Sustainable Urban Communities



Scaling access to clean water through sustainable businesses in developing markets

Team Lead

Dan Nolan

Basic Information

Our Solution


Our solution's stage of development:


Our solution:

UNTAPPED integrates decentralized, off-grid water treatment centers with last-mile distribution and logistics of consumer goods for fast-growing populations in developing countries.

Our pitch:

The problem:

The world’s population is rapidly urbanizing-Africa is expected to add another 1 billion people in the next 30 years. Government-managed, centralized models for water and energy won’t be able to meet this fast-growing demand.  At the same time, consumers living in these rapidly urbanizing regions see higher prices and limited product availability because of inefficient supply chains due to poor infrastructure.  

It’s both a growing humanitarian crisis as well as an opportunity to improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions through decentralized, market-based solutions.

Why our solution will solve the problem:

UNTAPPED builds and manages decentralized water treatment centers in rapidly urbanizing regions lacking infrastructure for basic services such as clean water and energy. These centers provide clean water for local communities, and act as efficient hubs for last-mile distribution of essential consumer goods. The result is that clean water and healthy foods such as milk are available through local retailers at ½-¼ of the lowest market prices.  

By combining the local logistics and commercial networks for clean water with last-mile consumer product distribution, UNTAPPED makes both more efficient.

Target Outcomes

Our target outcomes:

UNTAPPED today serves clean water in communities of over 300,000 in Haiti. The majority of UNTAPPED’s current customers live on less than $2/day and did not previously have affordable access to clean water.  It also employs over 100 local staff in areas with over 80% unemployment while helping 527 micro-retailers boost their net incomes reselling water and other essential goods.

Because UNTAPPED uses off-grid solar energy, current operations displace 369 metrics tons/year of CO2 emissions, equivalent to taking 79 cars off the streets.

How we will measure our progress:

  • Outcome: Increase affordable access to clean for underserved populations
    Measurement Plan: Use our mobile IT to track point-of-sales for clean water in underserved regions. Mobile IT tracking system has been in place for last 4 years.
  • Outcome: Employment and Economic Improvement
    Measurement Plan: Use our mobile IT to track point-of-sales for clean water in underserved regions. Mobile IT tracking system has been in place for last 4 years.
  • Outcome: Displacement of CO2 emissions
    Measurement Plan: Tracking of use of solar energy for displacement of CO2 emissions from water trucking and water treatment using generators elsewhere.

The populations we will benefit initially:

  • Child
  • Low-income economies (< $1005 GNI)
  • Early childhood education
  • Primary
  • Urban

The regions we will benefit initially:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Latin America and the Caribbean

The technologies we employ:

  • Consumer-facing software (mobile applications, cloud services)
  • Energy & nuclear engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Imaging and sensor technology
  • Manufacturing & process optimization

Why our solution is unique:

UNTAPPED integrates proven technology (mobile IT, solar, water treatment) with a business model designed for developing markets.   Most good technology point solutions fail because they lack the appropriate business model for developing countries. UNTAPPED’s technology was built for the challenges of informal markets. As an example, UNTAPPED’s mobile IT system directly addresses the pain points of working with micro-retailers in informal markets.

Also, UNTAPPED combines decentralized clean water with last-mile distribution logistics, improving unit economics of the basic water kiosk model to boost scalability and economic sustainability -- a missing result for many water projects.  

Why our solution is human-centered:

Our model was designed and created specifically for underserved consumers in developing countries.  We started by understanding the pain points and market inefficiencies of informal markets in which much of the world’s poor live.  We then designed a business model and sought the most appropriate technology to address these issues; we did not attempt to apply pre-conceived technology or systems.

Execution of the model is led 100% by local staff.  Technical support from outside expertise helps to fine tune processes and tools, not to lead or manage them.  UNTAPPED’s model scales through the local economy -- local entrepreneurs, retailers, and consumers.

How people will access our solution:

UNTAPPED establishes local production and local distribution to supply clean water to underserved consumers at ½-¼ the current price. Pricing, logistics, and distribution networks through micro-retailers are designed to plug into general trading in informal markets, the dynamic mechanism through which much of the world’s poor serves their essential needs.

Localizing production and creating local distribution networks from existing micro-retailers make our products more affordable and more available because we’ve 1) reduced the cost of transport, and 2) addressed inefficiencies in the supply chain such as the number of middlemen and the ability of shopkeepers to finance and hold inventory.

Technology-Readiness Level:

6-8 (Demonstration)
Business Plan

Our organization:


How we will sustain our team financially:

UNTAPPED’s pilot, dloHaiti in Haiti, has already been financed by international institutional investors.  It has also already proven its unit economics, with all sites cash-flow positive impacting several hundred thousand people in three separate regions of Haiti.

UNTAPPED’s next step is to scale the model in Haiti to Sub-Saharan African markets with similar market drivers (informal markets, lack of public infrastructure).  To do so, it seeks to further systematize its operational processes and IT tools, and make them available to local partners through a platform-as-a-service.  This platform can empower local entrepreneurs to adopt key parts of the model to improve scalability and profitability of their operations or to start new operations more quickly and successfully.

UNTAPPED is seeking $1.2M in financing to fund the development and rollout of this platform to reach the milestone of financial sustainability in 2019.

The factors limiting our success:

A key factor limiting our ability to succeed is identifying the right partnerships for our expansion effort. The expansion will require operational partners in each market who are the best placed to execute and scale our model. It will also require technology and business solutions that can improve our value  for partners, micro-retailers, and consumers.

With groups such as the Global Safe Drinking Water Alliance and MIT SOLVE, we aim to connect with more vital partners, whether individuals, partner companies, or advisors for this expansion and increase the value we can bring to developing countries.

How long we have been working on our solution:

4 years

How long it will take to develop a pilot:

We have already developed a pilot.

How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:

12-18 months

Our expected annual budget:


How much of our budget we've secured to date:


Partnership Needs

We're looking for partners in these fields:

  • Financial Inclusion
  • Income Generation
  • Water Treatment
  • Built Infrastructure
  • Supply Chain Management

Why we're applying to Solve:

Connecting informal regions to the global marketplace will require expertise and solutions from different disciplines.  While UNTAPPED focuses on clean water and last mile logistics, integrating other solutions into the operating platform will help boost the value it offers to underserved, rapidly urbanizing communities.

UNTAPPED intends to participate in the SOLVE ecosystem by sharing and gathering ideas and approaches to challenges that can help improve its current solutions and the overall platform as well as supporting other initiatives.  

Ultimately, UNTAPPED seeks to be one effective channel for reaching urban consumers with many essential services.

Our current partners:

UNTAPPED’s current partners include investors such as the IFC (World Bank), FMO (Dutch Development Bank), Leopard Capital, Miyamoto International, Isle Utilities, and Danone Communities as well as alliances such as the Global Safe Drinking Water Alliance which includes funders and implementers advocating decentralized water solutions.

Solution Team

  • Jim Chu Chief Executive Officer, UNTAPPED
  • Dan Nolan Untapped
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