It was in the morning, after a couple of days fasting when he went to the toilet to have a pee. And when he flushed, he realized one thing: “I just spoilt so much clean water!” It took him seven months to find the chemical solution to tackle this problem. Now Ezequiel and his wife are the proud owners of Piipee, an eco-friendly product that eliminates all toilet water usage during urination.
Piipee is my third business. I started the first one when I was 16 years old. The second one was a project together with my wife and eventually in March 2010 the idea for Piipee came up. While studying the market, I noticed there were only vacuum toilets and toilets with rain water, but those were all expensive and time-consuming solutions. I couldn’t find anything that was quick and cheap. When I went to the supermarket, I bought all the cleaning products out there and started to check the ingredients myself in order to find a formula. Trying to come up with a specific product was difficult because there were so many criteria: it had to be biodegradable, cheap but also made out of accessible ingredients.
So we tried everything ourselves. My family and me started to pee in cups and tried lots of different chemical combinations. It took us eventually seven months to come up with the right formula. After this we could start with the patent in Brazil. First we developed a device to use within companies. Later on, we developed a spray for clients to use at home. Right now we are selling throughout all states in Brazil and we have more than 400 clients such a Braskem (one of our biggest), Vale and PepsiCo. But we are the most proud of the fact that since November 2015 we already saved more than 6 millions litres of clean water.
Of course it was not an easy journey. I for example don’t have an engineering background. It therefore took a lot of time to develop the concept. An engineer could do this maybe in four weeks but we needed seven months. And I have to admit: starting a new business is always tough. Everything changes when you talk with your first customer. The biggest challenge was to start the sales. This took us five years. But after this, our company grew 3 to 4 times faster then expected. Right now, we don’t have any funds or investments, we can live from our sales. Two percent of our profit goes to charity. God gave me this idea and I believed that we should also share this with others. Did I mention? We are also very proud of our clients who are positive about our solution. People are taking pictures on Instagram while they are peeing when they are using Piipee. People feel engaged with the product.
The success factors
I think that we get a lot of media exposure and clients find us because it is a good and different solution and a sexy product. And of course the name attracts a lot of attention. It works in every language and everybody knows what it is. We have now been participating in more than fifteen programs and competitions with our product.
Highlights are the Braskem labs, they started to develop the product with us and really helped us to find potential partners and the AHK competition where we won a free consult with a chemist.
We are also super proud of the fact that our patent is recognized by the World Intellectual Property Organization as an innovative solution for climate change and in 2016 we were among the fourteen most innovative startups in Brazil and got invited to participate in a mission to the UK.
Our future dreams? We want to eliminate 100 percentage of clean water while urinating. To establish this, we’re developing a new model of urinals and toilet bowl with the Piipee solution inside. With this device it is possible to monitor in real time what kind of toilet needs to be cleaned, refilled and for example how much time it takes to clean the toilets, a perfect solution for bigger companies.
I believe that in 10 years we don’t pee in clean water anymore! Piipee can make the difference. I hope that the Accelerate week will bring us new partnerships, investors to start to develop our new products and partners to expand with overseas. But even if we don’t find those partners, we are still proud to show Switzerland our product!
This article is one in a series in which we get to know the International Finalists of our Accelerate2030 program a little bit better. Accelerate2030 is a 9-month program co-initiated by Impact Hub Geneva and the UNDP, with a mission to scale the impact of ventures that contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals internationally. All nine finalists will be present at the Impact Hub Geneva from the 6th until the 13th of October during the Scaling week