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Founder Profile: Chris Turnbull-Grimes, CEO — Triple Bottom Line Enterprises

Imagine H2O is built to support the best water entrepreneurs from across the world who are making real impact on water issues in their communities. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of Triple Bottom Line Enterprises. Their pilot program is poised to connect around 1,000 rural homes in Ethiopia to a piped water system thanks to 3BL’s design product Flowius, a system that harnesses the power of the smartphone to slash engineering costs in the planning and design phase. We’ve been lucky to support the work of Chris and his team this year, and there is much more to come. Enjoy…

Give us an overview of your role, what your experiences are and what you are working on.

I am a co-founder and the CEO of Triple Bottom Line Enterprises…3BL for short. I am a licensed civil engineer and in a previous life, I was a project manager in El Salvador for Engineers Without Borders — Colorado State University and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. 3BL is working on a project called Flowius where we aim to build piped water systems that are so radically affordable that rural people in the developing world can have water where they want it most: in their homes.

Where did you get the idea for Triple Bottom Line Enterprises?

3BL has been a long time in the making. I spent a lot of time questioning how so many organizations never seemed to deliver water into people’s homes despite knowing that is where the demand truly was. The issue was always cost, and particularly how to effectively keep these water systems maintained. Between having friends in Ethiopia and not wanting to plan an international business from the States, I was pushed to move to the Land of Lalibela. That’s where I met Markos and we started coming up with the best way to get water into as many homes as possible. Along the way, we found out how we could get irrigated water to them as well.

What’s the value you provide for your customer?

We have four main value propositions. First, our systems are radically affordable and less than half the cost of typical piped water systems. Second, their simple to run, minimizing network downtime. Third, piping water is much cleaner and safer than carrying it in jericans. Last, access to water in the home and for irrigation has been repeatedly shown to increase household income.

What is the impact you want to have on the communities you serve?

Accessible water sources leading to better health and more time for leisure or income-generating activities all at a price that doesn’t break the bank for homes living on $1.50 a day.

What’s the biggest thing being a founder has taught you?

Being a founder has been challenging yet rewarding. I think that the biggest thing that I’ve learned is really that my communication skills are…terrible. Thankfully, it’s a skill that can be learned and constantly improved upon and our whole team is getting better at it, especially me.

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?

Our largest project this year is to actually build this pilot water system that we’ve been talking about for so long. We’ve had some delays — some our fault and some the fault of our partners, so it’ll be nice to actually get some boots on the ground digging trenches and laying pipe. Then we’ll have our first franchise established, meaning we’ll have to maintain the system and begin looking to expand.

Sum up your IH2O experience in 3 words.

“Pushing our limits.”