Reefill provides unlimited access to cold, filtered tap water through a network of refill stations conveniently located around NYC in local businesses like coffee shops and bakeries. Members find and activate the water stations using the Reefill app.
An excerpt from an interview with Co-founders Jason Pessel, Patrick Connorton, and Andrew Betlyon.
How did you come up with the idea for reefill?
Jason: I’ve had the idea for a while now. Walking down the streets in Manhattan, we’ve all done it, we’ve gotten thirsty, there’s not many options for getting a drink other than stopping at a bodega and grabbing a bottle of water. But as you do it, you’re walking by garbage cans that are overflowing with water bottles, you realize: this is a silly way to do things.
Andrew: I lived on Houston street my first apartment in NY, 12 years ago. At that time I had never even thought about filling up a bottled water. I was just always buying bottled water. It’s just a part of our culture. And sure enough, for years I would walk past those dumpsters and the bins were just filled with empty bottles.
Jason: The whole bottled water process is a big problem as well. They waste 3 liters of water for every liter of water that goes in a bottle. There’s obviously wasted plastic, there’s wasted energy, the transportation, the cooling — the whole process doesn’t make sense when we have, especially in somewhere like New York City, great water being piped in at all times.
How far in the app development process and station are you now?
Jason: We have manufacturers for the station. We have the technology for access control — it is still a subscription membership. We have the technology, it’s being integrated right now. We have some of the stations already, we’ve installed one.
Are you all working on reefill full time?
Patrick: None of us are actually. We all have day jobs. I’m an attorney by practice. I was late to this because I was running here from my firm. This is like nights, weekends, lunch hours for me. You know, pitching local businesses to join the network. We’ll hit downtown at 11 o’clock, walk around the area for a couple of hours, talk to 20 businesses and then go back to work.
Andrew: I have my own design business, I work out of my own space. So I can kind of shift gears when I need to. These guys are really impressive.
Jason: It’s actually pretty frustrating.
Andrew: I’m convinced they’ve both found closets in their offices in which they can just hide, turn on a flashlight and make phone calls.
A lot of working from the bathroom stall?
Jason: Right. A lot of dentist appointments too.
This might have just been answered…but what has been the biggest challenge for you guys so far?
Jason: It’s probably not that. It’s probably the technology side. Because, none of the three of us are tech people. It’s not really a tech focused business but it’s tech enabled. All this technology is out there but it hasn't been married in the way that we need it to be. So, working with the different providers that we’ve identified as the best to get this thing built has been somewhat challenging.
What has been the most satisfying moment so far?
Jason: Our very first day out pitching, we talked a bunch of businesses. They were actually extremely enthusiastic. They didn’t kick us out. They were very nice to us. They liked the idea. And then, about 24 hours later, we were in an accelerator meeting and we got a phone call. I left the meeting, took the call and someone told us that they wanted to be involved. I was like, holy crap. That wasn’t as hard as we thought.
Who is a hero of business or technology for you guys? Or design?
Andrew: This is such a cheesy answer — but Steve Jobs is just so prominent.
Jason: I thought you were going to say me.
Andrew: You’re second, buddy. Just his influence on our culture is so strong. From the perspective of looking at design and taking things away, instead of adding a bunch of things. What I think he was really good at was only having the most important elements on an interface. Or in marketing…in getting your attention. And that’s something that I’m always trying to do.
Patrick: I have a pretty specific set of heroes. It’s basically lawyers who have moved from lawyering into entrepreneurship. In our roles as lawyers, we’re asked by our clients “If I do this, what happens?” and we say “Here are the 10 worst things that can happen.” We’re very negative focused. “If you do that, you can get sued, the regulators will come after you, and here’s all the worst case scenarios.” So, we’re all very risk adverse. And being exposed to individuals like Andrew and Jason and starting to look at how we can create things, it’s a very new perspective for me. I’m extremely impressed by the lawyers who have done what I’m trying to do, because it does require a huge change of mindset.
In one word how would you describe the process in creating Reefill, so far?
Jason: Gratifying for me. I compare it to what i do on a day-to-day basis. When I’m working on this, it’s not work…it’s something that I want to be doing. It’s gratifying in that it gives me hope, it’s something meaningful.
Patrick: I would say crazy. Just up and down. Crazy fun. Crazy scary at times. Am I crazy for doing this?
- Interviewed by H.B., ROKO Labs.