Social Impact Startup FREEWA Is Mapping & Monitoring Global Clean Water Resources

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We spoke to Goran Ladišić, one of the founders of the Free Water Project FREEWA, to find out more about the cause and mission behind the startup that has already raised $14.000 on their current Indiegogo campaign.

Describe FREEWA in 50 or fewer words.

Four enthusiasts started the project FREEWA (Free Water Project) with the mission to protect a key resource for all human beings – clean drinkable water. Our solution is a unique platform which combines analog & digital user experience in facilitating the use of available free drinking water resources.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dream rather than someone else’s?

The only way to be fully responsible for your life is to pursue your own dreams. Once you do that you’ll find great people with similar dreams. That is really beautiful. It is also very inspiring to work on something that’s good for other people, good for the environment, and good for yourself.

Where does the idea come from? How did you discover the need for your startup?

A few years I noticed something absurd: Tourists and residents joyfully detect and consume drinkable water of springs and public fountains, pouring them in PET bottles. Through talking with them I realized an enormous ignorance about a healthy and responsible lifestyle, including a reusable water bottle.

After that experience, I started talking to Mihaela Ivanec about it and she saw the opportunity for a social impact startup in the matter. Vedrana Vrabec and Marko Rašić joined also the team and gave FREEWA its current shape and name. We came up with a uniquely designed bottle and the concept for an app. Now, the prototype getting ready for production. So, the initial idea for “The Bottle” as a simple touristic souvenir pivoted over time and evolved to be FREEWA. I’d say our Free Water Project is now becoming a World Water Movement.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

First, of course, we drink water! Right now we are in the middle of our Indiegogo campaign so there is lots of action going on. Each of us writes over a hundred emails per day, reading, even more, emails, and there are a lot of phone calls and meetings. So it is pretty dynamic from 6 AM to 10 PM. Usually, every team member is responsible for a different part of the project but right now we are all mixed up, so we help each other from design to sales activities.

Already pivoted? Did customers use FREEWA like you imagined it in the beginning?

We are always testing our products and listen to our users. At this moment we use the Indiegogo campaign as our first global market test and within the first week of the campaign, we have already accomplished 30% of our goal, meaning that our „backers“ already reserved more than 450 bottles. For the environment, this is a drastic improvement as it allowed us to reduce the amount of 43.000 plastic bottle. We are now standing at an accomplishment of 42% with two more weeks to go.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

Our project has already won two awards and earned some funding even before its launch on Indiegogo. FREEWA got its funding from Startup Factory Zagreb and from the ACT Group through their program “Run something of your own”. In preparation for scaling up globally, we have teamed up with a big „green“ partner and we will expand using the franchise model.

FREEWA KPIs are 4 million users on our mobile & web app and 1.5 million sold FREEWA eco-items (glass bottles, rehydration packs, personal water quality analyzers, moister to drinkable water devices, etc.) by the end of 2018. Apart from that our startup is also fueled by the enthusiasm and inspiration of doing what we believe in.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

We are experts in design, digital marketing, law, and sales and we are friends who share one common dream and passion for water. We have developed a wide range of simple solutions which can be easily integrated into both a healthy personal lifestyle and environmentally friendly tourism. We listen to our customers and adapt easily and the team is highly motivated and smartly chooses partners among great companies.

Most of the alternatives stay half way in water protection focusing on the recommended daily intake of water and natural materials only. The trend of so-called „smart water bottles“ changes the quality of the poured water because of electronics embedded into them. Our solution, on the other hand, is a unique platform which combines analog & digital user experience in facilitating the use of free drinking water resources. The digital component of our platform is an app for crowd mapping and crowd monitoring of global clean water resources. The analog component consists of a range of tangible products like a healthy water bottle which is 100% recyclable and yet a practical memorabilia for everyday use. FREEWA’s social impact lies in using the power of crowds in creating knowledge and best practice for the protection of free drinking water.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

When we won the Startup Factory Zagreb award! Since we always had support from our families and friends this was our first public recognition for FREEWAreewa and it came from people that had heard of FREEWA for the very first time.

StartUp Factory Zagreb is the first publicly financed “no equity” program of this type in the City of Zagreb area. We participated in a pre-acceleration program that supported us a lot through their great network opportunities, lectures and helped us make lots of business contacts and friends. Some of our mentors are now a part of FREEWA’s team.

In 7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

According to WWF, every second 150.000 plastic bottles are being disposed of in the environment worldwide. This means that two trucks of plastic end up in our oceans every minute. The pollution through plastic bottles has a huge negative impact on humans, animals as well as the environment. We believe, that in 7 years from now, this won’t be such a problem thanks to FREEWA and other eco enthusiasts.

Our solution for the problem are the “3Rs”: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Our platform implements these three Rs in an innovative way. Our web and mobile app already help people map the clean water sources. In the future, it will also help them to monitor the pollution of water resources and to participate in different water protection initiatives – both locally and globally. We also believe that many big corporations will be inspired by our project and focus on producing goods that are based on a responsible and green economy.

Finally, what advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Always look for good partners. They are more important than money.


Want to support FREEWA’s Indiegogo campaign? 14 days left!



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