Environmentally Sustainable Sparkling Water
Käser said he and his co-founders were inspired to start Bottle+ because they liked sparkling water but were dismayed at its environmental impact. “We wanted to consume it in an environmentally friendly, sustainable way,” he said. Unfortunately, many of the current options fall short. These include buying seltzer in plastic bottles or purchasing a device that makes seltzer using single-use, disposable CO2 cartridges that are expensive and wind up in landfills.
“Both the plastic bottle and such devices with single-use cartridges are not really a sustainable solution,” he said. “But you also realize that there's a market gap out there. Especially since the sparkling water market is really attractive and also growing, we wanted to try to fill up that market gap.”
Käser has known his co-founders since childhood. He credits these lengthy friendships with helping to start Bottle+. “It's really long relationships that stand behind our team, and I think that helps us a lot because since the beginning, we just trusted each other,” he said.
Seltzer on Demand
Bottle+ sells two products: The Fiz and The Still. The Fiz bills itself as the world's first portable and refillable water carbonation bottle. It comes in a package that includes a 20-oz dishwasher-safe stainless steel bottle; a gas tank that attaches to the bottom of the bottle; and a separate refilling station. The tank contains enough CO2 to produce up to 15 bottles of sparkling water. When the tank is empty, you can refill it at home with the refilling station. Those who want to drink non-carbonated water periodically can purchase the Still, which uses the same bottle but allows you to swap the CO2 tank for a regular bottom.
Thus far, Bottle+ has been funded by a Kickstarter campaign, as well as startup accelerators, prize money from competitions, and a couple of angel investors. All along the way, “We were always accompanied by mentors or coaches,” Käser said. “We also have an advisory board with successful entrepreneurs who keep on giving us advice. So if we have a question, we can just go towards them, and they will coach us accordingly.”
The founders are motivated by a shared purpose. “One of our goals or our vision is to reduce plastic waste,” he said. “And I think that's also what drives our team, that we can actually really achieve an … environmental impact.” To this end, the company donates a percentage of its sales to a Berlin-based startup that works to take plastic out of the oceans.
Positive customer feedback has also been a huge motivation. “We got a lot of great feedback from the beginning,” he said. “We have realized that there are a lot of people out there who love our product. That's, I think, also what pushes us every day to keep on working on the technical design and to create a solution that works as [well] as possible.”
Looking to the Future and Lessons Learned
Bottle+ anticipates significant growth and is looking for investors. The founders also want to close the company’s first financing round by the end of this year. “Now we are in the comfortable position that with the crowdfunding campaign, we have some numbers that we can approach [investors with],” including both companies and individuals, Käser said.
Like Bottle+ did, he encourages new companies to take advantage of local startup support networks, including competitions, angel investors, and incubators. In doing so, it’s important to believe you can succeed and project that attitude toward the public. “If you believe in [your idea] and you push it, I think there's always a way to get some funds and to get some great advice,” he said.
It’s also important to focus on building a strong team with complementary skills and not be afraid to share responsibility for growing the company. “Without a great team, you won't get very far,” he said. That’s especially true if your startup begins as a side project with limited time and resources, as Bottle+ did. “I think if I would have started that on my own, I don't think I would have gotten anywhere,” Käser said.
Finally, don’t let the inevitable setbacks deter you. “If you just take it step by step, you will move forward,” he said. “You will see that the challenges aren't actually that big as you think. Just keep going and believe in yourself.”