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What happens when you apply the filtering method used by a French press, but replace coffee with water?

grayl4The answer is Grayl, an innovative water filtration cup designed by two Seattle-area entrepreneurs who believe they’ve created the world’s best portable water filter.

Grayl co-founders Nancie Weston and Travis Merrigan started their five-person company last year and recently completed a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise $15,000.

Here’s how it works: You pour water into one cup, and then use the filter — which doubles as an inner container — to “press” the H2O using Grayl’s patented system. The process takes about 15 seconds.

This video might give you a better idea:

The goal is to not only improve the quality and taste of tap water, but also to help people save money on bottled water.

“Grayl is sexy, smart and badass — and we have the test scores to prove it,” Weston tells us.

Grayl offers two filtration options, including a more expensive filter ideal for international and outdoor travelers that eliminates E. Coli, Giardia and Hepatitis A.

We caught up with Weston to learn more about Grayl in the latest edition of Startup Spotlight.

The Grayl team.
The Grayl team.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: The Water Filtration Cup. Stainless steel design for safe, great tasting water on the go. In the office, outdoors or around the globe.

Inspiration hit us when … Nancie grew concerned about the quality and taste of the tap water at home and especially during business travel. She was shocked to learn that Americans waste $21 billion on bottled water, most of which isn’t recycled. Inspired by a coffee press, she set out to create a beautiful, stainless steel solution to the bottled water epidemic.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. Travis and Nancie both put their life savings into Grayl. Later, they raised an investment round from friends, family and business contacts who believed in Grayl. Only now, with product in stores and demand high, are we seeking Angel support. We hope to find investors who will add value and fit in with the culture of Grayl.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Take no shortcuts on materials or design. We use 18/8 stainless steel, food grade silicone and, arguably, the most advanced filtration technology in the world. Mix in the patent pending “Fill, Press, Drink” mechanism and you’ve got Grayl.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: We didn’t take no for an answer. We faced many roadblocks during the design and engineering of the Grayl concept, and people told us it just couldn’t be done. It had to be stainless, and the filtration process had to be fast and free-flowing — no sucking, squeezing or waiting for gravity. We forged ahead until we got the “yes.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Underestimating how long it took to make Grayl perfect. We wanted to be in stores in August instead of November, but we wouldn’t compromise on quality. 11 prototypes later, Grayl is finally ready to roll.

grayl2Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: Jobs because he revolutionized existing technology. He didn’t invent the smartphone or MP3 player, he simply made them better, more user-friendly and cool.

Like Jobs, we didn’t forsake design for functionality. We found the best technology, invented a new way to filter, and sculpted the finest material into a beautiful design. Grayl not only removes BPA, lead, pharmaceuticals and chlorine from drinking water, but also looks sophisticated and stylish. We think Jobs would approve.

Our world domination strategy starts when: It starts when you hold Grayl for the first time (visit REI’s flagship store in Seattle). Soon you’ll feel naked without your Grayl — grab your keys, phone, wallet, Grayl and go.

Rivals should fear us because: Grayl is sexy, smart and badass — and we have the test scores to prove it. Effective against chemicals, heavy metals, and 99.99% of bacteria (standard Filter) plus 99.999% of viruses and protozoa (optional Purifier).

We are truly unique because: We’re the holy Grayl of water filtration. Best design, best materials, best technology — no compromises.

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: We greatly underestimated the challenges and timetables of creating a complicated product. We faced manufacturing delays and had to roll with the punches. Throughout it all, we focused on design and quality and brought Grayl’s first filtration cup to life without compromising on quality or design.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Once you have the guts to bring your idea into the world, start by building a great team. Don’t hire people that just want a job — they need passion for the vision and the stamina to get through the hard times. They need to believe as much as you do.

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