The Healthiest Hyrdation Products with GOBIE h2o’s Ari Hoffman

April 30, 2014

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good. We’re so honored to have Ari Hoffman on with us today. He’s the COO of GOBIE h2o. Welcome to Green is Good, Ari. ARI HOFFMAN: Thank you so much for having me on the show. I’m extremely excited to be here today. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Ari, this is your first go-around on Green is Good. It won’t be your last and so before we get talking about your great product, I want you to share the Ari Hoffman story leading up to GOBIE h2o and how you got even involved and what was your journey leading up to it. ARI HOFFMAN: Yeah, absolutely. I guess basically for me, I grew up in an extremely active family. I was raised outdoors. We were always traveling around to go camping and backpacking, surfing, skiing, we were fishing all the time and growing up that actively involved in the outdoors, I was able to see first hand the impact that we humans have on our surrounding environment and it was there. It was in front of me. You can’t go surfing without seeing trash floating by you in the water. You just can’t do it and I’ve watched that get worse as I got older and so that’s why I went into the field of sustainable architecture and I wanted to change the way that we lived and I knew that construction accounted for a lot of the waste in the environment but I quickly learned how long it took to get anything changed in the building world. It really was like a slow moving snail out there and so that’s when I found a home at GOBIE. GOBIE let me put the power back under the person where sometimes we feel like what can one person do? I can’t do anything. I can’t change anything but when you say one filter is the equivalent to over a thousand water bottles, people get it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Let’s get into that. For our listeners, I’m on your website now and on my iPad. For our listeners out there on their mobile devices or tablets or laptops or desktops and want to follow along while Ari shares his story about GOBIE with us, please go to www.gobieh2o.com. Share with us what is GOBIE. Explain the platform and the premise and the product to us please. ARI HOFFMAN: Yeah so on one side, we have the brand and on the other side, we have the products. As a brand, our mission is to act as a role model for responsibility and conservation so what we’ve done is we’ve created conservation products that provide an economical and ecological and a healthy alternative to disposable water bottle consumption while simultaneously, we try to promote the efforts of other organizations that share in an aim to change the future for the better. From the product side, what we’ve done is we’ve created a portable reusable filtered water bottle. It’s produced, it’s manufactured, it’s assembled all here in the US and the bottle is BPA free. It’s dishwasher safe. It even supports the first 100% compostable filter out there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow so if I fill up that bottle with water and I leave it in the back of my car and the sun’s shining in and it gets a little warm, there’s nothing that’s going to leach into the water from the bottle. Your bottle is free of all that nonsense. ARI HOFFMAN: Absolutely. It’s not just free of it. There are actually people who can claim that we’re BPA-free. That’s at the state it’s sitting in now. If you put that in the car and it heats up, now all of a sudden they’re not BPA free anymore. They weren’t wrong when they labeled their bottle BPA free but what they’re not telling people is that’s only at this state. That’s not if you stick it in the dishwasher and it deteriorates. That’s not if you get a hard acting chemical on the product so the materials that we use on the bottle, one, the plastic is not only extremely durable so it’s going to last you a long time, but the real properties of this product is that at 160 degrees in your car in Arizona, there is no degradation of the material. It’s going to last. Even the thermoplastic elastomer, which is the squeezable part of the bottle, that’s made from a medical grade BPE. That’s the same exact material they use in heart transplants so that there is no leaching of anything into the water. You can be assured of that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m on your site. I love your site. There’s so many great colors you can buy the bottle in but I’m on the site that’s showing all the different features. Can you run over the features? What makes you the differentiators from other bottles? ARI HOFFMAN: Yeah, so for one, we’re not a major corporation that’s trying to just make some money and put another product on the shelf. If you look at everything else out there, you can’t tell one bottle from the next. It’s a bottle so we spent three years in R&D making sure we produced the most user friendly, functional, and incredibly eye-catching bottle. I hate to use this example but it’s the perfect one. The iPhone didn’t blow the market away because they did more than their competitors did. In fact, a lot of other phones do more. They did it because they were extremely easy to use and they were cooler looking so we tried to hide that functionality you were talking about underneath the form, where the bottle doesn’t take any thinking to try to use it. It’s a really natural experience but really, from the technical standpoint, what separates us from the rest is our patents and we spent a lot of time and a lot of money making sure that we were able to get these patents and we have design patents, which protect the form of the bottle, but the real key distinction ultimately lies in the utility patent, which we have and that patent protects our Flex Flow Technology and that’s where we combine the durability of a hard shell bottle with the accessibility of a squeezable bottle so that allows you to squeeze the water through the filter instead of having to suck the water through a straw system. Every other water bottle out there that has a hard durable shell, 100% of them have a straw that goes from the top to the bottom that suck the water through. Straws in themselves are a safe haven for bacteria, especially when you put a filter at the end of it with that moisture. You can’t drink them lying down. They have to be in the vertical position. You can’t have one on your nightstand and lay in bed or on the couch or at the beach. You have to sit up to drink from it where the straw sticks out. You can’t share it. You can’t give it to your kid or give it to your dog on a walk. You literally have to suck it into your mouth and spit it out but most importantly, it limits the strength of the filter you can put on the end of that straw. Put two dents in the filter at the ends, now we call it the frozen chocolate milk effect. You can’t get any water through it. You’re sitting there sucking trying to get something out so we’ve got a lot of feedback from people who have bought the other bottles out there and they end up being too much of a hassle to use so when we designed this bottle, we made it so that it won’t end up in the cupboard with the rest of your quote, end quote, “good ideas” and like I mentioned a little bit earlier, we have the world’s first fully compostable filter. Every other filtered water bottle out there has a filter that when you’re done with it, it becomes trash and their notion is at least you’re saving a couple hundred water bottles from entering the environment. To us, that’s a Band-Aid. It’s not a solution. It was extremely important to us to look at the entire life cycle of the product, more from a cradle to cradle approach than a cradle to grave approach, meaning we wanted to make sure that we looked at what happens to the product after its use runs out. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What is it made out of, the filter, that it’s compostable? ARI HOFFMAN: Yeah so it’s made out of a bioplastic called Cereplas, kind of like those forks and spoons, and so what happens is it breaks down over time plus the filter itself is compostable so the plastic cage is a bioplastic. Now, that costs a lot more money to make. You look at the average price of a filter for a water bottle out there, for some of our competitors it’s pennies. Literally pennies. Ours costs over a couple bucks to make and hundreds of times the price of these other companies but it was important to us. You know with our bottle you take it out, you put it in your compost, and then you can fertilize your garden with it. There is no waste associated with the use of our bottle. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Now that you’ve said all the differentiating factors, this is the better bottle. This is the bottle that’s been built for now and in the future in terms of any of the other bottles that are on the market so now that we know it’s the better bottle, what does the name mean? I’m fascinated by the name, G-O-B-I-E, GOBIE h2o. What does that even mean? ARI HOFFMAN: Yeah, yeah, we get that question a lot and it’s actually a really fun story how it happened. We read a lot of books on branding and we knew we didn’t want to choose a descriptor as a name, like Clean Water or Filter X, because it’s very easy for people to get confused when you do that. Is it Filter X? Is it X Filter? So we started out with a list of names and we started testing them. We broke them down and we got down to about 50 or so names and we were testing them with friends and family and random people off the street and what we would do is a bunch of different tests. We would say, ‘Look at this list,’ and we’d pull the list away and say, ‘Which ones do you remember?’ or we’d say, ‘Tell us which ones pop out at you,’ or we’d give them a list and say, ‘Come back to us in a week and tell us which ones you still remember,’ and over time, people just started say, ‘Hey, what ever happened to that GOBIE thing?’ and the name kind of chose itself and I think it’s because the name does so many things. One, it references the Gobi Desert, which has no water. It references the Goby fish but it also provides a unique way to activate thought. It acts like a verb. Go be wild. Go be fit. Go be active. Go be whatever you want to be because now you have water with you. We could not have a better name. It is perfect for our brand. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is a perfect name. For our listeners that just joined us, we’re on with Ari Hoffman. He’s the COO of GOBIE h2o and it’s gobieh2o.com. I understand the name now. I know why your product is better. You’ve built the better mousetrap or really, the better bottle so really now, first of all, is this made in America, this bottle? ARI HOFFMAN: It is. It’s made in America. In fact, we make it right here in San Diego. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh wow, so this is all about buy America and buy better. I love it and the website again for our listeners out there, www.gobieh2o.com. Where can I find this? I have never seen this personally. It’s not that I’m a big shopper. Is it on the website or is it on the website and other places you can buy this? ARI HOFFMAN: It’s on the website and we sell a majority of our bottles on the site. Now we have about twenty different retailers out there. They’re all mom and pop boutique one-off stores or maybe a couple stores but we’ve really been limited to selling online because of our background. We’re not a major corporation so because we’re a small startup, we don’t have the money to do these huge runs so we have to do short runs. Every time we manufacture, we make the minimum, which means we have to buy our materials in minimum. I mean, it doesn’t get more expensive to make the bottle. For people to understand that, it’s kind of like if you were to think about buying paper for your printer. If you go out and you buy a ream of 20 pieces, it costs X. If you buy 500 pieces, it’s going to cost half of X and if you buy a million pieces, well you know it’s going to cost next to nothing. Because it’s been so expensive for us to produce the bottle, we’ve been forced to sell online where we can keep the margin. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I got it. It makes sense. What year did you start the business? ARI HOFFMAN: We filed the LLC in September of 2011. We didn’t launch the product until April of 2012 and really didn’t hard launch the product until April 2013. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Okay so it’s April 2013. We’re now about a year into it. How’s it going? You’re a young entrepreneur, ecopreneur, and you’ve got the better bottle. You’ve got a beautiful bottle. By the way, again I’m on the website and you can choose all these amazing colors from black to pink to purple to green to red to blue. I also love what you’ve done here. For our listeners in the United States and around the world that are already into sustainability or have a company that has a sustainability mission, you can co-brand with GOBIE, right? And you can get your logo on these beautiful bottles. ARI HOFFMAN: Yeah, absolutely. We do it all the time and what’s happened to us so far, 2013 was an incredible year for us. With no money spent in advertising or marketing, only doing things like this, we made it on the Shark Tank, which was 57,000 applicants for 120 spots, won the FedEx small business grant contest where they flew a film crew out to film this little mini business documentary on us, and then we followed it up with a couple of local awards where we won the San Diego Cool Company by the Venture Group and then we finished 2013 off with winning San Diego’s Lean, Mean, and Green Startup of 2013 by the San Diego Entrepreneurs Day and so it was a huge year in the sense of winning awards and the exposure that we could generate for free from these awards. It helped share our story and it just was incredible and 2014 is starting off the exact same way. We’re in the Dream Big America competition right now. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re on Green is Good. Come on now. You’re on Green is Good. Come on! ARI HOFFMAN: There’s a reason why I was so excited to be on this show. I know your show. JOHN SHEGERIAN: There’s no stopping us now. ARI HOFFMAN: When I got contacted to be on this show, the first thing I did is I called home and I showed my wife the email. I was like, ‘Babe, babe, you’ve got to look at this!’ JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, so how has the reception been? I love what you’ve done. Do people appreciate it? I appreciate it. I haven’t even drank out of the bottle yet but I’m going to soon. Are your customers loving what you’ve done and loving what you’ve created and patented and made the better bottle and taken the time to not only make it sustainable, but make it so it’s also really, you can use it with a clear mind and not worry about being poisoned or creating more environmental burden, both on your body and for the environment at large? How has been your reception by your fans and your tribe? ARI HOFFMAN: Well, the reception has been unbelievably motivating. As a startup, you’re going to go through hard times and there’s going to be time when you doubt yourself. You don’t think you can do anything. You’re sinking. Your head’s below the water and the customers have really been the force that’s pushed us through that and I think that’s because our message is extremely simple. We’re honest. You couldn’t be more passionate than we are. I know there’s a lot of passionate people out there but we bleed for this and we’re really in a place where we’re trying to make the right decisions and we truly care about what the future is that we’re creating and I think people sense that. They want to get behind that and believe in something and sometimes, like I said before, you feel like one person can’t do it but GOBIE gives you that power back and so when the person feels like they can make a difference, I truly believe that’s what’s pushed us this far and it’s really helped us gain the support of everybody that we come in contact with. When someone hears the story of GOBIE, they walk away an ambassador for our product. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is awesome. We’re down to the last four minutes or so, Ari. I want you to share what is One Billion Thirsty and what’s next for GOBIE? ARI HOFFMAN: Alright, the One Billion Thirsty is a nonprofit that we’ve linked up with and what they do is they focus all of their efforts on Sierra Leone, West Africa. They build wells to bring clean water to them and what they’ve done there, there’s a lot of other nonprofits out there that say, ‘We’re going to clean the water for the whole world. We’re going to solve the world’s water problem,’ and they build a well here or over there and I think for a lot of people, that’s not a tangible concept so what One Billion Thirsty does is they go, ‘We are going to direct and focus all of our efforts on Sierra Leone’. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world. Over 70% of the population lives below the poverty line coupled with one of the lowest life expectancies in the entire world and their clean water has been devastated by decades of war, where the soldiers destroyed the water so that the population would become dependent on them for water so they say, ‘We’re going to start our aim here. If we solve the problem here, then and only then are we going to move to the next country,’ and that perfectly aligns with GOBIE and trying to battle the notion of what can one person do so we both provide these tangible solutions that people can wrap their minds around and we’ve come together to dramatically improve the lives of not just this generation, but the next generations to come and so from that, our next steps are we’re launching this upgraded biofilter so the filter you have in the bottle now is a daily use filter so you’re putting chlorine and dirt and taste and odor. It makes your tap water taste good but because of that Flex Flow Technology I was talking about where you can squeeze the water through, it can go from a daily use filter to squeezing in an upgraded biofilter that was literally designed for NASA so the astronauts in space could filter their waste. This means you can use it camping and backpacking and traveling in third world countries or you can just keep one in your garage in case of an emergency. The bottle is going to be able to go from a daily use filter to a life saver by simply switching that filter out and since we don’t have the money to build the tooling for this filter, we’ve launched a crowd-funding campaign to finance the operation. This campaign is doing a lot more than raising money for the tooling. We’re also using a large portion of those profits to build wells in Sierra Leone, West Africa with One Billion Thirsty so now we’ve even gotten the support of the ambassador of Sierra Leone, who’s publicly endorsed us and is on our crowd-funding video. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. That is so great. When does the crowd-funding campaign kick off? ARI HOFFMAN: The crowd funding is already in full effect so when people go to our site, they’ll be able to see it. Why I’m here and what I think you guys can do to help us is despite the fact that a crowd-funding campaign’s primary function is to raise money, it takes money to make money, right? We’re trying to share our solution to the problem that the entire world is facing and more than the money, what we need is the support. We need every person we can get to share our story, to share our campaign, and to direct people to our site and that’s why we’re here. We need your listeners to get behind us and really commit to sharing our story so that this message travels as far and as wide as it possibly can. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome, and that’s what we’re going to do and for our listeners out there to learn more about Ari and his great work at GOBIE h2o, go to www.gobieh2o.com. It’s a beautiful website. There’s videos there. There’s the crowd-funding campaign and you can order his bottles. Use his bottles, co-brand with them, and spread the word. Everybody has a social media page now. Get the word out on GOBIE and Ari, we’re going to have you back so you can continue the story and tell us all the success that you’re having in this journey with GOBIE h2o. Thank you for your sustainability leadership with GOBIE h2o. You are truly living proof that green is good.