The charismatic and innovative Fletcher Wilson, founder and former CEO of Fogarty graduate company InterVene, made a big shift in his career during COVID. While he remains on the board of InterVene, he returned to his entrepreneurial roots and is now co-founder and CEO of Throne, a company dedicated to reinventing the out-of-home bathroom experience to be more pleasant with a modernized infrastructure and first-of-its kind cloud-connected network. The company has already closed a $6 million seed round with investments from Sandalphon Capital, along with several family offices and angel investors.
Always on the lookout for problems to solve, Fletcher realized that the public bathroom experience was in need of a redesign. As many of us know all too well, finding an adequate, clean restroom outside the home or office isn’t an easy task. Leveraging the skillsets that led him to found InterVene, Fletcher dug deeper into the problem.
Building on previous experience to launch Throne
Using the successful strategy he honed while with Fogarty, Fletcher started with the end in mind and evaluated the various needs.
“I started investigating needs in the healthcare setting, looking at various metabolic disorders and thinking about ways in which more ‘bathroom data’ might help people manage chronic disorders such as IBS or IBD,” said Fletcher. He went down this path with a prototype “smart toilet” in his basement bathroom, which often surprised family and friends who were commonly asked to consent to an impromptu data collection study. But ultimately, Fletcher decided the more universal problem to solve involved bathroom access more broadly.
What solidified this for him was when he began asking Uber and Amazon drivers where they went to the bathroom and logging the responses. “I was surprised by how strategic drivers were about finding a bathroom. One driver would put on a necktie he kept in his glove compartment whenever he dropped someone off at a hotel, just so he could pretend he was staying at the hotel to use the bathroom,” said Fletcher. “This really struck me, as people felt the need to put on a ‘costume’ just to go to the bathroom at work. That’s how the the idea of an office bathroom for the mobility worker came about, yet it has extensive use for others – from parents of potty-training toddlers to people enjoying the outdoors.”
“Everyone at some point needs an accessible, functional and clean toilet, but I realized those who drive for a living had this need consistently,” Fletcher says. “There’s a very strong business case for a more modern bathroom infrastructure, and the pandemic made the timing to launch the new endeavor even more urgent.
Regarding InterVene, I was lucky to have Jeff Elkins as COO. He was a multi-time CEO with a lot of experience running large scale pivotal trials in the venous space. The timing was right to hand over the reins to hjim, and I was fortunate to have a supportive board to collaborate through the transition. I even had help from a few Fogarty team members who mentored me through the difficult decision.”
Building on the lessons learned from his past experience starting a company, Fletcher knew he would prefer a larger founding team rather than acting as the sole decision maker. Accordingly, he launched Throne with five team members whose professional expertise ranges from digital health and hardware to the area where Fletcher had the least expertise, the portable toilet industry. “I was very fortunate to get connected with the current owners of RiverCity Corp, a 50-year-old porta potty business,” he says.
The company was built on a core value of inclusiveness, with every employee having a voice and sharing in its success with stock.
Making a “go” of it in Washington DC
The team ran various pilot programs in Virginia and then Washington D.C., as they developed the product and service, and have now launched a fully operational product, which they plan to ramp into a full-fledged “smart bathroom network” over the coming months and years. Thrones are modular, solar-powered, cloud-connected bathrooms that can be placed anywhere in an urban or rural environment. Users can use a QR code or an App to enter for free, for a touchless and clean experience. And users are invited to rate the Throne on cleanliness after every use, which informs Throne’s real-time data responsive operational teams.
“On the inside, it’s indistinguishable from a nice hotel lobby bathroom. It is NOT a porta potty – it’s equipped with flushing porcelain fixtures, running water sink, large mirror and flattering lighting, and in our most recent Thrones we even have local art!” Fletcher says. Although currently limited to DC locations, Thrones can be placed anywhere there is a high bathroom need – whether it’s on a sidewalk or in a park or parking lot of a store.
“As Andrew Cleeland often says, when you are seeking a solution, it either needs to be minimally better and much cheaper, or be much better and cost the same. When compared to municipal plumbed installations requiring years of permitting and construction work, we are confident Throne can be significantly cheaper, infinitely more flexible, and orders of magnitude quicker to implement for cities and other private host entities,” says Fletcher.
Current partners include various business improvement districts of Washington D.C., small municipalities, park services, REEF technologies, and other local bars, restaurants and small businesses.
The growing company is looking for ways to expand the service to new cities and events. Businesses or individuals who want more information about hosting a Throne can contact the company here.