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2013 AUDACIOUS COMPANIES

Purer Than Pur, More Elegant Than Brita

Soma is taking on the big guys with an elegant, eco-friendly water filtration system.

Mike Del Ponte first saw a need for a better water filtration system while hosting a dinner party for friends in San Francisco. When one of his guests requested a glass of water, he was too embarrassed to put his bulky plastic filtration pitcher on the table.

As he decanted the water into a glass carafe, the lid flew off the pitcher and water spilled on his kitchen floor. Del Ponte and his friend Ido Leffler began to mop up the spill, exchanging their thoughts on how to design a better purifier. "We thought, why didn't someone design something that actually works? Or looks beautiful? Hey, why don't we do that?" Del Ponte recalls. 

Del Ponte and Leffler founded Soma in 2012. In addition to designing a water filter that they don't have to be ashamed to show their friends, they have developed a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to water filtrations systems made by Brita and Pur. The company's motto is "water without compromise." For Del Ponte, that means disrupting the water purification industry with a product that consumers could be proud of on both an aesthetic and moral level.

Soma's fully compostable filters are made from Malaysian coconut shells and other all-natural materials. They are also produced entirely in the United States. Soma's 1.3-liter glass carafes, which are blown in Germany, could double as an objet d'art. Soma also promises to solve a problem familiar to those who use filtration systems: forgetting to change the filter. Soma's' customers can sign up for a subscription and receive refills, which cost $15 each, by mail every two months.  “We’re going direct to consumers online, like Warby Parker did with glasses,” Del Ponte says.

So far, the innovative approach seems to be working. Soma surpassed its Kickstarter funding goal of $100,000 in only nine days in December. Since then, it has received more than 2,300 pre-orders of its water filtration units. The company also recently announced a partnership with the non-profit organization charity: water to offer consumers an additional incentive: Soma will now donate a percentage of its profits to the organization, which helps to bring clean drinking water to those in the developing world.

Del Ponte kicked off the partnership and set an example for Soma's staff by asking friends to make donations to charity: water on his behalf instead of giving him presents for his 30th birthday. He raised $2,500. "I think we're all going to do it next year," he says.

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Last updated: Apr 18, 2013

FRANCESCA FENZI | Staff Writer

Francesca Fenzi reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle.




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