- 22 March 2023
- 3 minutes
For World Water Day, we spoke to InnovationRCA Co-Founder, Beren Kayali. Alongside her partner, Paul Mendieta, she runs Deploy Tech.
They make inflatable concrete water tanks that can be folded, packaged and shipped anywhere in the world – a feature never before seen in the sector. Once arrived, the tanks can be rehydrated and ready to use in 24 hours.
Beren graduated from our MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering in 2020. She told us about Deploy’s mission to tackle the global water crisis through a design infrastructure that is accessible and affordable, and their recent work on disaster relief for the Turkey-Syria Earthquake.
Why did you decide to come to the RCA?
My journey started in high school. I joined a club where we were presented with challenges we had to solve. Whether it was about climate change, food scarcity or robots – I loved problem solving. So I decided to study mechanical engineering at university.
After my degree, I worked for Siemens in Turkey but didn’t enjoy the culture. That’s when I decided to move to London to study at the RCA. I managed to crowdfund the first year of my programme and work through my second year. I was also lucky enough to receive some awards that supported me financially.
What would you say is Deploy's core mission as a fast-growing start-up?
On paper we are building water tanks. But in reality we provide an affordable and sustainable water management system to the rural sector by solving a logistical problem.
How did your journey as an entrepreneur start?
It was at the end of my time at the RCA. I did an internship with Bare Conductive, an RCA alumni company, and I loved the environment. I liked the proactivity culture and also the business element of it. So I decided it would be good if I could create my own business.
I was in touch with the person who then became my Co-Founder, Paul Mendieta. He had also studied at the RCA and had done an internship at Concrete Canvas, one of the first companies supported by InnovationRCA. We would collaborate informally, asking each other questions. Our conversations naturally veered towards the water industry, the rural sector and problem solving. That’s how Deploy Tech was born. We saw it as a personal challenge and opportunity to set up a manufacturing line to work with a new material.
What have you valued the most about being part of InnovationRCA?
At the beginning we were very naive. But the bootcamp we did at InnovationRCA planted the seed and gave us the first push. We lived on the ‘pre-seed funding’ for a year. Then we moved from London to Cardiff, where the factory is. It was thanks to that money we had the confidence and budget to apply for other funding opportunities to get Deploy started.
We learnt a lot about cash flows, forecasting and accounting, to name a few. The bootcamp was really useful at the beginning. We’ve obviously maintained a relationship with InnovationRCA. Whenever we have an emergency or want to connect to someone they might be in touch with, we reach out to them.
What have been some of your proudest achievements so far as co-founder of Deploy?
When we got tanks from the UK all the way to Ecuador for drinking water and to Turkey for earthquake survivors. We just came back from Turkey, where we installed the first few tanks we sent there to train our volunteers. We experienced one of the destructive major aftershocks in person and witnessed the level of sorrow first hand.
Can you tell us more about working with volunteers on disaster relief for the Turkey-Syria Earthquake?
On 6 February when the dual earthquake hit both countries it left more than 500,000 people homeless overnight with an uncountable death toll. I had been following the news and felt uncomfortable seeing people still suffering after three days. I made the call on social media offering three water tanks for displacement camps in Hatay, and luckily it went viral getting over 28 million views.
We were overwhelmed with the inquiries to help so we set-up a crowdfunding campaign. For every £4000 raised, we sent a Deploy tank to the disaster zone. Within the team we worked together under an emergency state to coordinate shipping, purchase filters and spare parts to bring with us. We also got some filter donations from world-renowned brand LifeStraw. We raised enough to send fifteen tanks in total through crowdfunding and private sponsors.
My co-founder Paul Mendieta and I went to Hatay in person to install the first two tanks and train volunteers. We visited all the sites where Deploy tanks were to be installed. When we experienced one of the major aftershocks in Defne, we stayed in one of the displacement camps around a firepit. It was an experience for the whole Deploy team. When the aftershock destroyed the local municipality's 30 tonne water tank, we deployed two new tanks the next day.