Bastiaan Star and Pieter Herings are developing their own business with a self-made idea. Health data sparked their interest, but now the young businessmen have developed a smart toilet that can help us battle the effects of climate change and save us money. This is their adventure into NEW-TTT co-financed VentureLab and how to work their idea into a business.
“So much valuable information is lost in our toilets,” says Bastiaan Star, “in the hospital, we regularly measure all sorts of values from human excrement. This gap first sparked the co-founder of the start-up Wadify to do something about it himself. His associate biomedical engineer Pieter Herings agrees: “toilets are outdated. They haven’t changed much in the last century. So, we devised the idea of placing sensors to improve lavatories.”
“So much scarce clean drinking water is lost in our toilets annually,” says Bastiaan Star. Though first aimed at gathering health information, the men soon discovered they could combat a more urgent problem – drinking water scarcity. Herings: “Every day on average, we flush 35 L of otherwise usable drinking water down the toilet. That is a mind-boggling 230 billion liters yearly in the Netherlands alone.” “And most people are unaware of the increasing water scarcity plus the effects on the nature reserves it comes from as they push the button,” says Star.
The idea is simple – the fewer human products go down the drain, the less water is required to flush with. “We had the first sensors in place to test the amount of excrement,” the engineer explains, “and quickly, we realized it was perfectly suited to help determine the flush amount. 200 mL urine only needs 2,5 liter to flush, not six or more. The existing dual flush systems tend to use too much, even a small flush spends four liters. And besides, using sensors, you can see how much the toilets are used – saving time, chemicals, water, and money by cleaning more optimally.”
Having pitched their idea, the men recently entered VentureLab. Their idea fits perfectly in the Netherlands Enabling Water technology (NEW-TTT) theme and is therefore their entrepreneurial steps are co-financed by the fund. At VentureLab they learn the skills to turn their idea into a fully-fledged business. Lectures, tests, cooperation, experts’ advice, and more are pushing Wadify towards a viable enterprise.
Star: “We are nearly four months in from the full year it takes. Soon we’ll have the first point of evaluation where we show the solution we offer, the story we tell, and how we will keep it running financially. Like in shark tank, we present our current business plan to a jury full of experts that will assess us on all these levels. It’s not about small steps. You’re thrown into the deep end, pulled out of your comfort zone, but I like it. It provides us with real insight – you can easily tell which points to improve overall.”
Herings: “It is the substantial knowledge we gain that makes VentureLab valuable to us. We get taught in all aspects – from marketing to vision and finances. And being among others in the same boat helps you learn from your peers.”
And the product is on its way too. The first prototype is there already. Being installed in the student lavatory of the engineer, the toilet sends its measured data to a cloud for further analysis. This way, the entrepreneurs can further optimize the workings of the system.
“In a year, we hope to do it on a larger scale. We want to have an investor and a place where we can employ five to ten toilets. In five years, we’ll fully be on the market selling our product.” And the dream of collecting health data lingers.Though that will have to wait.
For any more information, you can reach both gentlemen at firstname.lastname@example.org
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