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”We have basically received orders and requests from all over the world, except for North Korea”

So many groundbreaking innovations end up in a drawer. The same thing happened to professor Kaj Mickos’ idea of how to take better care of the water we use, as most of it just passes our hands. Fortunately, and thanks to a random coincidence, it was brought to life. Today, Altered enables to use the same tap but using up to 98% less water.

Professor Mickos came up with the idea some 10 years ago in Shanghai, when they had a 72-hour innovation race. The theme was Better City Better Life.

— He looked at ways to reduce the water and focused on ways to break the water up and found that he could atomize it. Literally breaking it up in millions of droplets. He did test and prototypes but it ended up in a drawer after a while. The timing wasn’t right apparently, says Mikael Abbhagen, Design Director and Co-Founder.

He and Johan Nihlén, who is now CEO, had discussions about doing something together since they had worked on and off in different constellations.

— We made a list of what we wanted to do. Johan is married to Kaj’s daughter and he talked about this list at a dinner with Kaj. Then Kaj literally walked to the drawer, pulled a prototype, and asked if this wasn’t the thing we were looking for.

In order to see if the market thought the same, the product was introduced in a Kickstarter campaign — and faced a terrible start.

— The first three days nothing happened. Johan was very frustrated and we’re all quite disappointed. But suddenly it kicked off. We had no idea how it happened. Then someone contacted me on Twitter asking how we got on to this American Facebook page called Now This Future. They had edited our Kickstarter film. It had 600 000 views then and we could not believe our eyes. After that, the crowdfunding went very well.

Until this date, that video has 12 million views and 150.000 shares. Similar pages have also picked it up to do their own version of it.

— I counted some time ago that we had like 30 million views on Facebook alone on similar videos, says Abbhagen. At the same time, and in some way, it was spread through the WhatsApp network in the Middle East and India. We woke up one morning with 500 emails in our inbox with people asking how they could order. They had no idea that we were just running a Kickstarter campaign and were very far from being on the market.

— It was some insane weeks. We were just the three of us and me and Johan were answering emails from all over the world day and night. I woke up one morning, answered 60 emails, had breakfast for 20 minutes and came back with 20 more emails than before. Royal families from the Emirates was contacting us. The biggest companies in India, like TATA group, reached out as well as global players like Unilever and Pepsi. We are born global basically. There are so many stories that happened around these early months. We went from ”Hey we got this idea that we think can save water in California” to now have collaborations with global brands and interact with government officials.

Water is an essential resource. Studies indicate that more than 1.1 billion people lack access to water and 2.7 billion experiencing water scarcity at least one month a year. Water usage has increased six times in the past 100 years and will double again by 2050.

— The key to our product is atomization. We break up the water in millions of small droplets that makes you use all the surface area much more efficient. A laminar flow just pours down and bounces off your hands. Our technology increases the speed of the water as well, so cleaning your hands becomes much more efficient. It makes it possible to use only 2% of the water compared to a regular tap. The downside is to fill up a cup of water which would take ages. So we made it a dual flow so that you can switch to a spray mode which saves water but give you enough to fill glasses and so on.

Altered has both been awarded and gained recognition from WWF as a Climate Solver Solution product that can drastically reduce the CO2 emissions. According to Abbhagen, people forget that water is also energy. Saving water means less energy is needed. For pumping it and, in some countries, producing desalinated water, which requires a lot of energy.

— We have also been selected for the permanent design collection at the Swedish National Museum with our Altered:Nozzle. A huge honor.

India has been one of the company’s biggest supporters from the start.

— I can count the people I meet that haven’t heard about us or seen our viral video on one hand, Abbhagen claims. It’s a huge interest but also a difficult market that we’ve spent the last year trying to learn. Now we can’t resist anymore. We have great contacts and now trying to see how we should set up to get the most out of it. It’s a huge market and easy to get naive and treat all the regions in the same way. We are focusing our attention now on our key markets in US, GCC, Scandinavia, and India. To build our awareness and finding the right partners to build our distribution network. Easy to say but takes time to actually do. We have basically received order and distribution requests from all over the world, except for North Korea, Iceland, Cuba, and some of the central African countries.

The latest addition to the range is a foam soap developed to match their technologies with natural ingredients that treat your skin and environment gently.

— I have very sensitive skin so it needed to be suitable for me as well. It’s a very high-quality product that we will expand with other fragrances and ranges. It has received some very good feedback from people in the business and customers which is very encouraging. Additionally, we have some really interesting prospects in regards to the other issue with water: quality. Our technologies open up an interesting way on how to tackle the issue. It has the possibilities to be a huge game changer, Abbhagen states.

Altered’s tap.