Start-ups

'Shark Tank': Chemist's water filter invention was inspired by Flint crisis—why Mark Cuban invested $400,000

Source: ABC

The companies that appear on ABC's "Shark Tank" often solve quirky problems like keeping beer cold or solving under-breast sweat. But some are in the business of tackling bigger issues, like helping provide access to clean drinking water. That was the case for Eric Roy, a PhD and chemist who pitched his customized water filters on Sunday's episode, ultimately scoring a six-figure deal with Mark Cuban.

"The response to the segment has been overwhelmingly positive. The experience on the show was amazing. The ability to get feedback from the Sharks (positive and constructive) is something that we'll take to heart as we move the company forward," Roy tells CNBC Make It of his experience on the show.

The idea for Roy's company, Hydroviv, and its customized water filtration system, was sparked by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, during which thousands of children were exposed to lead-contaminated water. At the time, Roy was working on technology for the Department of Defense.

"I set up in my studio apartment in Washington, D.C. and just started building high-capacity lead removal filters and donating them to people in child-centric organizations in Flint," he explains on the show.

That got him thinking: Different cities have different contaminants in their water, so why were water filter companies creating one-size-fits-all systems? Roy set about creating something different — an under-the-sink water filter that is customized to each customer's needs.

Hydroviv researches water quality data for each customer's area and then builds a water filter system to match, whether that requires removal of lead or of arsenic or other myriad of things. The average sale price for the filter, Roy says on the show, is $190, with a filter lasting six months. Customers can then subscribe to receive replacement cartridges for $55.

While Roy says lead and arsenic levels in drinking water are a problem in many areas of the United States, guest judge Rohan Oza says he thinks it will be hard to build enough awareness around the issue, so he's out.

Roy — who is seeking a $400,000 investment in exchange for 10 percent of his company — explains he wants to use the money from the deal to hire marketing and advertising specialists. Lori Greiner says she also thinks the marketing is too complicated.

"Your product is not a water filter. Your product is trust," Mark Cuban chimes in, adding he doesn't think that Roy needs a marketing person to sell it. In fact, he thinks Roy should get out there himself.

"We want to get you out there," Cuban says. "We want to get you scaring the hell out of people, and getting you on the shows and just saying, 'I'm here to answer all of your questions.' That's what I used to do with technology. I never spent a nickel on advertising."

Cuban adds that he likes businesses that do good and offers $400,000 for 20 percent of the company, which Roy eventually accepts.

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Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to ABC's "Shark Tank."