Catching up with water startup, CataLight

Friday, February 8, 2019

Three University of Waterloo Engineering students from the Conrad Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program embarked on a mission in 2018, to help provide safe drinking water to those who need it most. After successfully securing funds from different pitch competitions, Ashley Keefner, Kevin Dang and Vishal Vinod formed CataLight -- a company that is developing a more effective filter that removes contaminants from drinking water for families in developing communities." 

The Water Institute had the opportunity to sit down with one of the co-founders, Ashley Keefner, to find out what the company has been up to since we last spoke in August 2018

Catalight team

  1. What does water mean to you and your team? Why is it such an important problem to tackle?

    Access to safe drinking water is still a huge challenge globally. Roughly 2.1 billion people do not have access to safely managed drinking water services. Without safe drinking water, people are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases, which are responsible for more than 3.4 million deaths each year.  With today’s technology, nobody should be dying from water-borne diseases. We saw an opportunity to leverage our skills and diverse backgrounds to make a positive impact and are committed to improving access to safe drinking water.

  2. What made you decide to pitch at the Velocity finals? And what was the experience like?

    We were familiar with the Velocity Fund Finals and had watched a number of our friends go through the competition in previous terms. For early-stage startups, the Velocity Fund Finals offer not only crucial funding but also an opportunity to gain exposure and expand their networks. Participating in this competition is a given for Waterloo startups, it’s just part of the experience! 

    Catalight at the Velocity fund finals
  3. How has your technology changed since we spoke in the summer?

    A lot has happened since we last spoke in the summer! Over the summer we took a hard look at our filter design and underlying technology and came to the decision that we needed to pivot. Our initial technology, while good in theory, was not going to allow for the ideal user experience we were aiming for. Our new design is better optimized for use in low-resource areas and provides a better overall user experience. 
  4. How will the Velocity winnings help CataLight? 

    Winning at the $25k Velocity Fund Finals and being accepted into the 9th cohort of AC Jumpstart* is a huge boost for CataLight. The funding, along with the additional mentorship, is crucial for supporting our continued development and helping us to reach some key milestones.

    CataLight graduated from the Velocity Science program on campus and moved into the Velocity Garage in August 2018 when we graduated from the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program. Being in the Velocity Garage has been an incredible support for us. Not only do we get valuable feedback and advice from our mentors, but the entire Velocity community is very supportive of each other, which makes for a really exciting and wonderful environment to work in.

    *Funded by FedDev Ontario and delivered through the Accelerator Centre in partnership with University of Waterloo, AC JumpStart provides early stage technology startups with the seed capital, mentorship, and market-readiness tools needed to build a business in today’s knowledge economy
  5. What does the next year look like for you? Where do you hope to be in 3-5 years?
    Currently, we are working on building our first filters so that we can send them for spec verification, after which we plan to run our first pilot this summer!

    In 3-5 years we hope to see CataLight filters providing safe drinking water to families globally and be working on additional solutions to related water challenges.

CataLight is actively looking to make connections with organizations who are working in the field to implement WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) programs and increase access to safe drinking water. If you're interested in connecting with Catalight, reach out to 

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