Person of Interest: Dr. Eric Roy, Founder of Hydroviv

PictureAs a person who drinks about 1,000 liters of water a day (not really but I like to stay hydrated) I am constantly thinking about the quality and purity of what is going into my body. All too often I have filled up a cup from the sink or other filtration pitchers and saw a cloudy and terrifying looking glass of something mysterious staring at me. Thankfully we now have Hydroviv, they are changing water filtration for not only DC but cities like Flint who are in desperate need of clean and safe water.

According to their website, “Hydroviv is a water-centric technology company with eyes set on changing the way that people experience water, by offering products and solutions that were once only available to military and large businesses.  Our headquarters are located in the heart of Washington DC’s H Street District, and we collaborate with like-minded subject matter experts across the United States.  We are obsessively focused on customer satisfaction, and have an “open door” policy through email and social media channels.  As part of our commitment to the public, Hydroviv also publishes Water Smarts Magazine.”

We would like to introduce Dr. Eric Roy, Founder and Head of Technology for Hydroviv. He’s making excellent strides in helping to keep our water, and thus our bodies, safe.

What is a typical day for you (or your team)?

Honestly, aside from coffee, there’s no “typical day” for Hydroviv, but we do try take a standardized/typical approach when it comes to prioritizing which things we solve first. Those “things” could be anything from: making new marketing materials, chasing down suppliers, website tweaks, building the actual filters, or managing last minute changes in customer installations.

Hardest part about being a business owner?

Definitely needing to make decisions in near real-time, living with the decisions, and hoping that everything works out in the end!  For example, we made a decision to donate A LOT of water filters to residents and organizations in Flint, months before before it was a national news story, before we had even started selling the product to customers.  It made absolutely no business sense (we had no money), but it was the right thing to do.

After some time, we grew the donation program by reaching out to donors through social media, and one of Rachel Maddow’s contributors tweeted that Hydroviv was a fraudulent company looking to profit off of a tragedy…even though we were only looking to cover the cost of raw materials (aka no profit at all).  Even though he pulled the tweet down after I contacted him, the word continued to propegate (the tweet was shared MANY times) and my email quickly filled with terrible, nasty things.  This type of negative PR can shatter the reputation of an early stage company, which of course left me thinking that I had made a mistake that would ultimately sink the company altogether.  Fortunately, Hydroviv was featured in the Chicago Tribune’s Tech & Innovation section 3 days after the incident, which was nice validation that we could point to.  We got lucky.

hydroviv

Best part about being a business owner?

For me, it’s the ability to choose who I work and partner with.  Right now, we are putting the final touches on an agreement with DC’s oldest family-owned plumbing contractor.  Hydroviv is 5 months old… they are 125 years old, so we’re a bit like DC’s “Odd Couple”.  The partnership validates Hydroviv’s new and innovative approach to water filtration, and it also highlights that great companies (even those with 125 years of history) are constantly looking for new ways to satisfy their customers.

On a similar note…

How did the idea of Hydroviv get started? Was there a particular moment, or incident, that caused you to realize a problem existed and needed to be solved?

The idea got its start when I was designing water filtration systems for industrial customers with critical water quality needs.  Each of these systems were specifically designed to address the properties of the incoming water.   I thought that using a similar approach would make home filtration systems better.  The idea for city-specific drinking water filters was born!

Advice for new entrepreneurs?

Don’t be a dink:  Nobody wants to help one in the early stages.  Nobody wants to partner with one.  Nobody wants to cheer for one.  Don’t do it.

Even if you are alone, you are never REALLY alone:  Find a group of people that you can bounce ideas off when you encounter a problem.  There are a lot of really smart and talented people in this city who will jump at the opportunity to help you out!

We’re all trying to figure it out:  Every successful entrepreneur has faced times when they say “I have no idea what I’m doing right now.” A lot of new companies are founded by people with no formal business background.  If you are looking to commercialize an idea, you need to be prepared to learn the “other” parts of a business (marketing, sales, PR, operations).  A lot of Founders dismiss these things and say that they’ll “find a partner” or “hire someone” with those skills, but it’s rare that you’ll find someone who cares as much about your idea as you, or have enough money in the early stages to hire someone good.

If you weren’t involved with Hydroviv what would you be doing with your life?

Something just as nerdy as using a data-centric approach to building custom water filters.

Jroc

J-Roc

Nano

Nano

What/who influences you the most?

My parents.  They are two of the most inspirational people that I know.  My girlfriend, friends, and family are all better than I deserve too.  I also draw a surprising amount of wisdom from my dogs (Nano and J-Roc).

I need to relax. You’ll find me at/doing…

Something outside.  The restaurant scene in my backyard is pretty incredible as well!

What neighborhood do you live in?

H Street Corridor!  Home of the now-running Street Car!

Biggest DC pet peeve?

Well, it used to be the water… but Hydroviv fixed that! ;-)

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