Anika Joshi with her SipSafe invention attached to a public waterfountain.
Anika Joshi with the SipSafe device installed at the Kirkland City Hall.

The Kirkland Chamber of Commerce hosted the Investor Sharks Northwest competition. Once again we had a great response from the community and we are glad to announce this year’s winner: SipSafe. 

Here’s Anika Joshi, the founder, and inventor of SipSafe in her own words.

Every product starts with identifying a problem. I noticed that water fountains in public places have a lot of surfaces we touch. Upon researching some more, I learned that touch-based water fountains are a large contributor to the spreading of viruses and illnesses. I wanted to solve this problem by converting touch-based water fountains into touchless ones. I aimed to create a much cheaper solution compared to the thousands of dollars it costs to buy a replacement. My plan was to build a reasonably priced device that snaps onto a regular water fountain, making it a touchless and environmentally-friendly option that avoided waste from throwing away the old model. Even as life gets back to normal, water fountains continue to spread germs and illnesses in our communities. Although I got my idea during the pandemic, this device is as relevant for viruses like influenza and rotavirus. My goal for the future is to make all water fountains touchless so that everyone can “sip safe”.

I started tinkering by connecting sensors, motors, and batteries, to an Arduino, which is a platform for making DIY hardware devices. I programmed the Arduino to push a button when anyone approaches the sensor. Once this mechanism worked, I had to create an outer shell that encloses the electronics and snaps onto a water fountain.

After six months of tinkering and failing but not giving up, my first prototype was ready! Now came the moment I was waiting for. I took my prototype to the Kirkland library so I could test it out. To my huge disappointment, it had several flaws. This took me right back to the drawing board to make more modifications. I made several quick prototypes out of cardboard so I could make adjustments to get to the right dimensions and locations for all the parts of my device. I made over 20 prototypes over six more months and used what I learned from each version to improve the next. After a year and a half of work and multiple failed prototypes, my vision came true, and I had finally developed a successful product!

Today SipSafe is a patent-pending device that has been installed in businesses and schools. Kirkland city council is piloting SipSafe as well.

I shared my product with my entrepreneurship teacher Dr. Wrenchey at Tesla STEM High School. She was really excited to hear about SipSafe and encouraged me to compete in the upcoming Investor Sharks Northwest competition hosted by the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce.

To compete I had to create a business plan. I started by studying Industry trends and identifying Sipsafe’s target market. I calculated the size of the opportunity with just schools and libraries in the US alone, representing a revenue of 7.5 million dollars. I then did a competitor analysis to come up with my pricing strategy for SipSafe. I worked on a growth plan, operational costs, and marketing budget to arrive at my sales and revenue projections for the next three years. Putting all this together was intimidating at first, but I learned a lot and feel I am so much better prepared to grow my business now.

After two rounds of the competition, four teams were chosen to present to Investors. The competition attracts great talent, all the competitors that participated this year were incredibly innovative, and I learned a lot from their pitches. I was extremely nervous presenting to the judges and investors, but they were incredibly supportive and enthusiastic and gave all of us great feedback and ideas. After a nail-biting judges’ deliberation, SipSafe was declared the winner, and I was awarded $2000 in prize money!

Participating in the Investor Sharks Northwest Competition has been a life-changing experience for me. I have learned how to present my ideas with confidence. I have acquired new skills and knowledge on all aspects of running a business. The whole experience is like a crash course in business. I would recommend this to every high schooler. The hands-on experience of developing a business was extremely rewarding.

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