Reinventing Water For Millennials: Soma's Michael Del Ponte
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Estimated 2016 revenue: $10 million.
In 2013, Michael Del Ponte, 34, launched Soma, a San Francisco-based company that produces a water filter designed to compete with Brita. Soma’s signature product is a glass container shaped like a wine carafe, with a filter that tucks into the top half of the vessel. Del Ponte set up the company as a social enterprise. He donates 1% of his revenue to an international clean water non-profit, charity: water, and in 2014 he incorporated as a B Corporation, which means he goes through a rigorous monitoring process that holds him to commitments like treating employees well, opening up corporate governance, relying on manufacturers with high labor standards, and minimizing Soma’s impact on the environment. He says that his millennial customers embrace Soma’s values and he has persuaded investors, including angels and venture capitalists, to invest $9.5 million in the business. Soma pitchers range in price from $29 to $49 and sell at Target; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Bloomingdales; Nordstrom; as well as in small specialty retailers and on Soma’s site. Estimated revenue for 2016: $10 million.
Question: How did you decide to start Soma?
Del Ponte: I had become passionate about the global water crisis. There were 800 million people globally who did not have access to clean and safe drinking water and there is an organization based in New York called charity: water that does amazing work in that space. I wanted to do something but I didn’t know exactly what it would be. One night I was hosting a dinner party and I got my Brita water filter and I thought, there is no way I’m going to put this ugly pitcher on the table. So I poured the water into a glass wine carafe and the top of the Brita came off and the water spilled all over the floor. I’m standing there getting ready to clean it up and my friend comes in and I ask him, why don’t they design something like this that works? He says, why don’t we do it? We decided to create Soma, founded around four values: design, health, sustainability and giving back.