FloWater just raised $15 million to put bottled water out of business

FloWater, an eight-year-old, Burlingame, Ca.-based company whose reusable water bottle refilling stations produce purified water, has raised $15 million in its first major round of funding. Bluewater, a Swedish company that sells water purifiers, among other things, led the round.

FloWater caters to schools, colleges, fitness centers, hotels, and offices, and, in the words of CEO Rich Razgaitis, set out to address four environmental concerns from the outset: obesity in the U.S., which has been tied in part to the rise of sugary, carbonated beverages; the nearly 40 billion single-use plastic water bottles that are used up and tossed aside every year;  the millions of barrels of oil and hundreds of millions of pounds of CO2 byproduct waste used to create and transport bottled water; and the toxins in single-use plastic bottles, including endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

It has a pretty compelling case to make, in short, as other purveyors of refilling stations would surely argue, and which clearly persuaded 13 investors altogether (according to a new SEC filing) to write checks to the company.

And it all started with an $18,600 bank loan, according to the company’s founder, Wyatt Taubman, who remains on the company’s board but stepped aside as head honcho in 2015 and has since founded a cold-pressed juice company.

Per his LinkedIn, Taubman, says he used that bank loan to launch a pilot refill station, before shaking $125,000 out of friends and family, and a second, $62,000 loan to launch additional refill stations. The company later raised $950,000 from the Tech Coast Angels and the Hawaii Angels, hired Razgaitis, redesigned the look of its product and, in 2016, raised $2.6 million in Series A funding.

FloWater customers include Google, Airbnb, Specialized Bikes, and, somewhat ironically, Red Bull.

It says its stations are now in nearly 50 states.

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Samsung’s Space Monitor is practical and minimal

Samsung always has a huge presence at CES, but it isn’t the giant TVs and flashy next-generation gadgets that have my attention this year; it’s this simple, flexible monitor that looks like it would be right at home in any workspace. It’s called the Space Monitor, presumably because it gives you space, not because it’s meant for use in space. I don’t see why you couldn’t, though.

What the Space Monitor does is very simple: it clamps to your desk and sits straight up from the edge — up against the wall if there is one — and takes up about as little space as it’s possible for a display to.

When you want to bring something closer, or lower, or just need to adjust the angle or whatever, the neck of the monitor lets you bring it down all the way to the level of your desk and tilt it up or down as well (though not side to side). Cables go up through the stand so you won’t see them at all.

Combined with very thin bezels on the sides (there’s a thicker, but still very reasonable one on the bottom) this makes for quite a minimal presence, and it could allow someone (like me) to shrink their workspace in some dimension or other. I like my Dell Ultrasharps, but if I was putting together a new desk situation, I’d probably look very hard at these Samsungs.

Sure, you could do a wall mount, but this is much easier and you don’t have to fiddle around with tools or load calculations. Just clamp it on there.

There are two models, a 27-inch QHD (2560×1440) model and a 32-inch 4K one (3840×2160); the latter costs $500, so the former will probably be a bit less. They use VA panels, which hopefully will be about as good as IPS, though of course not quite so good as OLED (though for that tech you’d have to add another zero to the price).

Only downside: 60 Hz maximum refresh rate. That’s a possible dealbreaker for some. But the specs also list a 4 ms response time, without explaining further. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood, but I asked Samsung to explain the discrepancy. The specs for the 27-inch display could also differ.

It feels nice to have a reason to visit the actual CES main halls this year. And of course, for the maximalists out there, I’ll also be sure to check out the mammoth new ultrawide:

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