SA-based Water Purification Startup I-Drop to Expand African Footprint

Posted on January 24th, 2018
Grow Technology
I-Drop co-founder, James Steere, pitching at the 2017 global finals of  the Chivas The Venture social entrepreneurship competition

With the Western Cape facing its worst drought and Cape Town having recently brought forward ‘Day Zero’, Sweden’s global water technology company Bluewater has made a significant investment in I-Drop Water – a South African water solutions provider – to provide better access to clean drinking water and slash single-use plastic bottle use.

Bluewater, which sells its advanced water purifier solutions across Europe, the USA, China and South-East Asia, said the investment marks the launch pad for the company’s continued expansion throughout Africa. I-Drop Water – a for-profit South African social impact company that designs, builds and installs drinking water purification and dispensing machines in general grocery stores at no capital cost – shares ongoing revenue from water sales with store owners.

“Bringing I-Drop Water into the Bluewater family strengthens the fast-track approach to bringing our water solutions technology market proposition to South Africa and elsewhere in Africa,” says Anders Jacobson, co-founder and CEO of Blue AB, the Swedish sustainability-driven investment company that owns Bluewater. He notes how Johannesburg-based I-Drop has quickly built a strongly growing market position in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, a presence Bluewater is committed to help grow in the long-term.

Better access to drinking water

With the Western Cape in the midst of a severe drought, a national listeriosis outbreak, and South Africa considered one of the world’s 30 driest countries, the coalescing of the two companies could not be better timed. While Bluewater specialises as a world leader in water purification solutions for home, commercial and public drinking stations, I-Drop designs, builds and installs drinking water purification and dispensing machines. Together, the two companies will improve local access to water purification solutions that process almost any source of water – greywater, rainwater and borehole – into drinkable water.

Formed in 2015 by husband and wife team James and Kate Steere, I-Drop uses nano-purification water filtration technology and a GSM-enabled platform to empower grocery store owners to purify and sell safe, affordable drinking water to their customers. Shoppers refill multi-use containers and pay by the litre for the drinking water they need, an innovative approach that saw the couple win the 2017 All Africa Business Leader Award – Innovator of the Year, hosted by CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa.

“Thanks to I-Drop Water more people can afford safe drinking water, less plastic waste is produced and local economies benefit by supporting their local grocery stores,” said I-Drop co-founder, James Steere. He added the partnership with Bluewater aligns perfectly with I-Drop’s business vision and mission and will enable I-Drop to accelerate its rollout and ongoing contribution to job creation in both the water and service sector as well as help spur further technology innovation in South Africa and beyond.

“Bluewater’s unique patented second-generation reverse osmosis water purifiers for home, commercial and public dispensers are the ideal complement to our product offering. Thanks to Bluewater’s stated mission to bring access to clean water to everyone everywhere and contribute to ending the single-use plastics scourge, we are uniquely positioned jointly to tackle two of Africa’s biggest challenges – clean drinking water availability and plastic waste,” Kate Steere said.

Anders Jacobson said Bluewater is on a mission to transform clean drinking water generation, delivery and availability, both in Africa and globally. He said the I-Drop investment underscores Bluewater’s journey to create an ecosystem of like-minded businesses committed to delivering clean water and ending throwaway plastics pollution.

“Our ambition is to identify, invest in, partner with and potentially acquire businesses on an international scale that align with our ambitions to create a healthier planet and living environment for all who live on it,” said Anders Jacobson.

He described the partnership between Bluewater and I-Drop as a ‘made-in-heaven relationship’ bringing together superior water purifying and GSM remote monitoring and control technologies under one company umbrella and providing the opportunity to mutually leverage individual brand core strengths in retail, home, commercial and event channels.

“The market position of our two brands, with Bluewater competing in the premium segment and I-Drop in the low-to-middle-income categories, creates a truly unique chance to deliver human ingenuity-driven solutions to consumers, businesses and municipalities,” said Anders Jacobson.