A Startup Journey: Addressing Water Scarcity through Tech

A Startup Journey: Addressing Water Scarcity through Tech

By: Hitesh Advani & Devpreet Bhullar | Novion Inc. | eCoop Students
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Our startup journey began by joining the Technology Entrepreneurship@SFU program. We came together as a group of students with a common goal of making meaningful a impact through technology and a desire to learn how a successful startup is built. This was the perfect way for us to start this journey as we had the chance to work in an interdisciplinary team and were given excellent resources. We had both the propulsion to push forward and a safety net in case we fell. 

You may hear the word “pivot” in the startup world. A pivot is essentially a shift in business strategy to test a new approach regarding a startup’s business model or product after new information is revealed. Throughout our journey, we evaluated a variety of ideas from different industries, such as healthcare, urban planning, data analytics, and water management. Ideation is a crucial step in order to come up with a promising startup idea so our team went through tons of iterations to build a business, which helped us improve our skills relating to evaluating business viability. The ideas we evaluated include detecting clogs in veins to solve deep vein thrombosis (DVT), building an assistive device to reduce risks of injury for sonographers, creating heat maps to improve urban planning, a ridesharing courier delivery platform, detecting clogs in water pipelines to mitigate water leaks, and many more.

While all of these were good ideas, the ideation process taught us when it’s time to quit and try something different. Through all the iterations we underwent, the overarching problem we are trying to solve now is about water conservation. Looking at a real problem that effects everyone - coupled with our understanding of the hardship water scarcity will cause - motivated us to switch gears. Our business revolves around optimizing water usage within buildings for reduced operational cost and sustainability improvements. According to the United Nations, the global demand for water is expected to exceed supply by 40% by the year 2030. A significant reason for the increase in demand is due to water inefficiencies within buildings. This is especially true for developed nations where buildings account for more than 30% of total consumption.This idea provided an opportunity to work with SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection.

Making this decision to partner with Venture Connection was a crucial stepping stone for our project and opened doors for funding, mentorship, and resource opportunities. An experience that taught as three crucial lessons: 

  • Allow yourself to make mistakes. Early business incubation through Venture Connection allowed us to make mistakes, change our ideas, become flexible and prepared us for failure before we invested too much time, money, and emotion into the specifics of our venture. You must allow yourself the freedom to negotiate, influence, and drive to form a strong and stable business. Great ideas that turn into successful businesses take years of hard work and dedication. 
  • Define and design your business logically. Mentorship provided at Venture Connection has been essential to our progress so far. The mentors have years of experience around building successful companies, and together they provide a diverse spectrum of industry expertise. Getting the opportunity to speak to the mentors and other brilliant minds at Venture Connection was an important step for us in terms of defining and designing our business logically. 
  • See TechE and E-Coop as a learning experience. The process of creating and developing a business is challenging and requires a lot of work. TechE gave us the opportunity to ideate and discover that our business is not viable, and so we had to stop and start from scratch on something new. It is important to come into TechE or E-Coop with a strong, clear idea of what problem you are trying to solve but don’t be discouraged if you pivot and need to find a new problem since it is not worth pursuing something that is not viable. 

Building a startup has taught us so many lessons that we would have never learned doing something else. Each step we undertook taught us how important it is to proactively learn from our previous efforts, and sometimes that’s the only way to learn and improve. Most crucially, this journey has helped us solidify our intentions, aspirations, and personal goals; all the while equipping us with the skills that we need to achieve them.

Devpreet and Hitesh are final year Mechatronic Systems Engineering students, and part of the student team building a water management startup - Novion. Novion is an early stage start-up working towards developing technologies for cost savings, operational efficiency, and sustainability within commercial buildings using detailed water usage data. Novion is currently looking into water data within HVAC systems and mechanical rooms to detect and locate faults that are subtle and not usually flagged by spot checks. This can not only help with saving cost on water loss, but also from increased HVAC efficiency and from preventing leaks. If you have any questions or comments about starting an innovation-driven technology startup or just want to reach out, feel free to contact them at info@novion.ca.


Beyond the Author 

Posted on February 08, 2019