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Preventing water losses: Bulgarian SatGeo wins Innovation Starter Accelerator

Innovation Starter Accelerator 2021 winner coh 3
Image credit: Innovation Starter Accelerator, SatGeo, winners in the third edition of the Accelerator
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SatGeo is the winner in the first joint Demo Day of Innovation Starter Accelerator and “Sofiyska Voda”, part of the French corporation for water, waste, and energy management Veolia. The final pitching event took place on May 31 in Sofia Tech Park and five startups competed to present their smart resource and wаste manаgement solutions.  

The winning project of SatGeo develops technology based on satellite imagery and it helps in the early detection and prevention of accidents on the water supply network. “On a global scale, hidden leaks in water supply systems are the cause for between 80% and 100% of water losses, registered by utility companies. The losses from these leaks account to over €8B and are a huge environmental issue,” Bilyana Nikolova, founder of SatGeo, shared with The Recursive. The startup will receive €25K from the Innovation Starter Accelerator to develop its solution for a 5% equity share. Additionally, the project of SatGeo will be provided with technical support and validation from “Sofiyska Voda”.

The future milestones

Nikolova had previously worked on developing technological solutions in the water sector.  She explained that the main reason for SatGeo’s success is the diverse team of GIS specialists, who created the solution and the business strategy of the company. “Before starting our current venture, the entire SatGeo team was part of the development and implementation of the largest geographic information system in the water sector. The project is the most significant in the sector at the moment at the national level,” the founder added. She also discussed SatGeo’s intake from the accelerator initiative: “Before we joined the program, we were more focused on the technological solution, establishing the methodology and developing our know-how. The accelerator stimulated us to quickly develop a business model and strategy, thus moving us forward.” 

Bilyana Nikolova, founder of SatGeo, ©Bilyana Nikolova

In the next couple of months, SatGeo will be working with “Sofiyska Voda”. The startup will be processing water management data, provided by the water supplier, to suggest strategies for water usage optimization. “We are hopeful to validate our idea and put the solution in practice in Veolia’s water plants in Central and Eastern Europe,” SatGeo’s founder added.

First cycle of a long-term project

The Demo Day represented the culmination of the first joint initiative of Innovation Starter and “Sofiyska Voda”. In August 2020, the two parties signed a 5-year memorandum of cooperation to support local startups that have sustainable development ideas, connected to smart resource and wаste manаgement, cleаn environment, and climаte chаnge. In the partnership, Veolia is the one to select the theme for every venture cycle, while Innovation Starter selects the companies to participate in the program and provides funding for the winners to develop their solutions. 

Five startups participated in the final stage of Demo Day. CW Engineering, Ridotek, InnovaOne, SatGeo, and Smart Water pitched their sustainable tech project ideas in front of a jury of managers from “Sofiyska Voda”, Sofia Investment Agency, Aurubis Bulgaria and Innovation Starter. The event was under the patronage of the European Investment Bank.

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Viktoria is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive and a sophomore-standing student at the American University in Bulgaria. Combining her Business Administration studies while mapping the Southeastern European startup ecosystem is a positive-sum game for her as she has the chance to interact with the most active entrepreneurs in the region. Her favorite topics include venture capital structures, investments, as well as innovations in the scitech and fintech sectors.