GOOD Maker Winner: How One Startup is Reinventing Pipelines
This content is a collaboration between GOOD and Blake Mycoskie
Every year thousands of businesses open (and close) their doors across the country as enterprising individuals try their hand at running a company. In 2009 alone, there were 814,000 new startups according to the 2012 Statistical Abstract by the U.S. Census.
We know how hard it is to create a new business model for social good, so earlier this spring, we teamed up with Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS and the Start Something That Matters Foundation, to offer a $50,000 grant to social entrepreneurs in the Start Something That Matters GOOD Maker challenge. Mycoskie started TOMS with only $5,000 in the bank, and since its inception TOMS has given away more than 10 million pairs of shoes. Through the foundation Mycoskie wants to give back and help others who have amazing ideas to make positive impact on the world.
Open to entrepreneurial changemakers across the country, we received hundreds of ideas outlining new and innovative ways to create positive, global impact. A team of judges narrowed the entries down to 30, and opened up public voting to let the GOOD community have a voice on which business had the most potential. After the votes came in, our judges reviewed one last time and are now excited to announce the winning submission: Tubing Operations for Humanitarian Logistics (TOHL).
According to UNICEF, 768 million people don’t have access to safe, clean, drinking water. This fact is something that resonates with Benjamin Cohen, co-founder and CEO of TOHL, and winner of the Start Something That Matters challenge, and he's set out to change it.
Cohen and fellow co-founder Apoorv Sinha watched Bill Clinton on BBC as part of coverage of the Haiti earthquake in 2010. “We were appalled at all the suffering, but especially at the lack of access to water,” says Cohen in his application. The scarcity of water due to impassable roads inspired Cohen and Sinha to spring into action. Their chosen mission? Reinvent pipelines.
Cohen, second from left, and the Chilean TOHL team and partners celebrating TOHL's successful installation in San José de Maipo.
TOHL is a sustainable pipeline company that more effectively provides water access than conventional approaches, such as laying standard pipeline. “Conventional delivery solutions fail to provide water when it matters most—disaster relief, refugee camps, drought, wildfires,” says Cohen.
Testing water quality for one of TOHL's projects near Santiago, Chile.
Cohen and his team deliver water through flexible pipe segments and a patent-pending helicopter installation technique. Because it’s installed by helicopter, TOHL can construct pipelines at a fraction of the cost, and most importantly, in a fraction of the time of traditional techniques. TOHL works to be sustainable in all sectors of their business. Sourcing, transporting and installing efficiently using solar powered pumps and water purifiers, and the pipeline can be placed over mountains and trees—meaning no need to cut through or down parts of the environment. In addition, TOHL’s pipeline can be removed, reused and recycled.
TOHL started their work in Chile and have since expanded into Haiti. “We are very focused on Latin America right now, and we have plans to expand into various regions around the world within the next decade,” says Cohen. TOHL’s goal is to help serve the millions of people globally who don’t have access to clean water.
How will the $50,000 help them do that? First up is a marketing guru. Cohen hopes bringing on a marketing individual will help in developing strategic partnerships, as well as establish TOHL as a global brand. “These relationships and partnerships within our fields are crucial to our growth strategy,” says Cohen. In addition, TOHL recently closed another contract in Chile and will be also putting some funding towards operations for this upcoming project.
Above all, Cohen is sure of one thing, “Our business is successful when we are executing projects that bring water to people in need.”
Congratulations to Cohen, and the rest of the team at TOHL. We look forward to seeing the $50,000 put to good use. To learn more about TOHL and their mission, check out their submission here.