorbs water droplets from the air
Desiccant is exposed to heat (generated by solar), releasing the moisture as water vapour
This water vapour is condensed into water and filtered with activated carbon
It is stored in a tank and accessed via a gravity fed tap system which does not require a motor
Image: this visual graphic was designed by the Financial Times from an original technical diagram provided by Majik Water.
We started by creating a proof of concept device from existing technology to prove our approach works to make a meaningful amount of water from air.
Produces 10 litres of water in 24 hours
Cost $700 buying all the parts at retail price in the US
This works out at a cost of 5 cents per litre of water assuming 5 years operation
We are currently working on our next prototype which will produce more water and use a more energy efficient design to lower the cost per litre.
We are targeting 2 customer segments:
More affluent middle class households who currently buy bottled spring water for drinking
At risk communities living in areas of drought who are supported by NGOs and / or local government
For both customer segments we will charge a PAYG fee per litre of water accessed and for the at risk communities we will charge a downpayment from NGOs or local government.
The PAYG fee per litre will be higher for affluent households who will purchase our water in pre-filled reusable plastic dispensers, but undercut the price they are currently paying for bottled spring water.
At risk communities will pay a much lower per litre fee, cheaper than the cost of buying firewood to boil and purify dirty water and in line with the price for unclean water from vendors, they will fill their own containers with water
As detailed above 783m people lack clean water today and this is forecast to grow to 1.8bn people by 2025.
We are focussing on creating a solution designed specifically for sub-Saharan Africa where today 319m people are living without clean water. We are beginning our operations and field pilots in Kenya.
Kenya is an attractive initial market for us because:
Our CEO Beth is an experienced water entrepreneur in Kenya having previously launched a successful water filtration business there
Incomes are growing rapidly, so willingness and ability to pay for water is growing
There is a well established bottled water market, showing willingness to pay for clean water
There is a very advanced mobile payment infrastructure (M-PESA) making a PAYG model easy to roll out
There are 48m Kenyans and c.50% do not have access to clean drinking water, and even those with a piped water supply worry about its safety as contamination is common
There are a number of other companies focused on generating drinking water from air, however Majik Water is unique in 3 key ways:
Technology - we use sponge-like desiccant materials to adsorb water molecules whereas most competitors create a cooled surface for water to condense on; this approach requires a lot of energy.
Customer focus - we are focussed on emerging markets where the largest volume of people without access to clean water are, starting with Kenya, whereas most of our competitors are focussed on developed countries.
Business model - we are unique in having a pay-as-you-go per litre of water business model rather than charging $1000s+ per device this lowers the barriers to customer adoption and leads to strong recurring revenues - and profitability.
Majik Water won first place and €15,000 prize money in EDF’s pulse Africa start-up awards on the 19th December 2017. EDF is a french utility company with $70bn revenue in 2016 and has been active in Africa for over 50 years, it is currently focussing on off-grid energy and applications.
Our proof of concept proved our approach to capture drinking water from air works. Recently we’ve been conducting primary research in field, interviewing potential users in our target market of Kenya to understand their needs, current attitudes and buying behaviour related to water.
We are also iterating designs for our next prototype which will be larger in volume of water produced per day, and more energy efficient increasing affordability.
Once this prototype is complete we will start piloting with different user groups in Kenya.
Beth has been passionate about water issues since being forced to buy unclean water at high prices from street vendors when the taps ran dry for several months while she was at university; she caught several amoebas and was hospitalised with typhoid from drinking dirty water. Frustrated she started building her own affordable water filters, which were soon in large demand from other students.and she launched her first business AquaClean which is still a profitable concern. Majik Water was borne out of the increasingly regular droughts experienced in her home country, Kenya and her realisation that the next big water problem in Kenya is not making dirty water clean, it’s having any water to drink at all
Anastasia has addressed water issues from a number of angles in her career; she has worked on water policy at a state and national level in Canada and she has led technical research using performance materials to speed up water condensation when harvesting water from air whilst working at a Canadian R&D company. She believes that water should be democratised and decentralised to ensure people all over the world can access clean and safe drinking water.
Clare initially followed a traditional professional services career path, after graduating from Oxford University she worked in strategy consulting in London for 9 years. She loved the intellectual challenge and fast pace of work, but started to realise that she wanted to have an impact on the world beyond making rich people richer. She moved to Malawi in southern Africa and spent 2 years working on a mixture of for-profit and development consulting and impact start-ups. She met Anastasia and Beth when they all secured Google-funded scholarships to attend Singularity University at NASA Ames in California and they bonded over the opportunity to create a company to offer vulnerable people across the globe access to clean water in a sustainable, scalable, for-profit way.
Our product offers an affordable source of clean, safe drinking water for people across the world regardless of where they live and groundwater availability.
Together we can make sure no child has to drink dirty water or miss school to gather water.
Thank you for your support. - Beth, Clare and Anastasia
A personal note from Majik's own CEO!
A shout out on Majik's Twitter, your name listed on our website as a valued investor (if desired), and all previous perks.
A personal video walk through in Kenya with the Founders, and all previous perks.
A personally signed Majik Water T-Shirt and letter sent from our Nairobi, Kenya office, and all previous perks.
An exclusive Majik swag bag, a 60min face to face video call with Majik's Founders, and all previous perks.
Your own Majik Water device!* You can harvest drinking water from air, right in your own home! Comes will all previous perks. *Delivered when released, expected date mid 2019.
Kenya makes sense to be our launch country for many reasons: 1) 48% of the population do not have access to clean drinking water 2) wealth and middle class are quickly growing and showing willingness to spend on goods like clean water (the bottled water market is over $180m) 3) it has the world's most used mobile money infrastructure with m-Pesa and 4) our CEO Beth is Kenyan and has previously ran a successful water filtering business there.
We're currently planning to charge per litre of clean water accessed, rather than per device due to 1) large cash outlays of $100s+ being hard for our target customers to save or access finance for 2) to create an attractive long-term recurring revenue flow 3) to streamline distribution and ongoing operations 4) to cover future maintenance needs. We're targeting <$0.02 cents per litre for our rural off-grid customers.
Majik is starting in Kenya because we are focused on regions here that have little or no access to clean drinking water. We have had requests to expand into places like China and the Middle East / North Africa. We definitely see a global future for Majik Water, however currently our operations are located in Kenya. Sign up for our updates to see when Majik is coming to a community near you.
Sponge like materials that attract water and release it when heated. Like the silica packets you find in newly bought shoes!
Head to our website http://www.majikwater.co/ and sign-up for our newsletter. We promise not to spam you more than once a month!
Clare Sewell: I'm a little bit nervous. Yeah, I've never been in a studio audience before, but it'll be really nice to meet the Drapers. From what we've seen today, they've given good feedback to people. I think that'll be nice. This is quite a new venture.
Beth Koigi: Yeah, and it's the first time to get our idea out there to people. Yeah, we are pretty excited at the same time.
Clare Sewell: Yeah.
Beth Koigi: I'm Beth, a co-founder at Majik and the CEO. A while back, I started a water filtration business in Kenya, and like many of the organization, we found a program that we were trying to solve. 783 million people around the world do not have access to clean water. Like many other organization working on this, the statistics is changing. In fact, they were growing more and more. Especially in terms of drought, and we found a very big linkage between water contamination and water shortage. With the well drying up, and the water tables coming down, there is higher concentration of sodium chloride and arsenic. We started looking at different other sources of clean drinking water.
Clare Sewell: Great. I'm Clare. I'm a co-founder and COO at Majik Water. We started looking at where else does clean water exist in the world. We came across the fact, which I found quite staggering, which is there's actually six times more water in the air than there is in all of the rivers in the world. That's a great source of clean fresh drinking water that we're not really using at the moment.
We looked at how we could harness that, particularly for people living in areas like we just showed you, where there's no electricity, and you've got to create something that works for that environment. We came across something called desiccant materials. These are sponge-like materials, which have a high affinity for water and attract water. Then you can release it by heating. We tested that in a lab, it worked. Then we built this proof of concept. We hacked together some existing technology, a desiccant dehumidifier, a solar array, and a filter. For $700, we can create 10 liters of water every 24 hours. Our next step is the next prototype to bring that cost down a lot.
Beth Koigi: The UN estimate-
Bill Draper: Wait, 10 inches, and how wide?
Clare Sewell: Sorry, 10 liters, 10 liters cubic.
Bill Draper: Oh, 10 liters.
Clare Sewell: Yes. Yeah.
Beth Koigi: The UN estimate that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in water striked areas. At Majik, we are committed to making this statistic not to be. If you'll have air, you'll have clean drinking water.
Bill Draper: How did you meet each other?
Clare Sewell: We met at Singularity University. We've been doing a global solutions program since June.
Tim Draper: Let me get this straight. There is a device that just sucks air in and captures the water and holds it. Is it a fan, or is it just like a-
Naveen Jain: Metamaterial. There are a hundred and-
Tim Draper: It's a what?
Naveen Jain: Metamaterial, and so there are probably 150 companies that I know that do that today. In fact, there is a water XPRIZE. There are about 150 company that are currently competing. This is an extremely crowded market.
Clare Sewell: Yeah, and you're absolutely right. We have seen a tipping point on this. Our other team member, Anastasia, the CTO, she's actually involved in one of the XPRIZE water teams, using a slightly different technology. What we are looking at is doing something that works both on the technology side, but also on the business model, really rural villages creating 2,000 liters of water per day. We're looking at something that can be hopefully distributed a lot more quickly, and we're looking at distribution partners and angles to do that, to create something that can quickly scale out to the people who really need it.
Naveen Jain: This is a business model company rather than a technical company?
Clare Sewell: Yeah.
Bill Draper: Who is going to pay for this?
Beth Koigi: We are producing a device that can be used at a household table, but we are trying to look at if we can build something for community level, where we product not less than 100 liters per day. People pay per liter.
Tim Draper: It's individual consumers that are going to pay per liter, and so communities will buy this machine, and then selling it.
Naveen Jain: Then sell the water.
Tim Draper: Selling water.
Clare Sewell: Yeah.
Tim Draper: This is a very, very crowded market, both in the small scale, and the big scale.
Jesse Draper: Right. No, I completely agree with you Naveen, but we need water. They need water. I'm glad 150 companies are working on this. You guys, are you trying to differentiate yourselves by only going after Africa to start?
Beth Koigi: Right now, and you're correct, there are so many companies doing this. Right now, our market segment is low humidity. That is 30% relative humidity. Most of these technologies work in 60% relative humidity. Most people are doing dew harvesting, fog harvesting, or harvesting water from very high humidity, but we are looking at desert, basically arid areas.
Bill Draper: I ran the United Nations Development Program, UNDP. We drilled a lot of wells. Are you saying there isn't water under the ground?
Beth Koigi: There is water, but if you look at the case of East Africa, there is a lot of sodium chloride and a lot of arsenic due to the borehole water dropping so low. There is high concentration of heavy metals and excess minerals. This has created stunted growth, the bones are breaking easily. There is a lot of challenges associated with that. Boiling water won't solve anything. Removing bacteria won't solve anything unless you do desalination, one, which is very expensive right now.
Clare Sewell: The other thing that we're looking at though is the projections on water shortage. There are wells that are being drilled today, which are running out of water, because the ground level, the groundwater levels are dropping so much. Actually, when you look at the UN statistics about how much that problem is going to grow in the world, it's really scary. By 2025, they say 1.8 billion people will be in water scarce areas. They say around 4 billion people will be experiencing at least a few months of water shortage every year. This is a problem that is going to grow, just scarily big. That is why we want to have something that works to create water from the air to pre-solve the problem of not having enough water to the ground.
Bill Draper: You're pretty sure that people will line up and pay per liter?
Clare Sewell: Yeah, and it surely happens a lot in Kenya. Beth can talk to this better.
Beth Koigi: We call them water kiosk. They're like water shop, where people go and buy water. Most of these are build around a borehole, which is mostly not purified. We are setting up the same set up, but where you get clean water from that, and actually cost will be a bit cheaper than that.
Tim Draper: Where did you learn about water and the water shortages around the world?
Beth Koigi: I started a water filtration business in Kenya, because I was personally affected. I couldn't afford the filters in the market then, so I started making my own filters. People got interested, and they started buying. This year, we experienced a very long drought from January to around August, and that made me realize even if you have a filter, there is nothing to filter. That made me start thinking, what do other people do?
Tim Draper: Do you have problems when you start talking to the investors that they get thirsty.
Clare Sewell: It's hot in here.
Tim Draper: A liter of water through your system, what's the cost of that versus a liter of water coming out of the ground?
Clare Sewell: A liter of water is five cents per liter every five year ownership period. It need to get down to one cent ber liter. If you're buying from a rainwater harvesting equipment, that works out at about six cents per liter.
Bill Draper: How long does it take you to pay for the equipment?
Clare Sewell: At the moment, we're looking at a hybrid model, so getting the government or NGO down payment to cover about 60% to 70% of the machine cost.
Bill Draper: It's NGOs that is going to finance this.
Clare Sewell: Then a pay-as-you-go from the customers.
Tim Draper: Have you considered Xerox model? You actually put the thing out there, charge per liter of water, and you own the machine.
Clare Sewell: That is definitely an option. In terms of access to enough capital to be able to scale quickly to do that, because obviously, the cash flow on that is going to be a long payback period.
Bill Draper: Have either of you run anything? Have you ever ... Starting in college or where ... Have you run a-
Clare Sewell: A business?
Bill Draper: Business ... Not necessarily a business, but something?
Clare Sewell: Yeah.
Bill Draper: I wanted to look into your leadership skills.
Beth Koigi: I have a bachelor's degree in community development, a master's in project planning and management, but I also started a business in Kenya, water filtration business, which I ran for five years. I found I wasn't doing much. I was just being a normal company, selling water filtration. I was also impact-oriented.
Bill Draper: You?
Clare Sewell: I studied economics and management at Oxford, and then I actually worked in a city doing strategy consulting in London, and then our-
Tim Draper: Terrific. Now, we don't have any more time for our questions, but we do have time for our questions from in the audience.
Jesse Draper: I know you have questions. We all drink water. In the back row.
Clare Sewell: Actually, the beauty of us doing something that's more at a household or 100-liter community level is that could be shipped quite easily in a disaster scenario, and actually go to the people who need it quite quickly. I think longer term, once we've got it up and running, that would be something we would love to help with.
Naveen Jain: What's the cost per unit?
Clare Sewell: At the moment, our-
Naveen Jain: The 100-liter one.
Clare Sewell: The 100-liter one, I've done a very bearish set of assumptions, based on the worst requirements in terms of solar PV, and we'll be looking at about $2,300 per unit.
Tim Draper: That would generate how much money and water per month? Is it a month?
Clare Sewell: Yes, so it'll be 100 liters per days, so if you're looking the one to two cents pay-as-you-go charge, that's $1 to $2 a day, and then whatever timeframe you want to look at.
Tim Draper: It's got to be 2,300 days to pay back.
Clare Sewell: Which is why we were looking at the possible NGO government down payment.
Jesse Draper: What are you raising?
Clare Sewell: At the moment, we're looking for $420,000 to get us through the next stage of prototyping.
Jesse Draper: At what valuation?
Clare Sewell: We're very early stage, so we're looking at putting in place a convertible note.
Tim Draper: Great. Thank you so much for coming in to Meet the Drapers.
Jesse Draper: Thank you so much. This is awesome.
Clare Sewell: Thank you. Great to meet all of you.
Bill Draper: Good job. Good luck to you.
Clare Sewell: It was good. They asked lots of really clever questions. It was nice getting the chance to speak to them.
Beth Koigi: This was an amazing experience, because once we started talking, we got them excited, and they started asking us all these questions. It made us feel they're really, really interested.
Clare Sewell: Yeah, and I think it's a problem that's really, really important. That's why we're building this business. We could've gone on talking for hours. The slides and the presentation behind us messed up a little bit, so that looked quite ugly. That would be, I think, number one thing to change.
Beth Koigi: I don't have regrets, totally. I really liked our presentation. I think we answered questions really well.
Clare Sewell: I think they agreed with us that the problem is a big one, and we could see ... I mean, Bill used to head up UNDP, so he's been working on these issues for decades. I think they really resonated with that, which was fabulous.
Beth Koigi: Yeah.
Clare Sewell: Now we just need some nice funds from the crowd please.
Bill Draper: I think they're trying to do something very important, but they're trying to do something important with a new twist. Getting water from above rather than below, so I would like to back them. Frankly, as an investor who's looking for a return, I probably wouldn't do it.
Tim Draper: Well, no. 2,300 days to get your money back, it's a long way to go. I like the CEO and the fact that she had been selling water in the street for quite a while. That's a nice way to start.
Bill Draper: I like them very much.
Tim Draper: I like that. I thought that was terrific.
Jesse Draper: Yeah. I mean-
Naveen Jain: I-
Jesse Draper: Yeah. No, you go ahead.
Naveen Jain: No, you go ahead, Jesse.
Jesse Draper: No, you've been drinking water longer than I have.
Naveen Jain: Oh.
Tim Draper: Ouch.
Naveen Jain: Okay.
Tim Draper: Good comment. Go ahead. Guest first.
Naveen Jain: I think it's a problem worth solving. The thing that I had a little trouble with is that they really have no IP. It's not they have any intellectual property of any kind, and they're just simply thinking that their business model of partnering with NGOs is going to get them there. To me, if you're relying on the nonprofit to make your profitable, that's a pretty tough market.
Jesse Draper: It feels like maybe it could be more of a nonprofit of sort.
Naveen Jain: Jesse, you can always support them. You have plenty of money.
Tim Draper: Hey, she struggled. She got that fund raised. I don't think she wants to put it out. She wants to put it out pretty carefully.
Jesse Draper: I have to be very careful.
Tim Draper: Anyway, that was great. Okay, so thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs all around, which way are you going? There you have it.
Jesse Draper: I really like them.
Tim Draper: Me too.
Naveen Jain: Aww.
Jesse Draper: This is your opportunity. If you want to help support the water ecosystem, invest in Majik Water or vote, this is your chance. Preferably, vote or invest in the next 48 hours, and you can help this company get off the ground.
impact of Majik Water and market opportunityAlicia D'SouzaInvested 6 days ago
I've not invested money, I just want to do good things to the people who are not getting clean water, may be someday this business gets successful, i can say proudly yes I'm the part of this journey! Cheers!Romit PawarInvested 8 days ago
I think that the positioning of the company will lead to long term success in the water industry.Thomas HillerInvested 12 days ago
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