How a CCO student founded a Silicon Valley start-up
“Showers have been the same for 100 years. We set out to create a better shower experience first, and save as much water as possible. It turns out the age-old belief that more water equals a better experience isn’t necessarily true.” —Philip Winter, quoted in Architectural Digest, January 2016
Philip Winter is one of three cofounders of Nebia, a water-saving shower system that has attracted the attention of prominent innovators and investors, like Apple CEO Tim Cook. So how did Philip get here and what does his work have to do with his faith in Jesus Christ? He traces it back to his involvement in the CCO’s ministry during his undergraduate years at the University of Pennsylvania.
I became a Christian my sophomore year of college, not long after transferring to Penn. I was dating a girl who was a Christian, and my roommate was also a believer. I became curious about their faith, and that’s when I really heard and understood the Gospel for the first time. Not long after that, I met CCO staff member Mike Chen at a late-night prayer meeting. He had also recently arrived at Penn, and we immediately clicked. We started getting together regularly.
Mike was one of the few people I could interact with who was older, wiser, and deeper in his faith, but who I could also relate to on an eye-to-eye level. He’s a good listener and very thoughtful, and he gave me really good guidance. We started reading St. Augustine in a book group together, and then we moved on to studying the Bible and praying together.
Having just become a Christian and being so passionate about it, I was convinced I needed to go into ministry to serve God. Mike said, “Maybe not.” He helped me understand that I could serve God wherever I chose to work.
I attended the Jubilee conference my junior year. It was my first time ever at a large Christian gathering like that, and it was encouraging to see so many Christians who wanted to serve God through their work.
My first job after graduating from Penn was a one-year fellowship in Mexico City with Endeavor, a nonprofit that does economic development work. I had a degree in international relations and had spent my first year out of college traveling internationally. Now I was talking with entrepreneurs all the time. It was a tremendous experience living in a different culture.
While I was in Mexico, I met Carlos Gomez Andonaegui, who was helping to run a chain of gyms. They were worried about using so much water, which led me and Carlos to the idea of developing water-saving showers. We started working together on a prototype.
At first we thought, “Water is scarce and sanitation is a big issue, so we’ll do this in Mexico.” But then we realized that this issue is important everywhere, so we decided to take a broader approach. We recognized that if we created the brand in San Francisco, where resources would be more available, we would have an opportunity to create a larger impact. So far, it’s proven to be the right path.
Carlos and I connected with Gabriel Parisi-Amon, and the three of us co-founded Nebia together. Gabe is a mechanical engineer—before he joined us, he worked as an iPhone engineer at Apple. His strength is in manufacturing, so he is our Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operating Officer. I am Chief Executive Officer, and Carlos is Chairman and Chief Brand Officer.
â€‹A â€‹while back, Mike Chen asked me, “What does Nebia have to do with Jesus?” He helped me think through what it means to serve God through making water-saving technology. I believe there’s a redemptive nature to our work. On a very core level, we design physical products that people interact with every day. I also hope it helps people to be better stewards of their resources, which is especially important here on the west coast, where water is scarce.
I am also very deliberate about how we shape our corporate environment. My desire as CEO is to love people, to reconcile relationships, and to empower diverse teams. I love seeing the effect of people working together toward a common goal. Our product and our brand is a reflection of that.
We hope to build a long-term sustainable business that helps people reinvent how they conserve water, that will sway and have influence in people’s lives. We are building a brand that represents what we care about: responsible stewardship, treating people the right way, and having the right end goal in mind.
I want to reflect Jesus in the way I lead, how I pray, and how I trust God to direct my path.