Michael Fritz is a conceptual activist and co-founder of the international network Viva con Agua. Viva con Agua is a network of people and organizations committed to establish access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation for all humans worldwide.
He founded the Viva con Agua initiative in 2006 together with friends. Viva con Agua is the first organisation in the field of social change that advocates the all-profit principle: the actions around the vision “WATER FOR ALL-ALL FOR WATER” benefit everyone involved. Now their offices and locations are not just in Germany, but also in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Uganda and since 2020 in South Africa and California. Thanks to their work, the living conditions of more than 3 million people worldwide have been sustainably improved.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and describe your journey as an entrepreneur?
My name is Michael Fritz. I am 40 years old, a father of two lovely children, a husband, an activist and a co-founder of the international charity movement and social enterprise Viva con Agua. To be honest, there was no real plan when starting Viva con Agua. It was more like we were constantly coming up with new innovative formats for people to get involved on a simple, sometimes sexy and structural level.
What were some of the key milestones along the way?
The most important milestones were collecting cup deposits* at all the music festivals, organizing the Wassertage festivals, walking from Hamburg to Basel in 2008, founding the first social enterprise selling bottled social water, inventing the Millerntor Gallery art festival, founding Goldeimer eco-toilets and social toilet paper, founding Viva con Agua Uganda, and founding Villa Viva.
* a reusable cup for a fee/deposit, upon return of which you would receive the deposit back.
Looking back on your entrepreneurial career, what are the three most important lessons you learned that you think every aspiring entrepreneur should know?
- Keep it simple, sexy, structural and always social.
- Do not annoy artists, musicians and celebrities with requests for collaborations, for example.
- Try to be easy to cooperate with.
Viva con Agua’s firm belief is that even the most serious topics in the world can be battled with joy
Starting a business often means taking risks. How do you assess the risks in your ventures and how do you deal with them? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs on navigating uncertainties?
To be honest, we were very lucky and privileged.
My, Co-founder and a Chairman of the Board at Viva con Agua Foundation, Benjamin Adrion* was a former professional football player and I was a student of history and English. At that time, there was no real risk for us. And as I said, we had no real plan. We went with the flow.
*Benjamin Adrion, went on a training camp on Cuba, where he first witnessed the dimension of the lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation first hand. With this motivation and partnering with the German Welthungerhilfe he then initiated Viva con Agua in Germany.
The idea behind Viva con Agua is ALL -PROFIT
Building a strong network is critical for entrepreneurs. What strategies have you used throughout your career to build meaningful connections and partnerships? How has networking contributed to your success?
The idea behind Viva con Agua is ALL -PROFIT*
Everyone should benefit from participating in Viva con Agua – partners, staff, volunteer supporters, donors and beneficiaries.
And as I said before, building partnerships and a community of supportive artists, musicians and celebrities is about networking, and not by annoying them.
*Viva con Agua wants everybody to benefit from their support, even the volunteers. The focus is on the All Profit idea. Eye level engagement is the key. Viva con Agua does not see their support as a donation, but rather as an investment in water projects and, ultimately, in a better future for all.
One of the challenges for many entrepreneurs is finding the right balance between innovation and market demand. How do you approach this balance and what steps do you take to ensure your products/services match market needs?
Viva con Agua’s social mission already implies innovation. When we founded Viva con Agua or Goldeimer or Villa Viva, there was no social alternative in these markets, neither in bottled water, nor in toilet paper, nor in hotels.
Scaling a business requires effective leadership and team management. What leadership qualities do you think are essential to leading a successful team, and how do you foster a positive work culture in your company?
The most important quality for me is authenticity
Hard to say – much harder to live it.
In your experience, what are the most effective marketing and branding strategies for early-stage startups? How can entrepreneurs make the most of their limited resources to gain awareness and attract customers?
For Viva con Agua, the most important marketing and branding has always been water activism, campaigns, and events. We are not just one organization, but a global community with a vision to provide access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all. Commonality is the key.
Viva Con Agua is an organization that promotes and supplement major water projects to ensure clean water is accessible for all humans.
Financial management is critical to an organization’s sustainability and growth. What financial practices or strategies have you found most useful in managing cash flow, securing financing and making sound financial decisions?
At the end of the day, it’s not that complex. It’s simpler than it seems. You need a plus in the bank account and a financial back-up for crises or times like the Covid pandemic.
Many entrepreneurs experience setbacks and failures along the way. Can you give us a specific example where you encountered a major challenge or failure and how you overcame it? What lessons did you learn from this experience?
For me, the biggest daily struggle is balancing working for the love of my life – Viva con Agua – and spending time with the other love of my life – my family.
A healthy work-family balance is a big challenge for me.
Just do it
As an experienced entrepreneur, what advice would you give to someone who is just starting their entrepreneurial journey? What are the key factors or habits that contribute to long-term success in the business world?
Just do it
There is no perfect start
There is no perfect team
There is no perfect setup
Just do it
Technology and digital transformation have revolutionised various industries. How have you used technology in your business and what new trends do you think entrepreneurs should keep an eye on in the coming years?
As far as I know the world of technology, the biggest changes are coming in the field of artificial intelligence.
At Viva con Agua, we are still in the process of digitization.
Viva con Agua started in the analogue world and we have been transforming it to the digital world for a long time. Corona was a booster and we had to speed up the process, but it is still ongoing.
Finally, could you tell us some recommended resources such as books, websites or communities that have been valuable to you as an entrepreneur? How do you keep up with industry trends and continue to learn and grow?
I recommend all the universal languages like art, music, and sports.
From my perspective, innovation starts at the edge of these genres when you either step out of your comfort zone or combine one genre with another.
And working with artists keeps me on my toes. Networking, listening and learning from others is key.
We are thrilled to announce speakers for this year’s Pirate Summit! Get ready to hear from some of the most innovative and inspiring minds in business, tech, and beyond. 🚀
One of the speakers is Michael, a conceptual activist and co-founder of the international network Viva con Agua. Viva con Agua Foundation is the first organisation in the field of social change to advocate the all-profit principle: the actions around the vision “WATER FOR ALL-ALL FOR WATER” benefit all participants. Thanks to this work, the living conditions of more than 3 million people worldwide have been sustainably improved.
👉Readers of Business Observer24 get a 20% discount on Pirate Summit tickets. Discount code “Marko20” can be redeemed on the site of Pirate Summit HERE!