As part of Solve’s Healthy Cities Challenge, the $75,000 Innovating Together for Healthy Cities Prize, made possible by the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s global health initiative, was won by Faircap. Learn how Faircap’s work began in this Q&A between Nassar Abdul Raouf Al Mubarak, Director at Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, and Faircap’s Founder, Mauricio Cordova.
Nassar Al Mubarak: What inspired you to become a social entrepreneur?
Mauricio Cordova: I grew up in Peru during a period of deep economic and social crisis. My parents worked hard to send me to high school. Supported by several scholarships, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree from The London School of Economics. After working at Intel Corporation in Germany for a few years, I started a small tech company in Spain. I was always aware of how lucky I had been to get these opportunities, and I knew I wanted to give back to the world in some way.
NAM: What was the catalyst that led to the creation of Faircap?
MC: While visiting a reforestation project in the Amazon, I had to walk for hours in the rainforest. It was hot and humid, and I was thirsty. But I couldn’t drink the water because the streams were contaminated with sewage runoff from villages and illegal mining. I realized that even in the most remote and pristine areas, natural water sources can be contaminated. After a quick online search, I learned that a staggering number of people worldwide lack access to potable drinking water, and that clean water can easily prevent so many diseases!
I asked myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a way to purify water straight from the source using everyday plastic bottles?” Soon after, I was researching everything about water treatment, emergency DIY water filtration, and how to remove contaminants from water. It took us a year and a half to go from an idea to a working prototype, and another year and a half to create a final product.
NAM: What is the correlation between clean water and disease elimination? Why is it so essential?
MC: Access to clean drinking water can prevent many waterborne diseases. Untreated water is an ideal environment for pathogens to replicate and thrive. In places with high population density or in rural areas where water is not centrally treated, there’s a high risk of contamination due to the presence of bacteria, viruses, and cysts in water. Most often, natural water sources become contaminated with fecal matter—just a few grams of human feces can contaminate thousands of liters of water.
NAM: What does Faircap aspire to achieve?
MC: We will succeed when Faircap enables many of the 2 billion people who lack on-premise access to clean drinking water to treat their water locally at the point of use. Specifically, we want to reach people in the poorest, most remote areas—and during emergencies and humanitarian relief efforts. We also aim to raise awareness in developed countries by collaborating with other organizations through a buy-one-give-one program.
NAM: How will winning the Innovating Together for Healthy Cities Prize and being part of the MIT Solve community accelerate Faircap’s mission?
MC: Science and technology can offer solutions to solve the most pressing problems, but collaboration is also really important. The problem we are trying to solve is too large to tackle alone. MIT Solve will give us access to a network of talented and socially minded people.
The Innovating Together for Healthy Cities Prize will enable us to continue designing a new family filter that can be placed in jerrycans, buckets, and water tanks. With this funding, we’ll be able to cover the costs of prototyping and initial production. We would also like to tap into the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court’s deep expertise in fighting waterborne diseases like Guinea worm. Their advice, feedback, and support will be invaluable as we conduct field trials and distribute Faircap filters to millions of people.
Image courtesy of Faircap.