by Katherine Rivard
Odds are, your tap water is filled with contaminants. You do all you think you can — splash your water into a Mavea, or other filter, and naively gulp it down in hope that it has been purified. But for one D.C. entrepreneur, a Pür filter wasn’t pure enough. Eric Roy and his D.C.-based company, Hydroviv, recently featured on Shark Tank, are on a mission to make your water cleaner with personalized water filters that go far beyond the Brita.
To begin, it is important to note that Roy is a do-gooder, a certified “nice-guy.” Speaking with him for just half an hour, you come away feeling that he’s the friend who offers to help you move and then actually does, sans complaints. In 2017, this altruistic attitude prompted Roy to use his experience as a chemist and self-identified nerd to create a product that could help residents in Flint, MI, who at that time were still recovering from a major water crisis.
Unfortunately, Flint’s water crisis is not so unique. From city to city, and from home to home, tap water changes. According to testing, Portland and Pittsburgh have worse water today than Flint, and no matter where you are, old infrastructure can result in lead contamination.
Hydroviv responds to these differences with filters specifically created for the consumer’s distinct water. The company’s team checks numerous databases based on zip code, then cross references this information with toxicological data, and selects custom-blend filtration media.
When Roy first started this extensive project, he questioned whether it was worth it. Having lived in the D.C. area for years, his girlfriend claimed she didn’t notice any difference in taste between the glasses he filtered and unfiltered water. Then, about two weeks into the experiment, the couple went out for dinner, and the unfiltered water tasted noticeably different. The tale is a cautionary reminder that it’s easy not to notice the presence of something you’re used to, but once its absence is routine, the return is apparent.
Readers may recognize Hydroviv as, on April 14, a portion of Roy’s pitch was broadcast on Shark Tank, a popular ABC show that allows entrepreneurs and startups to pitch their companies to a panel of wealthy “sharks.” After an in-person pitch far more in depth than the edited clip reveals, Hydroviv received $400,000 from businessman Mark Cuban in return for 20% equity in the company. In addition to the generous offer, Roy welcomed a plethora of tips and feedback from the panelists.
Since the broadcast of the clip, Hydroviv has received 25 times the number of orders received before the broadcast’s publicity. The eight person company recently moved to a 15,000 square foot location near Union Market in Northeast D.C. and is actively growing its “small, but high impact team,” according to Roy, to include more sales and marketing.
Beyond providing customers with cleaner water, Roy is proud of Hydroviv’s emphasis on clean drinking water advocacy. From publishing a water quality blog with information on the topic to grassroots advocacy through word of mouth, Roy and his team hope to inform more people about the water they’re drinking each day. They also speak with elected officials on Capitol Hill with the goal of making information about tap water more available and digestible for the wider public.
D.C. has its own array of water issues. Roy sees similar problems in most large cities: “Old cities have old infrastructures.” If you have lead pipes, or are not sure what material your plumbing is made of, DC Water suggests homeowners take steps to minimize the potential for lead poisoning. In fact, homeowners can even contact DC Water to receive a free lead test kit. Another one of the city’s suggested solutions? Water filters.
And although the public is able to access information about the water supply through DC Water’s Annual Consumer Confidence Report, many chemicals and contaminants, like chromium 6 — the carcinogen made famous in the classic Julia Roberts film, Erin Brokovich, remain unregulated and therefore unreported.
In D.C, several small businesses, including some commercial spaces, coffee shops, and restaurants are already using Hydroviv filters. Homeowners interested in having a Hydroviv filter installed can order online, after which their water will be reviewed, and a specialized water filter will be sent. Although the company reports that installation is easy and quick, Roy was excited to share that the company does offer an installation service for residents in the District as the company is based here.
Finally, as my conversation with Roy drew to its close, I just needed to know: is it really the water that makes New York City bagels so much better than those in D.C. or anywhere else? According to the water expert, it’s not the water to credit for NY’s better bagels: the water in New York has its own problems. Nevertheless, no matter which city you’re in, properly filtered water might be a healthier option to wash down your next bagel.
*CORRECTION* A previous version of this article stated that Hydroviv received $400,000 from businessman Mark Cuban in return for 10% equity in the company. The equity percentage was actually 20%.