After 6 years working in international business development in companies that supply medical devices, Max decided to earn an MBA at the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon LeZion. There, along with his friend and future partner in Soapy, he came up with an idea for a startup. The initial idea was to generate water from air for a hand washing device, saving water and soap through automated processes. Soapy participated in the college’s Novus Accelerator and were named the best startup of 2017.
January - November 2017: Ideation
Max was accepted into the third cohort of the Pears Challenge. As part of the program, Max was sent to India for a month to meet potential partners and gain field validation of Soapy’s concept. He joined forces with Swasti Health Catalyst, a nonprofit that implements social innovations to ensure the health and well being of marginalized Indian communities, and built connections with Apollo, India’s largest private hospital chain. Based on insights from the field, Soapy decided to pivot, dropping the aspect of water production from the air, as they understood that management of existing water resources is much more cost-effective than water generation. This eventually helped to refocus the product on hygiene quality.
Soapy was chosen as the regional Israel finalist for the WeWork Creator Awards.
2017 - 2018: Field Validation
Max used the field trip of the Pears Challenge to take the first version of the prototype to the field. This led to the creation of a pilot with Swasti in a school in Bagepalli district, Karnataka, involving 350 children (LINK). The pilot lasted one month and provided real-time feedback and understanding of how Soapy’s product could be improved.
Soapy joined 18 Israeli startups selected as part of the India-Israel Innovation Bridge Competition to accompany Prime Minister Netanyahu on his historic state visit to India. As part of the program, Soapy wins a $12K grant from Indian water purification company LIVEPURE.
February 2018: First Exposure
Max is interviewed about the Soapy pilot in India on ILTV. Israel21C, an American online magazine focusing on technological and scientific advances made by researchers in Israel, features an article about Soapy, describing its pilot and field validation in India. The article turns viral and Max receives a call from the Business Development Director of Sysco in California, expressing interest in the product and explaining its extreme relevance for the American market as well.
May - December 2018: Exploration of a pivot
Soapy’s team starts investigating market potential in the US food industry. They quickly understandd that the food industry of the US is losing a lot of money due to low hand hygiene compliance, and in anticipation of the Sysco’s Director’s visit to Israel they design a concept and working prototype to address the potential American market needs. The new product is then created to analyze user activity during the washing process, build a profile, and follow progress, generating data. They call this “ECO”.
The Director of Sysco examined the new version of Soapy’s handwashing station during his visit to Israel and expressed interest to make an order. Despite the lucrative new opportunity in the American market, Soapy decides to stay committed to promoting hygiene in resource-poor settings. The company builds a model to continue addressing developing countries’ needs using a 10:1 model. On every 10 devices sold in the developed world, Soapy contributed one device to a partner in a developing country. However, this model required testing for viability and the creation of an entire supply chain. Following a process of concept validation, Soapy deems the 10:1 model viable, and creates all the necessary logistical links, partnering with two NGOs working in WASH: Swasti Catalyst of India and Sanitation First, a UK NGO. The two organizations manage all operations of bringing the handwashing stations to under served populations. The NGOs continued to be involved in refining Soapy’s model for resource-poor settings. Sanitation First helps examine the business viability in developing country settings, while Swasti focused more on impact and public health issues, conducting research on the acceptance of the technology by children.
Soapy is profiled by CNBC India’s Young Turks program, increasing Soapy’s exposure in India.
Soapy joins the Innovator Program, an American IoT focused accelerator, which enables it to build the look and the operational aspects of the products as they are today.
In the same year, Soapy gained recognition from various institutions and sources, including winning Israel’s Global Impact Awards and reaching round 2 of UNICEF’s Regional WASH Innovation Challenge for South Asia.
October - June 2019: First Round of Investments
Soapy receives funding from the AltaIR Capital Fund. This expression of trust opens the door for additional inventors that eventually followed suit, including Sarona Ventures. During this time, Soapy also joins the 8200 Impact accelerator, using the program to build its network.
These investments enabled them to advance to prototyping, advancing the model for mass production. Soapy grew from 2 to 5 employees and got its two first paying customers.
The first customer experience was unfortunately unsuccessful, highlighting Soapy’s weaknesses in operations and customer management - especially when the customer is a large enterprise. After losing these customers, Soapy used the feedback and lessons learned to improve.
February 2020: Covid-19 Leverage
Soapy’s solution has been very relevant for the sudden reality of COVID-19, leaving the company flooded by requests. Understanding that it will not be able to answer all the demand, Soapy chooses to fine-tune its business plan and better define its first target market. During this process, the product is piloted in various verticals including schools, restaurants, clinics, hospitals, public and private offices.
January 2021- today: Scale
Soapy is receiving additional investments from its previous investors as they reach the status of readiness to work with enterprises. The company signed a distribution agreement in 15 countries (including Italy, USA, Canada, Netherlands, Angola, Nigeria, SA, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Poland), significantly expanding its reach.
In present day, Soapy has reached a status of saving 18K cubic meters of water daily, saving millions of cubic meters a year. Today they have over 200 CleanMachines in operation, 30 of them serving marginalized communities in India (Schools in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) with 15K children using them daily. Other big customers of Soapy's include P&G USA, P&G Singapore, Sheba Medical Center, and River Spring Assistive Living. In the past 3.5 years, 300K handwashings were performed, saving over a million litres of water.
Soapy has additionally started generating valuable data. Its system collects information about human behavior in relation to hand washing habits, answering the 4 BIG questions - WHY, WHEN, WHERE and HOW do people wash hands. It also provides insights such as gender differences and/or age differences in hand washing habits, the influence of the time of the day, and whether the left or the right hand is used. This data has potential to have huge implications for influencing hand hygiene habits, and has a lot of impact on global issues such as water saving, budget saving (on water, soap and energy) and on reduction of carbon footprint in places where water is a scarce resource.
Soapy currently is focused on growth, as market demand for handwashing solutions continues to soar.