For Minhaj Chowdhury, the worldwide clean-water crisis is personal. His grandfather passed away as a result of consuming arsenic-contaminated water while living in Bangladesh.
Today, Minhaj is trying to do something about the crisis that, according to the World Health Organization, affects about 663 million people worldwide. He is the CEO and co-founder of Drinkwell, a startup founded in Boston in 2013 to provide villages affected by the world’s water crisis with filtration technology and business tools to sell clean drinking water.
Drinkwell also provides site visits, water-quality tests, and routine maintenance for water systems. Since its start, the company has served more than 250,000 people.
Supporting entrepreneurship and innovation
Minhaj credits some of Drinkwell’s early successes to its involvement with the nonprofit Cleantech Open, which is supported by Wells Fargo. The organization finds, funds, and fosters entrepreneurs who seek to address energy, environmental, and economic challenges. Since 2010, Wells Fargo has provided more than $1 million in grants to support its programs, and Wells Fargo team members volunteer, mentor, and provide financial education to teams that participate in the Cleantech Open’s accelerator program.
“Groups like Drinkwell are changing the lives of people across the world.”
“We are honored to support Cleantech Open,” says Ashley Grosh, business initiatives consultant for Wells Fargo’s Environmental Affairs and a national board member for Cleantech Open. “Supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in clean technology is a priority for Wells Fargo. Groups like Drinkwell are changing the lives of people across the world.”
Participants in the accelerator program attend webinars and a training academy, make presentations to judges, and receive mentoring. Minhaj says having mentors was the most valuable part of this experience: “There were so many times they met with me,” he says. “We would work on things like designing our go-to market strategy in India versus Bangladesh, negotiating the first round of investments, and hiring our first employee, and helping with licensing negotiations with customers. They invested a lot of time and didn’t want anything in return.”
At the conclusion of the program, Drinkwell received Cleantech Open’s 2014 National Sustainability Award.
Katherine MacDonald, executive director for Cleantech Open Northeast, says, “The Drinkwell commitment to sustainability is core to their product, business model, and vision, enabling them to produce and disseminate a water product that truly leaves communities better off than they were before Drinkwell.”
Minhaj adds, “No one technology will solve the water crisis. The thing you need is the right execution model, and we believe the best way to do it is by creating entrepreneurs. We are empowering entrepreneurs to eradicate the crisis. It’s nice to know there are organizations like Cleantech Open and Wells Fargo fighting the good fight for us little guys.”