Origins – Stanford d.school
In the spring of 2008, three Stanford graduate students from the schools of business, engineering, and design joined forces in a course called Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability. The team traveled to Ethiopia to see where they could apply their talents to help, arriving in the middle of the worst drought Ethiopia had experienced in 20 years. The farmers they met had no means to grow crops with the scarce water resources available. The drip irrigation products that were locally available were too expensive for most farmers and seldom worked properly. These farmers needed better, less costly, more effective ways to use their meager water supplies efficiently.
The team returned to the Stanford d.school and invented a new manufacturing technology that makes clean, consistent holes in super-low-cost plastic tubing. The resulting product works better and more reliably than the competition at 2-5x less cost. With this success, mechanical engineer Peter Frykman incorporated Driptech to manufacture and sell drip irrigation tubing for developing markets across the globe.
Getting Started – Field Testing in India
We quickly raised about $50k in seed funding to begin field testing their product in India. A team composed of the CEO, CTO, and a Field Research Manager, traveled to rural India and launched a 5 month pilot study with 15 subsistence farmers who were previously unable to afford irrigation control.
The response was overwhelming. Farmers who used the Driptech product wanted to irrigate additional, larger fields. Friends and neighbors asked where they could purchase a system for themselves. Ultimately every participant told us that the Driptech system saved them water, labor, and time – all while growing a valuable dry-season crop that greatly increased their annual income.
Scaling Up – Launching the Palo Alto Startup
After the study, Driptech raised another $25k and brought in students from Stanford and other top universities to continue business and technical development. We have recruited key leaders in both entrepreneurship and appropriate technology to our board of advisors and established relationships with potential NGO partners. The team has moved into a small Palo Alto office and begun scaling up in preparation for our sales launch in Southern India.
Driptech has been receiving great attention for its work, performing well in design and business plan competitions and garnering great press from major news outlets. Yet the company remains tightly focused on meeting the needs of the 600 million farmers around the world who lack access to irrigation control. We are continually seeking funding and expertise as we scale up our business.
We are getting ready to tackle one of the world’s biggest resource management problems by helping one poor farmer at a time.