SOURCE, a hydropanel technology startup backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is focused on producing clean water for consumption. Cody Friesen, SOURCE’s CEO, elaborates how big this problem is, how SOURCE is tackling this problem, and how SOURCE is thinking about impact/impact metrics.
What problem is your company solving? Why are you solving this problem?
Water is humanity’s most fundamental resource, and arguably its greatest challenge. 2.1 billion people around the world do not have clean, safe water to drink. Every day, women and girls spend 200 million hours collecting water for their families and every 10 seconds, someone on the planet dies from a waterborne illness. The problem goes beyond the developing world. Two million Americans are without running water in their homes and at least 20 percent of the nation’s well water would not pass a water quality test. The UN estimates that by 2050, 6 billion people will suffer from clean water scarcity as a result of climate change.
Water-stressed communities, consumers who want higher-quality water, businesses, hospitals, schools, and hotels and tourism destinations are increasingly turning to drinking water extracted from the earth, packaged in plastic and trucked in from afar, leaving a massive carbon footprint and half a trillion plastic water bottles behind.
By producing fresh, clean and renewable drinking water, off the grid, infrastructure-free, and from the sky, we can solve the water problem and, in the process, protect the planet and create products and experiences for people and organizations committed to sustainability. In places where safe drinking water is scarce, this technology can improve health outcomes, promote self-agency, and create economic well-being and opportunity.
What are you working on and how do you differ from other competitors?
SOURCE is a category disruptor and industry creator. Our patented technology is singularly able to efficiently capture an endlessly renewable resource – water vapor present in the atmosphere – and transform it into premium drinking water, with no filtration or outside source of electricity.
- The process of making plastic bottles, bottling water and transporting it has a significant carbon footprint. Single-use plastic bottles are already clogging our oceans and landfills and can take 450 years to break down.
- Desalination is expensive, requires a massive about of energy, produces waste, is viable only for coastal communities, and requires infrastructure to deliver.
- Much like home air conditioners, atmospheric water generators consume a great deal of electricity. They work well only in humid environments, and the water they produce must be cleaned.
- In 2019, the World Health Organization warned about the health impacts of drinking water treated through reverse osmosis, as the process strips out not just impurities, but also the vital minerals human beings need.
SOURCE water starts pure, is produced sustainably with sunlight and air as the only inputs, and close to where it is used and makes water an endlessly renewable supply.
How have you thought about and quantified impact and your impact metrics? What will it take for you to deliver on your impact metrics?
The impact of clean, safe and sustainable water is immeasurable, but at SOURCE, we think in terms of:
- Numbers of people served by our systems
- Groundwater preserved and ability to use potable water for other purposes
- Reduction in traditional new and replacement water treatment pumps, treatment plants and pipes.
- Fewer plastic bottles produced
- Reduction in CO2 emitted per unit of drinking water delivered
Our mission is to perfect water for every person, every place, and we have the tools to deliver: technology that efficiently, sustainably produces high-quality, renewable water nearly anywhere on the planet, a thoughtful strategy, the financing to execute it and, above all, a deep and passionate commitment. Ultimately, we want to deliver the lowest-cost potable water in the world, which will happen as our technology continues to develop and we achieve economies of scale.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you were starting that's proven immensely valuable that you'd share with others in a similar position to you?
It’s a cliché, but completely verifiable: your results in life are directly correlated to your commitment. You might be talented. You might have a world-changing idea. You might get a lucky break or run into someone who’s willing to put up with less than a wholehearted effort, but that’s rare and usually short-lived. The people who make an impact in this world show up. They realize that the opportunity to work and learn is a privilege.
If you are working on something that you legitimately believe can improve people’s lives it is imperative to “go all-in” to give it everything you’ve got. Investors will see it. Potential employees will see it. And your rate of progress will show it.
Thoughts and Outlook
Water and energy go hand in hand. Michael Webber, the current CSO/CTO at ENGIE, points this out in his book, Power Trip: “Because the modern water system directly depends on energy, that means modern civilization depends on energy and water. It goes the other way, too: the energy systems depend on water up and down its supply chain.” SOURCE is making the best of this pairing by relying on solar energy to power its technology.
About The Author
Co-Founder at The Impact
Daniel currently works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His original assignment was to maintain and update facility safety documentation for all facilities on-site, and perform risk analysis. Over time, his role has expanded to leading continuous improvement efforts through product management.
Concurrently, Daniel volunteers with Techstars, helping organize startup weekends, and with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, organizing events on the local and national levels of the organization. He also volunteers with One World, and previously with Powerhouse Ventures, to source and screen startups for potential investment.
Daniel holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis, and recently completed coursework in energy innovation from Stanford. His passion is at the intersection of sustainability, innovation, and business.