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From Wall Street to Water Wells - Our Founder's Story

How a corporate CEO became a global change-maker.

From a Special Operations Officer to a successful CEO of a cloud technology company - after ringing the bell on Wall Street at age 38, David thought he had his professional life pretty much figured out. “I felt successful.” Until a meeting with a six-year-old boy in Haiti changed his life drastically. This is the story of our founder in our Path to Purpose series — one about breaking with expectations and diving into the dark waters.

It was 2014, and in a five-minute meeting, David got fired as the CEO of a big cloud technology company in Philadelphia. Up until then, he had been a professional athlete, a special operations officer, and a corporate executive. The Monday after he was fired, he went from receiving about 130 emails a day to only two — one from his mother and one from his aunt. They both told him they were praying for him. “My aunt is a nun, so that one definitely counted,” David says.

“I took stock of my life to determine what I really wanted it to be about.”

His life paused. David was forced to listen to his intuition. He learned, took a few risks, spent some nights in a mosquito-infested cabin in Haiti, and found himself on a path more rewarding than he ever thought possible. “Like many who find themselves at a crossroads, I took stock of my life to determine what I really wanted it to be about.”

‘This job is written for you’

“When the board of the company told me I was no longer their CEO, it felt like I stepped off the bullet train. And while that train kept going at 100 miles an hour, everybody around me, including myself, expected me to just jump on the next one and take another job with a big tech company. So I started interviewing with this billion-dollar company in New York for a CEO position. Definitely a sweet gig, but, as it turned out, it was not where I was supposed to go.”

“One night during that month, I was scrolling on LinkedIn and came across this job posting: CEO for Wine To Water. Wine To Water was a small nonprofit in Boone, North Carolina, providing clean water solutions all over the world. The job asked for field experience, which I had over ten years in the Navy. It also asked for an organizational growth experience. I had just done that for nine years at the tech company.” David pauses. “When I showed it to my wife, she actually started crying and said, ‘David, this job is written for you.’”

However, David wasn’t convinced right away. “My biggest concern was, ‘Can I make a real difference? Is this worth moving my family to North Carolina for?’ I spent time learning more about the organization and its incredible work, but it wasn’t until I went to Haiti and visited a local office that I got my answer. A little boy walked in with his mother. The boy looked like he was three years old. The interpreter told me he was actually six, but he had suffered from diarrhea his entire childhood because of the lack of clean water. Due to his sickness, his inability to maintain any nutrients had prevented him from growing. This totally rocked me. I realized there was little I could do for the billions of people who lack access to clean water, but for that kid, that day, we could solve this problem by providing a simple water filter that would change his life. And tomorrow, we could do the same for the next kid and the next. That was worth moving for.”

Returns that are real

“And now, my journey has taken its next step. Inspired by the great work I witnessed at Wine To Water for over five years, I’m on a new mission to help connect hard-earned capital from people and companies to life-altering change initiatives.”

Since 2014, David’s mindset has shifted from a small box of expectations to anything is possible. “We need to open ourselves up to that possibility. In this world, it is easy to think about what I can accumulate. But over and over, I know being my best self demands that I consider first what I can contribute, how I can bring my talents to the table to help build better companies and society. Those returns are real. When you contribute, the rewards are ten times higher and, I believe, even financially. If you’re contributing to making things better in a sincere and authentic way, people want to be involved and want to contribute.”

When you contribute, the rewards are ten times higher and, I believe, even financially.

“I am compelled to help companies think about this and what it might mean for them. I am convinced, and I think the data supports this, that a company can improve its health and even its financial performance by being an honest and responsible citizen organization of the world. But all too often, it seems we’re afraid to get in those waters. It takes leadership to dive in first. I want to invite others to be that leader, dive into those dark waters, and find their deeper purpose. Even if that sounds frightening.”

David Cuthbert

  • 1993–1997: United States Naval Academy – Bachelor of Science (BS), Economics
  • 1997–2006: LT, Special Operations (EOD) – US Navy
  • 2006–2014: CEO, President, COO – Alteva (Cloud Communications Service Provider)
  • 2014–2019: CEO, Wine To Water – Nonprofit organization
  • 2019–Present: CEO, Founder – Global Imprint

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