Friday, April 18, 2008

Pump It Up!

Good posts recently on Next Billion and Guy Kawasaki blogs on water. I'd encourage you to hit the links in both posts.

Guy's post highlights See-Saw and Merry-go-Round pumps. These get a lot of attention from the donor community and cause some grumbling from water veterans. The grumbling is about the high cost compared to treadle pumps, for instance. Do you want one Merry Go Round pump or xxx treadle pumps? They are for different applications- irrigation vs. drinking wells. The issue of cost is significant, as well as the fact that these play-pumps, by their nature, are mostly driven by charity, rather than commerce (which is a whole 'nother discussion, right?).

To me, there is something very intriguing about replacing drudgery with play as a design goal. Who will figure out how to reduce the price on making play a productive source of energy? How do we combine Paul Polak's "extreme affordability" with "playfulness"? One of our GSSE teams is working with Paul on a low cost microengine for pumping... treadle pumps often take several hours per day to operate, in hot, humid climates. More efficient than water buckets hauled from the river, but still drudgery.

Sprig Toys, a recently funded start up in Fort Collins, may be one of the players.* They have been working with Freeplay to develop battery free toys. These guys do so much more, and helped us a lot with the design of the new Envirofit cookstove. Without giving away any company secrets, I'd suggest you keep an eye on this creative group.

The other exciting thing I've recently heard about with water is Paul Polak's D-Rev project to do low cost water purification kiosks. I can't find much webinfo on this, so to hear about it you have to go to one of Paul's book pitches. Check here for an event in your area.
* These guys are awesome on so many levels. They are the first start up I know to get significant VC funding with a comic book business plan! And they took our Envirofit birthday party up a notch, both in fashion and intensity.

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