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Meet the local chemist who wants to sell you a personalized water filter

Hydroviv recently won the TechCrunch D.C. pitch competition. Now founder Eric Roy has to decide what's next.

In 2015 the nation watched in horror as the Flint water crisis unfolded. But here’s the thing — it’s not just Flint. Amid concerns over U.S. water quality standards, wouldn’t it be nice to have a water filter that really works? And what if its toxin-fighting innards were tailored specifically to your water supply? A D.C.-based chemist has made it happen.

Eric Roy started Hydroviv in July 2015, but he’s got a background in water filtration consulting for “all the big guys.” It was based on this experience that Roy noticed something about Flint — traditional water filtration systems just weren’t working there because the lead quantities in the water are so much higher than most filters are built to handle.

Being a scientist and a generally can-do kind of guy, though, Roy decided he could do better — he could built a filter personalized for the water quality of different locations. That’s Hydroviv. The company’s drinking water filter is built using off-the-shelf casing, but comes with a filter cartridge that is made specifically for your water.

But how does Roy know what’s going on in your water? Data.

Using Environmental Protection Agency, state and city data sets for a given zip code, Roy has built some proprietary software that translates nutrient and chemical quantities in water into filter requirements and, eventually, into an actual filter. That’s his “secret sauce,” if you will.

“It’s pretty cool,” Roy said earnestly, over coffee. “And it works!”

Roy, who lives on H Street NE, is running his bootstrapped company out of some space in his apartment building that he was able to rent for commercial purposes. It’s a three-person team, but he does work with manufacturing and marketing partners. And he’s proudly bringing in revenue — for every system he sells, Roy says, the customer refers an average of three people. It’s a growing (if slowly growing) business.

So here’s Roy’s big question: lifestyle business or quickly scaling startup?

Hydroviv, attractive as it is in the current climate, is garnering some attention. Both from TechCrunch (Roy won the tech publication’s recent D.C. pitch competition, and will now go on to TechCrunch Disrupt NY) and from would-be investors.

And Roy sees the value of bringing in investors for the purpose of scaling his marketing efforts — selling an ecommerce product direct to consumers is no small challenge and (for a chemist) not his strong suit. But of course bringing on investors also means giving up some control, and changing how things are done.

It’s a big choice. And that, as it happens, is part of what being an entrepreneur is all about.

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