Charitable Water Filter Maker Soma Raises $3.7M Seed Round

Soma, a startup that’s hoping to be the Warby Parker of water filters, has closed a $3.7 million round of seed funding led by Baseline Ventures and Forerunner Ventures. Other backers include Lerer Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Cowboy Ventures, Vast Ventures, Mindful Investors, The 4-Hour Workweek’s Tim Ferriss, Coca-Cola’s Rohan Oza, and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy of JOYUS.

The San Francisco-based company, which raised $150,000 from over 2,000 backers through a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, closed a $1.2 million initial seed round last summer.

Targeted at do-gooder design and sustainability snobs, Soma produces glass carafes fitted with biodegradable water filters. It’s a subscription service where consumers buy the carafe and starter filter for $87, and Soma sends a replacement filter every two months for $14.99.

For every filter that sells, Soma donates money to charity: water, which funds clean water projects around the world. This one-to-one model is well established with companies like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker, although Soma simply donates money rather than giving away the actual product as TOMS and Warby Parker do. This is probably wise, since a well gets to the root of providing clean water more effectively than an elegant carafe would.

CEO and co-founder Mike Del Ponte told us that because tech companies have so much growth potential, it is the ideal space to couple business with doing good. Del Ponte, who has a background in philanthropic work and marketing, declined to disclose how much Soma donates to Charity: Water with each purchase.

This most recent round of funding will go toward building the Soma team, marketing, and developing new products. In August, they will ship to the 2,000 Kickstarter backers who prepurchased decanters, and sales will open up to the public on Soma’s website in September.

Despite the expenses of the product’s high-quality sustainable materials and the donations to Charity: Water, Del Ponte said Soma has healthy margins because of its direct to consumer production structure. By avoiding the costs of going through a retailer, Soma can invest in its brand experience, something that will be essential to roping in those design and sustainability elitists.

Soma’s advisers include Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker, Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox, and Eric Ryan of Method, the biodegradable soap company, all of whom the company is looking to emulate in one way or another.

With a solid roster of investors, new products in the works for 2014, and a long term plan to redefine how we consume beverages in the home, Soma seems confident in its footing even before it has completed production on its first batch of filters. We’ll be watching to see how the company fares with consumers when the product drops next month, the true test of its worth.