Mayu Water nutrifies tap water with a home device that’s generated $2M in sales with zero marketing efforts during a global pandemic.
“Clean water doesn’t mean nutritious water.”
Elad Erdan is the CEO of Mayu Water, an Israeli startup that is tackling one of humanity’s biggest challenges of the next few decades – water accessibility. As a parent who was seeking not just clean, but nutritious water for his family, Elad was inspired to join the company as a late founder as part of his “life mission” to make a positive impact on the world. Below he tells his story: his background in social impact, his interest in water, how he met the founders, and his vision for success.
MAOR: What problem did you see in the world that inspired you to create your solution?
In the United States, there are about 15 million households and 400,000 schools and daycare centers that do not have access to clean water. This is not only in Flint, Michigan but all throughout the country. The main reason for this is the age of the infrastructure in the US. In major cities, the pipes are 75 years old on average. So even though the quality of the water at the source is good, bad things happen to it on the way to your tap. This creates a situation in which one of four Americans no longer drinks tap water – which is crazy. Bottled water has become the number one packaged food in the US – driving a $20 billion market in the US alone. Worldwide, it’s a $340 billion market. But it’s not sustainable since it takes plastic bottles 450 years to degrade. In fact, all the plastic bottles ever created still exist and more than a million plastic bottles are sold every minute.
The plastic awakening has caused more and more Americans to install home purification systems. But they are either too weak to properly filter out contaminants, or too strong and eliminate everything except H2O, including all of the nutritious minerals that are in it. Clean water doesn’t mean nutritious water. A few clinical researches conducted in Israel, one of the world’s leading countries in desalination of water per capita, found that drinking water without magnesium and iodine can make the immune system weaker. That’s why it’s important to drink enriched water – meaning water that has been treated before drinking.
MAOR: How did you get interested in this solution and join the company?
First off, all studies, all researchers, and all experts agree that the future of water is mineral enrichment at the point of use – at your sink. So we developed a technology that can turn your tap water into perfect drinking water. That means it’s toxin-free, and it’s enriched with minerals. Our business model is subscription-based: we provide you with the water device, and then a monthly replenishment of minerals.
I joined the company a few months ago as a late founder. I was introduced to the existing founders by Yanki Margalit, who’s a very well-known venture capitalist in Israel. When Yanki approached me, I was already in the impact industry – I worked at Colu Technologies. I personally had to deal with this problem when I had my first child, Ethan – I was buying mineral water even though I knew it wasn’t sustainable – just trying to do the best thing for my family. Years earlier, the founders of Mayu were also trying to find good water for their kids, which is what made them launch the company in the first place. They weren’t thinking about launching a company at first – they just wanted to find a solution and buy it. But the solution didn’t exist – so they founded the company to produce it.
Most of their time and efforts were invested in research. For example, for the first three years, they visited natural springs around the world, taking samples, and creating the technology. When COVID-19 hit two years ago, they decided to launch a proof of concept version. They put the product on Shopify, launched a Kickstarter campaign, and generated over half a million dollars in sales. Two years later, MAYU has over 15,000 customers, mostly in the US, and we generated almost $2,000,000 in sales.
As I mentioned, I was already thinking about water nutrition for my family when I met the founders and they were looking for someone to lead global growth. Simply put, I was interested. By the way, I’m a recovering lawyer, so before joining MAYU Water, I carried out the deepest due diligence that I have ever done in my life. I was at the point in my life that I really wanted to make something my life mission and make a big impact. In my previous company, Colu, we helped black-owned and women-owned businesses to survive the pandemic. We did huge things. And I wanted to make sure that my next mission was a life mission. Forgive the pun, but I really immersed myself in water purification: the market, products, trends, tech, people, challenges – it’s more like a consumer product than a typical Israeli SaaS B2B company. Bottom line: I was convinced and joined the company.
MAOR: What obstacles did you hit along the way?
Education for starters. That said, in the US, it’s really not a problem to get people to understand the value of our solution. But here in Israel, people think of the product they’re already aware of – the Tami 4 water purifier. Unfortunately, people here aren’t aware of the fact that, again, clean water is not the same as nutritious water. But just drive around Tel Aviv and you’ll see mineral water companies advertising “buy our bottles – we have magnesium” or “buy our bottles – we have iron.” So the biggest players in the market are already educating people and that’s good for us.
“Water accessibility for everyone, everywhere – that’s what success looks like.”Elad Erdan
Not only can we produce a mineral composition of notable minerals, we can produce water with different characteristics. Here’s a quick example of how the value is understood in the US: very early on I met with the CEO of a company developing living units in the real-estate sector. He understood right away the problem and the value of customized water – which we also provide. Consider this: different people need different minerals for different situations. For example, a certain type of mineral water before exercising, another for pregnant women, water for your kids, water for your parents – for seniors. This CEO realized that by giving people mass customization of water in their apartments, he could give them a better experience, value, and quality of life. He wanted to sign an LOI right away for 10,000 units of our future product.
On top of that there’s functional water. You know, I really love New York bagels. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but every year they fly millions of liters of water from the Hudson river across the country to enable people to make New York bagels in California. Instead of doing that, we can create the exact mineral composition of the Hudson in your kitchen in San Francisco. It’s the same with coffee or making the perfect pasta.
MAOR: What does success look like to you?
I think that success will be when we have the pricing that makes this a no-brainer for everyone. In the future, we will add evaporation and integrate condensation. This will allow us to give a safe water guarantee – even in developing countries. Think about this: the sun heats water, then the water evaporates, becomes clouds, and comes back down as cold rain. This process of heating and cooling water is something we’ll do in the future. And even further in the future, we will get into atmospheric compressions – literally creating water from the air. We’ll be able to provide this to the developing world – to places that really need the water. So for me, it’s really about making it affordable to everyone and developing the technology that will allow us to implement the solution everywhere. Water accessibility for everyone, everywhere – that’s what success looks like.
“I think that the single most important thing – besides drinking water – is to listen.”Elad Erdan
MAOR: What help do you need to reach your goal?
Well, we’re a startup. We just launched our funding round and we’re looking for partners, talent, and advisors. For example, we now have with us Itai Bichler who was the Head of Global Digital & Creative for SodaStream. I am looking for people in any category who can add value.
Right now, we’re meeting Israelis all over the world who work in the food and beverage industry, the health industry, the water innovation industry, and the consumer goods industry. If someone reads this article and feels aligned with this mission, I would love to get an introduction. It’s one thing to have a very successful product and market fit, but it’s a whole different story to take it to mass production in North America and Europe. If you can help, please get in contact with me.
MAOR: Do you have any advice for other Israeli entrepreneurs?
I think that the single most important thing – besides drinking water – is to listen. And it’s the most unintuitive thing to do. Because after you learn everything you can learn, you have your own perspective about the product, about the benefits, and about the best way to tell the story. The thing is that it’s your unique way and no one said it’s the best way to explain it. And maybe you know too much, so in a way you have to limit your own mindfulness and awareness. For example, initially I thought we should tell our story through the plastic angle – of not using so much plastic – but then I got feedback and I changed my strategy. The MAYU Water story is complicated, but in a good way. There’s the water accessibility story, the single use plastics story, the minerals story, and the “future of drinking water” story. So first, you have to really understand how to tell your story. And the secret to figuring that it is by listening well.
MAOR: And now how about some advice for international visitors to Israel? Things to do? Fun activities?
You know, I really think that the wine industry in Israel is underrated. There are great boutique wineries everywhere and because of the geography of Israel, almost anywhere you can combine that with going hiking in nature. So I would say wine and hiking combined make for the perfect day trip in Israel.
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SUMMARY: MAYU WATER
- CHALLENGE: People drinking contaminated water or purified water stripped of nutrients.
- PRODUCT: Residential and commercial water purification devices with nutrient packs.
- BENEFITS: Healthy, tasty, and nutritious water with zero plastic waste.
- MAIN FEATURES: Water purification with nutrification at point of consumption.
- USE CASES: B2B. Currently in residential buildings. Soon: hotels, offices, restaurants, gyms, and spas.
- SEEKING: International collaborations and introductions to VCs in CPG, FoodTech, and sustainability.
Maor Perlov is an Information Specialist at Start-Up Nation Central.