Biz Alumni 03 August 2015

Creating a start-up out of a plastic bag

Wateroam CEO David Pong at a relief mission

Wateroam CEO David Pong at a relief mission

Imagine having a plastic bag that weighs a mere 300 grams and serves an important source of drinkable water at disaster zones?

A Singapore start-up called Wateroam has done exactly that, coming up with Fieldtrate Lite. The product uses a novel ceramic-based membrane that resembles a floor tile to filter out dirt and bacteria.

It is affordable too, according to CEO David Pong who is a BBA alumnus. “It costs about half of comparable products that are in the market.”

The ceramic material used by Wateroam is more durable than the commonly-used holofibre membrane. The former can last up to five years while the latter can only last till a year before disintegration.

The product has already seen plenty of action. The Singapore Red Cross even deployed the Fieldtrate Lite during relief operations in Nepal after the massive April earthquake this year.

The success of Wateroam has been covered by local and international media, including The Straits Times and USA Today.

Wateroam was the result of a fruitful meeting between David and four other Environmental Engineering students at a start-up matchmaking event organised by the Public Utilities Board (PUB).

The four students had an initial idea of a portable filtration system, and together with David, decided to launch the product into the niche areas of rural development and disaster relief.

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The team ignored offers from distributors to enter the hiking and travel markets, preferring to stay focused on their two target areas.

According to David, the knowledge he gained at the Business School prepared him to be a successful entrepreneur. For instance, his experience in case competitions organised by the School gave him an implementation framework that addresses challenges and mitigates risks.

And David would like to acknowledge one module, New Venture Creation, which helped kick start his entrepreneurship journey.

Taught by adjunct associate professor Douglas Abrams, the course allowed David to create a comprehensive business plan, which he used to secure funding for Wateroam.

“It was a very useful course; I think that’s the hallmark of business school. If anyone wants to learn the most out of business school, they should take this course. It sums up what we should learn out of business school. It really pulls everything together,” said David.