Skalata backs Queensland Uni grads in software startup transforming chemical engineering

- March 15, 2023 2 MIN READ
Lewi Software, Geraldine Terada-Bellis, Vishnu Avudainayagam
Lewi Software cofounders Geraldine Terada-Bellis and Vishnu Avudainayagam
A software startup developed by two University of Queensland graduates has raised $200,000 in a Seed round backed by Melbourne VC Skalata Ventures.

Lewi Software is tackling an unsexy part of asset management in the chemicals sector – wastewater management, which has suffered from underinvestment on the software from compared to the rest of the $4 trillion global chemicals industry. 

Cofounders Vishnu Avudainayagam and Geraldine Terada-Bellis said that in Australia, around 22 utility companies service $100 billion of assets in wastewater alone. But unlike profit-driven sectors like oil and gas, where millions are poured into software development, wastewater was left behind.

“The chemical engineering software we use in the industry was all developed in the 90s, using toolbars with 50 plus buttons and software packages that were essentially a Microsoft Paint-style interface,” Avudainayagam said.

It’s convoluted and difficult to use. We’ve seen other startups changing the game in terms of user experience with programs like Figma and Canva. So we wondered: why is engineering software so behind in terms of product lead and user-centric experiences?”

The current standard sees data plotted in Excel spreadsheets and engineers are forced to manually trawl through them to check calculations, they use up valuable time, and projects are delayed.

Terada-Bellis said Lewi’s product and algorithms enable managers to make unified decisions to improve asset performance, integrating process data with the calculation models developed by their engineers.

She said the software is adaptable for “any process engineer or chemical engineer, working in everything from bulk chemical production, to biofuels, to food and beverage production, to drinking water”.

The pair trained as water and environmental engineers and are also programmers, and their platform has already been used by blue chip clients such as Urban Utilities and Rio Tinto.

University of Queensland head of entrepreneurship Nimrod Klayman congratulated his alumni on securing their first round of funding after completing the University’s ilab Accelerator Program. 

“This is a huge accomplishment and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the team. With the support of Skalata, Lewi will continue to grow,” he said.

Skalata investment manager Tom Smalley said Lewi embodies the VC’s interest in traditionally “boring” companies. 

“We love working with teams who have deep domain expertise, and are passionate about solving huge pain points in notoriously overlooked sectors,” he said.