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How Can Corporates and Vcs Work Together to Accelerate Green Innovation?

Sofiyska voda
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The impact of green technologies on the environment is best achieved if done at a large scale. Pilot projects and working alongside corporate innovators are sometimes essential for sustainability startups to test their solutions and reach as wide a client base as possible. 

On the other hand, ESG is becoming a focal point of interest for many VCs and angel investors. So, can corporate innovation and venture capital go hand in hand in their efforts to accelerate sustainable innovation across South Eastern Europe? 

To show what is the value in incubating cleantech, greentech, and sustainability-related technologies in a corporate context, Sofiyska voda, operated by Veolia, and The Recursive are holding the hybrid event “Corporate Venturing in SEE for Sustainable Startups” on January 26, 2023. 

Together with corporate innovation leaders, VC investors, and cleantech founders, Sofiyska voda, operated by Veolia, will showcase what are the best practices for regional collaboration between corporate innovators and venture capital investment firms. The event will also seek to explain how corporations can support the growth of local sustainability startups by connecting them to relevant stakeholders in venture capital in Southeast Europe and beyond.

Taking place in-person and online, the “Corporate Venturing in SEE for Sustainable Startups” event will feature panel discussions, startup pitches, keynote speeches, and networking time.

“The green start-up support and scaling have to be a collaborative effort among the corporate living lab environment, the VCs’ long-term investment vision, and a proper legal framework in place,” Lyubomir Filipov, Strategic Partnerships and Projects Director at Sofiyska voda, operated by Veolia, shares for The Recursive.

The corporate innovation initiatives of Sofiyska voda, operated by Veolia

Back in 2020, the French corporation specializing in water, waste, and energy management Veolia (owner of “Sofiyska Voda AD”) and the Bulgarian accelerator and seed fund Innovation Starter announced a partnership aiming to support local sustainability startups. The  5-year memorandum of cooperation has a goal to aid the development of at least 100 companies in the circular economy field, especially startups that develop solutions for clever resource and waste management, clean environment, and climate change.

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The main topic of the last joint program which took place in 2022 was Zero Emissions. Its goal was to find startups, which would boost circular economy initiatives in Bulgaria in the areas of water management and energy efficiency. All the selected teams that participated in the previous cohorts of the program, underwent a 3-month training led by the team of Innovation Starter experts in Sofia Tech Park. After finishing the program, they pitched their ideas in front of Sofiyska Voda, part of Veolia, local ecosystem partners, and VC investors. Some of the teams had an opportunity to validate in a real corporate environment.

Some of the startups that participated in the previous cohorts are:

  • InnovaOne – a project founded by a teacher and his students from the town of Harmanli. Emanuil Manolov, Hristo Hubenov, Dzhano Mihaylov and Darko Tachev are working on sensor technology for real-time reading of pollution and potable water indicators.
  • SatGeo – a project that develops technology based on satellite imagery and it helps in the early detection and prevention of accidents on the water supply network.
  • Sensato – specializes in the development of affordable bee-sensing systems and beehive monitoring technology. 
  • SmartWater – a solution that assesses the processes in water companies and their hardware and software technology to create an individual proposal for improvement and automation – from the reduction of the number of failures to the reduction of the costs of water abstraction, treatment, supply, and sewerage. 


What to expect during the event?

“Corporate Venturing in SEE for Sustainable Startups” will feature two panels on the topics “How corporates work with startups” and “Financing opportunities for startups”. The discussion will be moderated by Irina Obushtarova, Founder and CEO of The Recursive, and will include insights from corporate innovation leaders and startup investors including Francois Debergh, Country Director of Veolia for Bulgaria, Representative from Aurubis, Manyu Moravenov, Director of the Bulgarian Stock Exchange and BEAM for SMEs, Viktor Manev, co-founder and Managing Partner of Impetus Capital, and others. 

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Besides panel discussions, the event will also include two startup pitching sessions for teams with sustainability projects who have worked together with corporate innovators. Some of the teams who will pitch are Vodoraslo, Sensato, and Gridmetrics. The participants can enjoy some networking time after the discussion.

Interested corporate innovators, startup founders, sustainability enthusiasts, investors, and representatives from the regional innovation ecosystem can register for free online or in-person attendance here. 


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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive, an online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. She is keen on sharing the innovation stories that shape the regional ecosystem and has a great interest in fintech, IoT, and biotech startups. Elena is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Political Science at the American University in Bulgaria.