How a budding entrepreneur convinced Tim Cook to be his first investor – Fast Company

Nebia is an award-winning producer of luxurious, low-flow showerheads and eco-conscious bathroom accessories. But it began with a single, mysterious investor: Tim Cook.

The company’s flagship product is a $120 showerhead, produced with Moen, which transforms the water pressure of a cheap motel into a spa-worthy experience. Nebia products have raised $9 million to date on Kickstarter and are installed in over 100,000 homes, saving an estimated 400 million gallons of water, and counting. And this week, Nebia launches its first towel—made of 30% upcycled textiles—a move that will expand the market reach of its products by 15x. It’s on Kickstarter now.

But back in October of 2014, Nebia president and cofounder Philip Winter was a doe-eyed 24-year-old who had just moved to San Francisco with a couple of awkward showerhead prototypes and a dream. The prototypes were actually built by the father of his cofounder Carlos Gomez Andonaegui. When Andonaegui was CEO of a gym company in Mexico, he realized the largest variable cost to his business was the water bill. His father, a retired engineer in his nineties, spent two years working on the design of a low-flow showerhead that could atomize water into tiny droplets so it would feel like you were taking a shower in a cloud—all while using 85% less water than from a typical showerhead.

[Photo: Nebia]

The idea of a luxurious, water-saving showerhead was good on paper. But Winter needed funding. He needed product feedback. And he needed a network.

“I know basically nobody in the Bay Area other than two college friends,” recalls Winter. “We start knocking on people’s doors, literally and metaphorically. Nine out of ten people were like, ‘We can’t help you.’ But the magic of Silicon Valley is that one person says, ‘Here’s three people,’ and boom, I had three meetings. . . . If you do enough of those, pound on enough doors, you get places.”

Nebia cofounders (from left) Carlos Gomez Andonaegui, Philip Winter, and Gabriel Parisi-Amon [Photo: Nebia]

Winter made quick progress. Within a month, he talked his way into Google headquarters, where he was invited to test his showerheads to learn if people actually liked the unique low-flow design. This simple market research was necessary for a complicated product. Winter’s friends, family, and, of course, Andonaegui had tried the showerhead, but he needed to know what others thought—people who were uninvested in his dream.

“Getting feedback on a showerhead is not easy,” says Winter. “It’s not like an app. You have to get someone to come in physically, get naked, get out [of the shower], and tell you about that experience. It’s a labor. So the best place to do that was gyms.”

Winter found a gym in the Bay Area that would let him test it with their customers, the only catch being that he had to arrive at the break of dawn each day to install his two showerheads. (Paranoid about the possibility of stolen prototypes—a concern of bathroom espionage that Winter laughs at now—he also uninstalled them each night.)

[Photo: Nebia]

The first morning, he arrived and set up his showerhead in the women’s locker room in a quick 10 minutes.

“I was walking out of the women’s, and into the men’s locker room, when lo and behold, 10 feet ahead of me, sitting on the bench press was this person I recognized,” says Winter. “Squinting …….



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