Smart water cooler company Bevi this month raised $16.5 million in Series B funding led by Trinity Ventures. The environmentally-minded company is taking on the beverage industry and hopes to make bottled water and cans obsolete.
Bevi was started in 2013 by MIT Sloan alumni Sean Grundy and Frank Lee, along with Eliza Becton. The company’s smart coolers, which hold four separate flavors at a time, use a touchscreen interface to customize each drink. Users can request everything from plain, cold filtered water to a blackberry lime seltzer. The cofounders built the idea for the company off of Becton’s research on how to out-design bottled water.
“We wanted to use design and technology to change people’s behavior,” said Lee. “We wanted to build a smart beverage platform powered by tap water and data analytics.”
The company has set out to do just that. Each Bevi machine, which has a 2-by-2-foot footprint, can save an average of 30,000 bottles — since founding, Bevi has saved over 10 million bottles. Bevi will use some of its funding to for an upcoming countertop machine, also geared towards offices, designed for smaller spaces that can’t accommodate the larger machine. It will be available this fall.
Bevi has made technology an integral part of its product. Lee says that even though, “it is not an obvious component of our business, we are doing a lot with software and data.” The IoT-enabled devices are constantly monitoring use, keeping the machines as low maintenance as possible for office managers. With the diagnostic data Bevi gathers from machines, it knows when flavors are running low and proactively notifies a service partner who then refills the flavors.
Further, the company is using the data to analyze what flavors are popular and track trends based on geography, which it will use to launch future flavors. Though Bevi currently produces all its flavors in-house, the company plans to eventually invite third-party beverage brands or entrepreneurs to contribute to the flavor choices, and will provide those companies with the same data points.
Bevi has almost 400 customers, including corporate clients such as Apple, Netflix, and Fidelity, with around 1,000 machines in use. In some offices, Bevi has contributed to a reduction of beverage costs by 50 percent, Lee said. As of now, Bevi is available anywhere is the contiguous U.S. and in Hong Kong, although the company has plans to expand into more U.S. markets and Canada soon.
Something else fun about Bevi? The machine’s touchscreen comes with an Easter egg that rewards users with a badge when they have hit a threshold of saving a certain number of bottles. “Clients actually get really excited about it,” Lee said.