Andrea Demichelis: Founder of Elliot for Water – Ep. 91

You don’t have to do anything. Seriously.

About Andrea Demichelis & Elliot for Water:

Andrea Dimechelis is the founder of Elliot for Water, a mission-driven enterprise to give access to water to millions of people.

How does it work? Simple. Instead of setting your search engine to Google, set it to, and search as you normally would.

The ad revenue and search revenue is diverted to organizations providing drinking water and building solar and other renewable energy sources. In 2020, Elliot for Water hit the goal of donating 1 million liters of fresh water. It’s an approach to doing good I’d never considered, and that’s why I know you’ll be fascinated by Andrea Demichelis. 

Full Unedited Audio Conversation:

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1:41 – “My company is called Elliott for Water, and I created it because I wanted to give every person in the world access to safe water. But the way we are doing it is a little bit different. Instead of creating a charity, I set up a search engine like Google, which is called Elliott for Water. The difference with Google is that 60% of our profit goes to financing clean water projects in developing countries, which means that every time someone searches the web, like for a new podcast to listen to it, for a movie theatre, or a restaurant or whatever, when they click in one of the sponsor links, the part of the money that the search engine generates goes to the water projects.” 

5:23 – “We have an opportunity in the Indian market because India is facing huge water issues. The government has just established a new ministry specifically to give every person in India access to water. But at the same time, they are the second biggest Internet market in the world. They have more than 800 million users. So you get a fraction – you help them, you’re giving them something that they can use that everyone is using already – at the same time, you can realize a project locally; it just makes sense and it opens up a door for us that wasn’t open before and it shows that the opportunity is there even without going in and doing 5 billion searches per day like Google does.” 

7:29 – “I never had any issues in thinking too big or in stopping when something seems too big and I have no idea on how to start…Until two weeks ago, I had no idea on how to start an investment fund. But I know what I want to do. And step by step, you just start talking to people…You find it out as you go. Obviously, I didn’t have any coding skills and I still don’t…So I just found people that will be happy to work with me and with them I figured out how to actually do the practical stuff. I knew the concept. I knew the type of organizations that I’d need to reach…And then as you go, you find out everything else. But if you don’t start, you’ll never find it out.”

12:48 – “The charity that we work with right now, it’s called WellFound and we chose them because they are local, they are small, they work with the government and they work with the village constantly: before, during and after the water project. So they go there, they teach people how to build things, they build it with them. And on top of that, they have them building gardens so that they can start doing agriculture. They teach them how to do different types of agriculture so that they can use water better and so they can get into growing their own food, selling what they don’t use.” 

13:35 – “Most of the charity water projects don’t work as well as planned because the real issue is not that people don’t have access to water. The real issue is that 600 million people in the world don’t have access to affordable options to pay for water…they don’t have anyone that is able to give it to them at a fair price. So what happens is that either they keep on working 6 hours a day to go collect water from an open well that is full of bacteria, or they pay 15 to 20 times more than what they should…they have no money to do anything else – to take care of family, to create their business, to send the kids to school and all these things. So the most sustainable way that there is right now to help with the water project is to put people in a position to buy water at the right price.” 

14:37 – “For example, through microcredit for water kiosks where you employ local people that sell water. And the way that this makes it sustainable is because right now there is a private company who is working and making some money locally, which means that if the water stops, they stops making money. So they will make everything that they can to make sure that the water keeps on sustaining it, that the water keeps on being pure, that the water keeps on reaching the people, and at the same time you are putting a value to what you are giving people because now they are in the position to pay for their own water…and it changes the value that this water adds.” 

19:18 – [On moving away from the corporate world] “I just felt that getting rich for the sake of getting rich was not enough. Because let’s say you have $1 million in the bank – you might be happier, you might not be happier. Certainly life might be easier from a certain perspective but so what? What have you done with that $1 million? What have you changed in the world? Who have you helped? How have you impacted the world?” 

20:46 – “I went back to my hometown a couple of years ago, and I met this guy who knew what I was doing and he said, ‘How much are you donating?’ and I said ‘60% of profit’ and he goes, ‘Oh, why don’t you give 100%? You keep 40%! Why don’t you give your salary too!’ Why? Why should I give all my salary away?…You have to live well in order to keep on helping…If I’m not taking a salary…I can only help for so long because at some point or the other I’m going to be tired and I going to lose motivation and I’m not going to want to do it anymore just because I can’t afford it anymore. Whereas if you put in place a system where it gives back to you and it gives back to the world at the same time, the more you make, the more you are happy, the more you can provide.” 

24:21 – (Ross) “I’ve never felt that having $1,000,000,000 but harming the planet would make me feel good. I’ve always felt that that would make me feel bad. And there’s a lot of examples of that. The movie Citizen Kane, a lot of billionaires lives – billionaires divorcing their wives, having terrible lawsuits – all of these things. We see examples of people who chose money and aren’t happy all the time, and yet we still don’t really embrace the idea that maybe there’s something else and maybe we should consciously choose to embrace those values. Maybe we should choose something beyond just money as our North Star.” 

25:50 – “I am who I am, with or without the money. Money is just a tool. Money amplifies who you are – if you were an asshole before, you are an asshole after. If you are a good person before, you will be a good person after…What I’m trying to do right now is change the perspective and try to think about money as a tool to get me things that I want. And I would like to reach a point where I can get the money to work for me and not that I have to work for money because at the end of the day it is just something that is there and when you die it’s not coming with you.”

29:58 – (Ross) “Let’s say that capitalism is the best that we have for now. Let’s say that people want to do something that they will better themselves. The next question we have to ask is, is it possible to work within that system and fix some of the problems that we’re dealing with, like garbage, like pollution, like water shortages, like climate change, like natural disasters? Is it possible to rethink how we work with these systems so that we don’t incentivize companies to just make a billion plastic straws, for example, that are just going to end up in the oceans because now there’s no incentive not to do that for any company…So we have to ask the question of: is it possible? And if it is possible, what does it look like?”

32:28 – “I think that people would be happy to help and support if it was easy enough, if it was accessible enough. Because as of right now, environmental choices or things of that sort, they require a little bit of change…It’s that first step that might stop a lot of people. If we find ways to make things easier, I believe if we find ways to show others that they can still make money while helping or they can create profit with companies that are helping the climate…but in any case, it’s better to be trying than to just not. So let’s do as best as we can.” 

38:38 – [On making better environmental choices] “That’s also part of our job, I guess, if we decide to take this path, we decide to make certain decisions, then we also have to take on the responsibility to try and…educate more people about the actual situation. Because maybe a lot of them, it’s not even malicious. It’s just that they don’t know.”

40:23 – “Since when we are kids, we are always taught that…each one of us is alone with himself…You need to get rich and not think about the others. If you’re doing homework, you have to do it by yourself…And all this may also play a factor in the fact that we don’t consider everything else as part of us, but just consider we are singular beings and we only have to think about ourselves – and when we think about others, then we have to give up our self. Whereas if we started from the beginning to show…that it is all one thing, and the more my friend is making good, the more I am making good, the more I help him, the more he helps me.” 

45:34 – “I simply listened to what I have inside. I always listen to my gut, to my instincts, to what my soul was telling me. So if you have this feeling that you’re just taking something for the money, whereas you’d like to be doing something completely different – if the simple thought of doing that makes you happier, then try and do that and see where it brings you. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. You do something else afterward, but at least you can give it a try.” 

46:47 – “I think I might be in the smaller percentage of believers in the universe that things that happened to you, happened for a reason. And if something’s not working now, maybe it is because now is not the time and you need to work on something for yourself so that you can have it when it’s time. Like if I now look back to all my life, everything that happened that seemed bad ended up being good for one reason or the other.” 

47:37 – “I always listen to the feelings that I had, even if it didn’t make sense and if I didn’t know why, I always did. Then when the few times that I didn’t, you can see very fast why you should have not done that thing or why you should not have followed that path. It’s just something that the more you do and the louder you hear; you don’t question it anymore.”

52:26 – “I’m definitely excited about the future because with the addition of the investment fund, we believe that we can increase the impact ten times more than we could with only the search engine. And even because with the investment fund, we want to open it not just to access to water, but also to education and climate.”

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