An AI-based Sydney software startup that checks sewer pipes for preemptive maintenance has raised $5 million in a Series A to ramp up its push into the US market.
VAPAR, cofounded in 2018 by engineers Amanda Siqueira and Michelle Aguilar, was backed Dutch water technology specialist VC PureTerra Ventures, supported by US engineering and construction software giant Autodesk.
Existing investors, including the UK’s Halma Ventures, Metagrove Ventures from the USA and Australia’s Sprint Ventures and Access Capital Ventures where among those who also chipped in
Nasdaq-listed Autodesk, which last week also announced plans to acquire the Leigh Jasper-backed proptech startup PayApps, will help VAPAR with its US expansion plans.
Siqueira’s experience as an engineering intern spending all day every day manually reviewing sewer inspection videos was the inspiration for her startup.
More 1 million kilometres of sewer pipes are inspected globally annually and the process of manual review is tedious and time-consuming, yet vital since unplanned reactive maintenance costs 4-5 times the price of preventative measures.
“Billions are spent every year by global water utilities on fixing their pipes, over half of which is spent in North America,” Siqueira said.
“Despite the massive investment, there isn’t enough data and dollars available – utilities must commit to doing things differently. Artificial intelligence can unlock unprecedented efficiencies. Our vision is to create a world where critical infrastructure investment meets the needs of our communities.”
VAPAR’s software helped review more than 1800km of pipes in 2023 for water authorities in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, with more than 20,000 pipe investment decisions made as a result.
One utilities company working with the startup over the last five years reports it has seen an 80% reduction in manual review time for its teams, alongside a 20% rationalisation in potential follow-on works.
The startup will use the new capital for recruitment and North American expansion, having doubled its revenue and product usage annually for the last four years.
“With our increasing customer base, we now support a wide range of industry standards, time zones and languages,” Aguilar said.
“Investing funds to double our team, add new verticals and start our North American office will ramp the number of customers that can benefit from this technology.”
PureTerra Ventures partner Alex Crowell said VAPAR’s performance is standout in the evolving water management technology space.
“Showcasing their strong customer advocacy, a quick-to-adopt product and an impact-driven team made our decision an easy one,” he said.
“This investment will not only expand VAPAR’s customer reach but also substantially reduce pipe failures, which reflects our shared commitment to sustainable water infrastructure development globally.”