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Mike Del Ponte: Design, Taste and a Kickstart for Water?

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By Ty Clark on December 13, 2012

I love great stories. I love great products. 

I really love the power of Kickstarter. I have taken part in a number of Kickstarter campaigns on multiple levels. Lately I have been on the consulting end of multiple projects, but also have a new Kickstart I will be launching in 2013 as I move into my first film production. After we launched Kammok through Kickstarter in July 2011 to overwhelming success I have payed close attention to other wildly succesful campaigns.

About two weeks ago a friend launched a campaign with a new product that has raised over $86,000 since their launch on December 4. I met Mike Del Ponte four years ago on my crazy 1.5-year-long road tour across America with my art and fashion brand. We had a few shows in the San Fransisco and San Jose area while heading north from Southern California.  

On our stop in San Jose we stopped through to visit our non-profit partner and friend Zane Wilemon at a conference titled “Dangerously Ambitious” that featured a large group of Social-Entreprenuers and Doers. While we were eating breakfast with Zane and a few other friends Mike (the conference founder) invited us to stick around for the day and join the festivities. Since that day I have not only followed Mike and the things he has been a part of, but I have also looked to him for advice and a second set of eyes on a few of my ideas.

Now, Mike is launching an incredible idea of his own that is going to revolutionize how we drink water. Soma is a beautiful glass carafe and 100% compostable water filter, that will be delivered right to your door via subscription service. The idea was designed by David Beeman, one of the worlds most recognized water filtration experts who has created water formula’s for Starbucks, Peets coffee and other global brands. The coolest part about the Soma design is the 100% compostable filter that is made from all-natural Malaysian coconut shells, vegan silk, and food-based PLA plastic. (making Soma truly one of a kind). If you are a marketing or branding person or an entrepreneur you should take the time and check out Soma and all that encapsulates it. Here is an interview I recently did with Mike on Soma that ends with a little marketing and branding forecast, enjoy!

You have had a crazy journey since completing your graduate work at Yale in 2008. You have been involved in a number of startups from Sparkseed to BranchOut. What caused you to jump from tech/investment to a product driven business?

I’ve talked to a lot of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and so many of us want to give customers a tangible product, something they can hold in their hands, display in their homes and feel good about. The web has been — and still is — a wild frontier, but because our attention has been there for the last decade or so, people are rediscovering consumer goods with a lot of excitement.

Why water?

Water is the essence of all life. It’s crucial for global health – from our own lives everyday to the world-wide eco-system. We love water and want to elevate its status in society by having a beautiful glass carafe and the best water filter on the market.

Who is involved in Soma and what has the process looked like so far?

Soma was created by a passionate group of friends, ranging from designers to health experts, technologist to entrepreneurs. We’ve been blown away by how many people have been inspired to join us. We divide our time between refining the Soma carafe design, setting up the supply chain, and developing our brand.

I have noticed a large community from Summit Series supporting this project.  How has that community made an early impact on Soma?

Summit Series is a community of early adopters, primarily people in their 20s and 30s who are doing interesting, world-changing work. Everyone in Summit Series has been excited by Soma because at the heart of the Soma brand is a message that really resonates with this ambitious set. We called it the “Thirst for More” lifestyle. Thirst for More is about wanting it all – meaningful work, healthy lives, friends and fun, sustainability, adventure, and style. At Soma, we refuse to compromise on any of these points, and much more. The water tastes great and the carafe is beautiful, but what’s happening behind the scenes is important, too. We have a 100% compostable filter that’s good for the environment, our filters are made in the USA, we offer a subscription service so filters are mailed directly to customers for added convenience.

You launched on Kickstarter, the online crowd funding platform and have done extremely well early in the campaign. Was this expected, or has your Kickstart surprised you in any way?

We’ve been humbled by the response to Soma on Kickstarter. In less than 36 hours we surpassed 50% of our $100,000 goal. We knew Soma would resonate with people based on previous feedback, but Kickstarter has proven that people are hungry for a better water filter — one that combines great taste, with beautiful design, convenience and sustainability.

I know you have been involved in a lot of social causes and philanthropic projects. Is Soma solving any social issue’s? Is there more behind the product and its purpose?

At Soma we have a program called “Soma Thrive”. Soma Thrive includes our three pillars or social good work: health, sustainability, and jobs. The Soma filter ensures our customers get clean, healthy drinking water, which is vital for true health. Our compostable filter, sustainable packaging and other green practices reflect our deep care for the environment. And we’re doing everything we can to create jobs in the USA. Our filters are made here in the States and we hope to expand Soma to increase our staff in San Francisco, and to add more products that create jobs in the USA.

In a noisy and crowded space, how are you able to connect and market the brand in the social sphere?

There is nothing like Soma in the market today. We are offering a product unlike anything else available: a high-design glass carafe, compostable water filter, and subscription service. The Kickstart has shown that people have been wanting these three options wrapped up into one product.

What are Soma’s plans post the Kickstarter campaign?

Our number one focus is on the customer experience. We will be refining the carafe design to make sure every time you use Soma it’s a phenomenal experience. We also have some surprises planned for our customers, which we’ll be rolling our in 2013.

I know the demands and stresses of a product and brand launch, very well.  What do you (or your team) do during this time for focus and rest?

At Soma we’re building a company that will be around for many years. We work hard, but we know that in order to take care of our customers, we have to take care of our selves. We do Yoga as a team and encourage everyone to be healthy, have a spiritual practice, and balance the stresses of building an impactful company with a healthy serving of fun.

What do you believe to the next trend in the marketing and branding world?

In 2013 you’ll see mobile video blow up like mobile photography did. What I think it most exciting is sensor technology. I think we’ll be doing less typing with our thumbs and wearing more sensors – at events, when we shop, throughout the day – that communicate and track what we are doing. For a company like Soma, this could have a huge impact on people’s health and also give them a greater sense of all the good they are doing.

To follow Soma please visit: http://www.somawater.co
To contribute to their Kickstarter campaign go to: SOMA on Kickstarter

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