Pittsburgh startup wins big at SXSW, preps for rollout in India | Crain's Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh startup wins big at SXSW, preps for rollout in India

Rorus, the maker of water filters for developing countries, expects more investment and growth after brandishing its startup credentials at one of the tech world's most important shows.

The Pittsburgh company rocked the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, finishing first in the 2016 Accelerator competition. It then went on to accept the SXSW Trend of the Event award for civic engagement, a new prize that seeks to embody the spirit of each year’s festival.

SXSW chose Rorus for the award as an example of a venture that has embraced the importance of giving back to the community. The company produces Filter Pack, an inexpensive, easy-to-use filter that traps pathogens and purifies water.

“The exposure sets the stage for future growth and venture capital investment,” Corinne Clinch, co-founder and CEO, said of the wins.

Two other Pittsburgh tech startups ranked among the finalists at SXSW Interactive. BreatheWise’s gas regulator gives gas distributors supply and demand data that improves supply chain logistics in real time. InSpirAVE's Internet-of-Savings platform seeks to help users reach personal savings goals.

The grueling, two-day pitch process pit the top 48 finalists from around the world against one another for coveted SXSW recognition, $4,000 and $25,000 in web services.  Rorus won in the Innovative World Technologies division.

Rorus is currently negotiating with potential partners in Kenya and Nepal and hopes to begin manufacturing units in India, a country with a $5.5-billion market for household water-filtration systems.

Plans call for deploying the filter packs through more than 20 nonprofit partners, including several developing countries, in 2016. The firm plans to tap the military and outdoor recreation market as well.

The SXSW competition attracted 470 companies from around the world who vied for a place at the eighth annual event in Austin, Texas. The two-week interactive festival, an international showcase for original music and film and emerging technologies, attracts thousands to the city each year.

Clinch believes the live, onstage demo – which involved inviting people on stage to spit into the water, filter it and drink it – helped clinch the win.

The Filter Pack resembles a king-size pillowcase and is both light and portable.

“Every other filter on the market depends on a user's time and knowledge to manage chemical additives, measurements or maintenance,” Clinch said. “And most of them still don't work against all types of pathogens.”

Rorus went up against some cutting-edge technologies. There was the Morpher Folding Helmet Co. from London, the world’s only fold-flat helmet that reduces traumatic brain injuries, while San Francisco-based EpiBiome, a microbiome engineering company, offered an antibiotic-free solution for bacteria that threatens human health and agriculture.

Photo credit: The Rorus team holds their prize at SXSW. Photo courtesy of Rorus.


March 27, 2016 - 5:26pm