The water sector’s innovation centre of excellence, Spring, is collaborating with tech company Microsoft and European venture capital company Impact X on a new initiative to make tools and funding available for start-ups to accelerate their companies.
The Impact X-Venture Studio has been launched to focus on sustainability, which is why the initiative is teaming up with Spring, whose mission is to accelerate transformation across the water industry.
By connecting the skills of Impact X, Microsoft and Spring, Impact X-Venture Studio hopes to unlock the potential of tech start-ups at scale, help tackle the most pressing challenges the water sector is facing, and ensure fairer representation of minority groups in the start-up space.
Carly Perry, Spring managing director, said: “Spring is representing the UK and Ireland water sector in this collaboration. The Impact X-Venture Studio in partnership with Microsoft illustrates the water companies’ commitment to supporting start-up innovators and will drive increased representation of start-up innovations into the sector.”
“Water safety, security and availability are foundational with regards to sustainability. Partnering with Microsoft to address this area of opportunity brings together one of the great tech companies with Impact X’s innovator sourcing talent,” added Impact X chief executive, Eric Collins.
Climate change and water scarcity are forcing water companies and the wider sector to adapt and invest in water supply and wastewater treatment. The UK 2050 Water Innovation Strategy, which Spring is helping deliver, was launched in 2020 by all UK water and wastewater companies and outlines the importance of finding sustainable solutions.
These challenges will range from how the water industry might become net positive through opportunities in natural capital, to minimising adverse impacts from wastewater, and how the industry can improve affordability of water for all.
Musidora Jorgensen, Microsoft’s CSO, said: “Through industry partnerships we can provide both opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs and tackle critical sustainability challenges around water availability and security head on.”
Research shows that in recent years more than 90% of the total amount of venture capital raised went to white entrepreneurs, while only 0.24% went to black entrepreneurs and only 0.02% of investment going to black female founders.
Collins said: “Often we see that the biggest challenge facing founders is getting those initial enterprise trials and contracts that really change the game when it comes to fundraising and long-term success.”
Research has revealed that venture builders that match entrepreneurs directly with industry challenges are starting to outperform classic accelerators. Recent data shows that 72% of start-ups from venture builders going from Seed to Series A funding were successful — compared to only 42% of traditional start-ups. Overall, the venture builder approach achieves 44% better results compared to traditional start-ups.
Collins added: “A venture builder like the one we are creating with Microsoft can short-circuit the arduous process in getting initial contracts in place. Impact X exists to discover and empower [founders] to generate a double bottom-line return. The Impact X-Venture Studio with Microsoft increases the likelihood of that outcome and also reduces the timeframe.”
Microsoft is looking for the first entrepreneurs and start-ups to kick-start these industry challenges, providing support including US$150,000 in free Azure credits, guidance from technical advisors and Azure specialists, free working space in Shoreditch district in London, and tailored mentoring.