Philip Kang ’18

Philip Kang ’18

Student Profile: Summer Fellowship at Folia Water

Philip Kang ’18 learned about the challenging and rewarding world of innovative startups during his Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship while working at Folia Water, a company producing inexpensive and disposable water filters aimed at improving the lives of 1.8 billion people who lack access to clean water. The filters are made principally of paper and cost 50 cents for a week’s worth of use. After ten years of research in the lab and in developing countries, Folia Water launched in 2016 with help from the Tamer Fund for Social Ventures.

Since shifting from sales to small NGOs to commercial channels, Folia Water has received widespread attention. One of Kang’s responsibilities was screening over 50 inbound inquiries from distributors and eventually pursuing the eight most promising ones. He also conducted research to aid in the company’s transition to a consumer goods purveyor. He used information about how non-durable goods are marketed in developing countries to create a strategy for Folia Water to follow moving forward. Lastly, Kang searched for the right investors to become financial and strategic partners. He cited his four courses in entrepreneurship as giving him techniques to use when talking to investors.

Kang’s biggest challenges throughout his fellowship were related to Folia Water’s size and age. After the founder and CEO, Kang was Folia Water’s third employee. He encountered a robust workload because of this and learned the reality of being an entrepreneur with a small team while building a network through the 500 Startups Accelerator that Folia Water is a part of.

Kang believes that as a leading educational institution, Columbia Business School should have a stake in social and environmental issues. As the effects of climate change intensify, he thinks that everyone has a responsibility to tackle the problem little by little.

Before attending the School, Kang earned a master’s degree in environmental science from Columbia University and worked for six years at a large consulting company. In the future, he intends to become an entrepreneur himself, using his knowledge of the international consumer market and experience in a startup environment to guide him forward.

By Sophie Drew