Anthony Newman was convinced Londoners would ditch plastic water bottles if they had an alternative. The founder of Ape2o was onto something, Jennifer Sieg finds, in our latest founder spotlight.
Anthony Newman vowed to prove a point the day investors told him his idea for a no-plastic water company – now known as Ape2o – would never work out.
“No one’s going to carry refillable bottles. No one’s going to pay for dispensed water. You’ll never get landowners on board. People don’t care enough about the problem,” they told him back in 2015.
Meanwhile, Newman was seeing the opposite – there was an eco-friendly trend brewing and he wanted to be one of the first behind it.
Nine years later, he was right. Reusable water bottles are one of the newest and coolest trends – who doesn’t have a Hydro Flask or Stanley tumbler nowadays?
Consumers are now paying 25p to refill their water bottles at Ape2o’s water fountains in and around the city – because they know it’s going to a good cause, Newman said.
It’s much cheaper than a single-use bottle and 10 per cent of all sales go to marine and fresh-water conservation projects.
But, getting consumers – and investors – on board wasn’t as easy as he had hoped.
When investors tell you no…
Not many people cared for where their plastic waste ended up back in 2015, Newman tells City A.M.
But some did, he said, and that was enough to get the ball rolling – he just needed to figure out how to prove it.
“Always plan for longer than you think,” Newman said in hindsight.
Success rarely happens overnight. In fact, it wasn’t until Ape2o launched in 2018, funded by the money in their own pockets, that plans began to “crystallise”.
“It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t, but we were live and we could interact with customers. We could get feedback, we could learn,” Newman said.
Much like a domino effect, Newman said once they secured their first partner, South Western Railway, others began to follow – the London Zoo, Great Western Railway, and Landsec, to name a few.
“Suddenly, we were the right solution for them,” Newman said. The firm no doubt benefitted from the increased publicity around plastic waste, most notably in Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet.
“We could improve our product but also improve our conversation with those enablers and the landowners, and at that point is when we got serious investment,” he continued.
To date, Ape2o has raised £500,000 – from a range of angel investors to venture capitalists – and expects a £2m funding round in the second quarter of this year.
This “slow accretion” of milestones is what catches an investor’s attention, Newman said, which is why being resilient from the start is crucial for long-term success.
“If you really believe in the idea and you really believe that people will demand that solution one day then keep going, just keep going, keep trying to find a way,” he added.
With resilience comes reflection
Noticing the hard work you put in as a business founder isn’t always easy – for some, the results can take years to surface.
“Like Ferris Bueller says…” Newman chuckled.
“If you stop and look around every now and again, look back, you might realise you’ve done some pretty cool stuff.”
It’s a “hard battle to pick,” he added, and the journey will more than likely take longer than any budding entrepreneur hopes.
But with a bit of perspective every now and again, you might be able to see how much that “germ of an idea” has grown.
Newman, who worked in the drinks industry before switching over to the fragile if not more rewarding life of an entrepreneur, says he may well have been “part of the problem” in his previous jobs.
But with around 450,000 bottles saved from landfills and oceans by Ape2o, it’s safe to say he’s making up for it.