With digestive issues and bodily functions still a relatively taboo subject, it’s fair to say that the media spotlight rarely shines on startups that are required to use the word “bowels” in their mission statement – but apparently, PoopTech is the next big thing.
Covering the gastrointestinal space, bowel movement space or toilet space, startups are finding new and ingenious ways that not only help us go to the toilet (quite literally), but are also providing the technology that can promote our own health and wellbeing, while saving a tiny part of the planet at the same time.
With everything from the adult potty, to bamboo toilet paper, 2017 has seen some exciting developments in the toilet based startup community, and here are just a few that are destined for a very prosperous 2018.
The Squatty Potty
Faced with lifelong constipation, a mother from Utah has taken the helpful advice from her doctor, and used his suggestions to help create the Squatty Potty, a global business that by the end of 2017 had generated $33 million in sales.
The Squatty Potty is essentially a small plastic stool that sits under a toilet, and simply raises the knees when it’s time to go to the toilet. While it sounds, and is indeed is a very simple idea, it has already helped thousands of people go about their daily business without any undue stress.
The idea works by addressing how our bodies were originally designed to go to the toilet: namely by squatting. From an evolutionary perspective, the seated position that most people in the Western world adopt isn’t always conducive to our free flowing internal plumbing.
It can often cause a kink in the colon, resulting in constipation, piles and a range of other toilet related disasters, which all sounds lovely! By raising the knees, the squat position helps to relax the colon, and makes the process of evacuation much less demanding.
Initially the company raised $350k from the US based TV program Shark Tank, before going on to raise a further $15.7M from Sachs Capital in 2017. Supported with an innovative and rather amusing advertising campaign, 2018 looks set to be a great year for the Squatty Potty.
Who Gives A Crap
Most of us, despite the wonders of the modern bidet, still use toilet paper. However with trees still used as the primary material in toilet paper manufacturing, the simply act of going to the toilet is unfortunately responsible for the logging of millions of trees.
Australian startup “Who Gives A Crap” aims to rectify this by using bamboo, a fast growing grass that acts as a more environmentally sustainable toilet paper.
According to the company, its selection of toilet paper, paper towels, and tissue paper, are all made from 100% bamboo, recycled paper, or a blend of bamboo and sugarcane fibres. They also avoid using any inks or dyes, and the toilet rolls are shipped in cardboard boxes to eliminate any plastic wrappings.
With a number of eco-friendly consumers or waste free aficionados struggling with the amount of plastic used in supermarket packaging, Who Gives A Crap provides a more sustainable, eco-friendly and affordable alternative.
In an attempt to help launch in the brand, co-found Simon Griffiths sat on a toilet for 50 hours as part of the startup’s inaugural crowdfunding campaign, staying put until he had received enough pre-orders to start production. After raising over AU $50k, the company had enough investment to put things in motion, and they haven’t looked back since.
Customers are also attracted by their ethical brand values, donating 50% of profits towards providing toilets and sanitation in developing countries, partnering with charities such as WaterAid. At the last count, Who Gives A Crap had donated AU $1,175,000 of its profits to funding hygiene and sanitation projects throughout the world.
Unfortunately you won’t find their products on the shelves of the local supermarket, as it adopts the current trend of online ordering, subscription services, and home delivery – but with rising awareness around our use of plastics, Who Gives A Crap are meeting consumer demand by providing more ethical and sustainable products that we use every single day.
Cara is a Berlin-based startup that helps people with chronic digestive disorders, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), reflux, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and food intolerances.
Founded in 2015, the relatively new startup initially raised $2 million in seed financing towards the end of 2017, with ambitions that their app could become an important tool that could help manage a variety of bowel and digestion related conditions.
The free app is a essentially a food and symptom diary that enables people to track microbial, lifestyle and environmental factors, providing detailed analysis and insights that let users understand how their body works.
The app then uses an algorithm that essentially learns how patient’s symptoms evolve, and adjusts a probiotic formula called Cara Biotics in order to treat symptoms – all uniquely prescribed for a patient’s individual circumstances.
With an estimated 20% of the world’s population suffering from IBS, IBD or food related intolerances, there’s an undeniable market for Cara. While the provision of health related advice always has its concerns, their technology is an exciting step into using Artificial Intelligence that could help match the right digestive medicines, to the right patient.
S-There is a US based startup that aims to track what’s happening inside your body, based on data recorded from your urine. A small reusable sensor is fitted inside the toilet where it records a variety of data, from analysing glucose levels for diabetics, to whether or not you need to drink more water.
The venture is still in its early stages, but with support from MIT and the mVision Foundation – a mentorship programme for emerging health technologies – the early signs are encouraging.
The sensor themselves can connect to an app via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and give users real time feedback on certain aspects of their health. It’s a non-invasive, painless and affordable solution that could ultimately be an early-stage detection device for chronic diseases, such as kidney issues.
However if S-There decide to go down the early detection route, they would have to complete the FDA-approval process, but by leaving any medical claims off the table, and simply use the sensor for tracking biomarkers – similar to how Fitbit approaches its wearable’s – the product could come to market much sooner.
While the venture hasn’t received any type of financial backing so far, it’s expected that they will require some form of external capital from angel investors, institutional funding or a crowdfunding campaign, before S-There can really break through into the domestic toilet market.
While some people will always be a little coy about their bodily functions, the problems that PoopTech can address are not just practical, but can have a real and tangible impact on our health and wellbeing. It’s a relatively new sector, but many predict that 2018 will be the year that we all, finally, embrace the poop.