It's interesting as an American living in Paris to read about this "new way to drink water", when in the US, people have been toting around reusable water bottles, including the Nalgene (classic), Sigg (hip and durable), and more recently, innovative designs like Vapur's foldable "Anti-Bottle", for decades.
But it's true that in France, people do not carry reusable water bottles. But they drink a LOT of water. So Gobilab's got the right idea in assuming that they can make a huge impact with the Gobi concept. And that is the primary goal - in accordance with the Ademe's (an environmental and energy agency) waste reduction policy - to eliminate the use of disposable cups and plastic water bottles.
The design of the Gobi underwent an eco-conception program that lasted months, to evaluate the environmental impacts of the lifecycle of the product, including all facets from fabrication to packaging. Moreover, the Gobi team worked with a sociologist to understand people's water-drinking habits, to design a reusable water bottle that is practical for the masses - not just for "hikers and athletes".
The result: A sleek water bottle that is:
- Transparent - it is important for users to see the water and assure the pureness of the water
- Portable - the bottle weighs less than 100g and the height is capped at 21cm, allowing for an ultra lightweight design that can easily attach to a bag or a backpack and can carry 40cl of water, the average consumption for the morning or the afternoon
- Customizable - the bottle comes in 5 different colors and has a patented tag system in which you can easily insert a label or a photo. Check out this gallery of personalized Gobis on Flickr
- Eco-friendly - the Gobi is made from Tritan, a new material that is reusable, durable, and does not emit BPAs. Moreover, the Gobi is manufactured in France, not only reducing the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process, but also creating a closer relationship with suppliers, allowing high quality and safety measures.
What's more - Gobilab is going one step beyond product retail to create a community among Gobi users called BeGobi. AND, Gobilab is creating Eaupen (pronounced "Open"), a map of free water sources (public fountains, participating cafes and restaurants, etc.) around France. Gobilab spends 20% of their time developing this Gobi network, emphasizing the importance they put on a holistic Gobi approach in order to create a complete and relevant solution to reducing disposable waste associated with drinking water.
Right now, the Gobi is available for specifically for the French market (and as it's the season of the "soldes", or sales, the they're offering 20% off, and 30% if you advertise for them on Facebook!). I'm curious if and how they plan to expand outside of France - given the locally designed and fabricated business model.
Another aspect I'm curious about is how French startups like Gobilab get started initially - especially from a financial standpoint. It seems that compared to the American system, venture capital support is much less of a "thing" in Europe (as I mentioned in the article about SkySails). This being said, the startup culture is vibrant - I attended a Paris Hackers meetup yesterday at Joshfire and was pleasantly surprised by the number of enthusiastic entrepreneurs I met. It seems that a lot more financial support in Europe comes from government agencies and angel funding. Gobilab for instance, received support from Ademe, specifically on their eco-conception product development program. I'll keep looking into this. And feel free to elaborate or disagree!
In any case, I'm excited to order my new Gobi. And one for my boyfriend. And one for his friend. Let's go BeGobi!