Startup in Residence Northern Netherlands: Saving Water with Zuen&Co

Saving no less than 85% on tap water consumption with a simple nozzle. Amsterdam based startup Zuen&Co adapted a Swedish invention for the Dutch market and is currently running a pilot for the City of Leeuwarden, as part of the Startup in Residence Northern Netherlands program. How are things going so far? We catch up with co-founder Maarten ter Velde.

Zuen&Co founders Simeon ter Velde and Maarten ter Velde were looking for ways to make a difference in the world when they came across an interesting Swedish Kickstarter project that went viral.  “If you look at the heatwaves in the Netherlands in the past couple of years, with the water companies telling people not to fill swimming pools, shower less often and stop watering their lawns. That should tell you something about how problematic and urgent the situation really is”, Maarten explains.  “It’s like KFC telling its customers to stop eating chicken…” 

Ideals and obstacles

The two came across a popular Kickstarter project by Altered, a Swedish company that developed a water saving nozzle that can easily be retrofitted in existing tap water faucets. A normal faucet will use around 12 litres of water per minute, the Swedish invention reduces that to a mere 1.2 litres per minute. “We thought it was a really cool idea and just decided to contact them. So a couple of emails and phone calls later, we became the official resellers in the Netherlands and Zuen&Co was born.”

Although you may think something like this just sells itself, Maarten and Simeon came across quite a few bumps in the road. “When we started doing our initial market research, we pretty soon discovered we couldn’t sell this version of the nozzle in the Netherlands, because we have some of the strictest laws and product regulations in the world when it comes to legionella prevention. So Altered had to produce a special version that was up to Dutch regulatory standards.”

Conservative market, slightly different pilot

Zuen&Co was already running a pilot for the Delft University of Technology, when they signed up for the Startup in Residence Program. “It really couldn’t have come at a better time for us”, Maarten says. The market is very conservative and as a startup, it’s really difficult to get a foot in the door with big hardware store-chains. Everyone you talk to is enthusiastic and sees the need for our product, but few are actually willing to take the first step. So having the City of Leeuwarden on board and working together with them is just a really great opportunity for us.”

The startup has just started an 8 week pilot for both the Leeuwarden city hall and town hall. “It’s slightly different from what we originally intended, because you can’t accurately measure water savings if people are still largely working from home, of course. So we’re focusing on user feedback and experience now, which is great, because it is something people will have to get used to. Filling up your water bottle takes longer, for example. Once you tell people how much water they save, they’re usually fine with it, but this is something we’d like to test.”

A nozzle in every home

Despite being in a conservative market, the startup has taken some pretty big steps this year, with a couple of cool things on the horizon. “We’re currently working with the Delft University of Technology and a couple of schools. We’ve also had a couple of meetings with hardware store franchise Intergamma, the parent company of Karwei and Gamma, about the possibility of running a test case, so that’s really cool. They wanted to offer a package of sustainable products, so hopefully we’ll hear something soon.”

As for the coming years, Zuen&Co has big ambitions. “If all goes well and we can count Leeuwarden as a customer, well it’s really great to have an organization like that as an ambassador. We will also start selling water saving shower heads this year, so we want to start selling both as a package. The province of Brabant recently launched a campaign to inform its citizens about sustainable and water saving products, paying a percentage too when people decide to buy them. If we could do something like that with Leeuwarden or Friesland and help make the region more sustainable, that would be the dream.”