Aussie AI-for-sewer-repair startup VAPAR has bagged $700,000 in seed funding, as it gears up to take its automation tech international.
The round includes backing from Blackbird Ventures and Startmate, as well as from a group of angel investors.
Founded in 2018 by school friends and university classmates Amanda Siqueira and Michelle Aguilar, VAPAR uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyse video footage of the inside of stormwater and sewage pipes and identify any areas that might be in need of repair.
It’s addressing a little-known problem, but one that makes for time-consuming, tedious work for council employees, who have historically had to pore over the videos manually.
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And chief executive Siqueira should know — as a civil engineer, she used to do that job herself, eight hours a day.
Speaking to SmartCompany for a profile feature just last week, the co-founders said through Siqueira’s own experience they knew this was an area ripe for automation. And, through their backgrounds in engineering, they had knowledge of the tech that could do it.
“It’s very repeatable, very manual, and very visual,” Aguilar explained.
Now, with some cash in their pockets, the pair are gearing up to launch VAPAR in New Zealand and the UK. They didn’t reveal the kinds of revenues they’re raking in so far, but did say they plan to triple it over the next 12 months.
This is a technology that has global application. It’s not only Australia that is using outdated, manual methods of pipe inspection.
“We were the market founding technology in this space, and really pioneering this,” Aguilar said.
“It’s one of those things that is out of sight, out of mind … but it’s everywhere, it’s a global, logistical issue,” Siqueira added.