Working in the academic sector for the last five years specializing in water resource management, Charlotte Wirion et Imeshi Weerasinghe saw first-hand the gaps between research and application in the wider community. So they launched their own startup Water Earth Observation.
by: Apolline Weirich
photo: Kaori Anne Jolliffe
featured: Imeshi Weerasinghe and Charlotte Wirion
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What is your startup idea?
WEO contributes to better water resources management using data from space and artificial intelligence to help build a more sustainable future for us all.
How did you come up with the idea?
We found that the organizations requiring water resource management information had outdated data, they were not getting continuity in their products and lacked accessibility. Considering that these information affect the management of global water resources with direct impacts on health, environmental, social and economic issues, we found that having up-to-date, accessible and affordable information was vital. Thus, with our expertise in both remote sensing and water resource management, we decided to try and bring our idea to fruition.
What is your product or service?
WEO is part of both the SpaceTech and water resource management sectors. We take earth observation data, such as satellite images, and by using deep learning algorithms we extract information to help improve the management of our water resources. We provide products and services in the form of maps, consultancy, and training to help our clients understand the availability of their water resources, to better plan for sustainable cities and for more efficient agricultural systems considering a rapidly changing climate. For example, we can provide recommendations on where to locate green roofs in a city, which provides benefits such as the reduction of stormwater runoff and improve energy efficiency.
“WEO is part of both the SpaceTech and water resource management sectors.”
What is your business model?
We provide tailor-made packages to long-term contract clients and also offer subscription-based and pay-as-you-go models depending on the size of the area defined by our clients’ needs.
Who are your clients?
Our clients include governments and public institutions that work in city planning, agricultural policy, environmental monitoring, and climate mitigation. We also work with engineering firms conducting modelling scenarios as well as insurance companies in the areas of crop and flood risk assessments.
Our next big challenge is to raise seed capital in order to fulfill the last Fit 4 Start requirement and enable us to optimally run WEO. We also look forward to bringing on some new faces to the company.
“Believe and follow your passion! The most important is to believe that you can do this and to work on something that you are passionate about.”
Why did you decide to embark on your entrepreneurial journey?
We did so to be able to make a difference. As we mentioned before, we saw the gaps in applying research into practice. We wanted to make sure that our expertise gained through our research will be practically applied to combat global water issues that can be found in agriculture, urbanization or climate change. No doubt we both also enjoy the challenge of learning new things, and we can tell you it has already been a challenging and exciting ride! But most importantly, we got into this field because of our passion for both water and sustainability and through this endeavor, we can live this every day and help create a more sustainable water world for future generations. We also do not mind the idea of being our own bosses!
What advice do you have for girls and women to turn their business ideas into reality?
Believe and follow your passion! The most important is to believe that you can do this and to work on something that you are passionate about. This way, you will continue to stay motivated even when things get a little rough, which is inevitable. This journey is full of ups and downs so motivation is definitely a key factor. Also, if you get the chance, try and apply for startup programs that can boost not only your finances but more importantly the business skills that you need to help assess the feasibility of your idea. Taking the right first steps can help a great deal and like in our case, you might not necessarily know what they are. So get advice from such programs and try to find trustworthy mentors to help to guide you. But ultimately our advice is: Go for it!
This article was first published in the Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Get a copy now!