Veolia Partners with Accelerator Innovation Starter To Support Circular Economy Startups


The Bulgarian accelerator and seed fund Innovation Starter and the French corporation specialized in water, waste and energy management Veolia (owner of “Sofiyska Voda AD”) have announced a partnership aiming to support companies and local startups that have sustainable development ideas. The goal of the partnership is to aid the development of at least 100 companies in the circular economy field and namely, startups focused on clever resource and waste management, clean environment, and climate change. 

“This is one great opportunity to help the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country and to create additional interest towards the circular economy and renewable energy sectors,” commented in front of Francois Debergh, the regional director of Veolia for Bulgaria. According to the founder and CEO of Innovation Starter Leona Aslanova, the partnership is of great value for the development of the company as it will allow for the realization of one of the goals of its accelerator program – to stimulate the development of startups in the circular economy field. 

How will Innovation Starter and Veolia combine their efforts? 

The vision is that after Veolia sets the theme for each separate investment cycle, Innovation Starter will make the decisions in which companies to allocate the funds.  Veolia will also give the startups an opportunity to develop mutual projects in a real business environment.  An illustration of how the whole process will take place is provided by Leona Aslanova: “Veolia sets the theme, for example, ‘Electricity generation from wastewaters’ after which we move on to search for relevant startups.”

This is not the first time that Veolia does innovations in the circular economy space as it has previously been involved in co-developing solutions for the elimination of water micropollutants, for reusing wastewaters in poor regions in South Africa, and for collecting and recycling plastics in Indonesia among many others. 

What is the selection criteria? 

Up to this point, the accelerator’s funds amounted to 1m and now the available capital keeps growing. Even though the fund initially planned to invest between 10k and 60k in each company, the investment limit has been increased to 100k per company. The total amount of investments planned to be made for the period of the 5-year program is yet to be announced in October. Not all of the companies which participate in the accelerator will be given funding. In order to receive money from the fund, the startups will have to prove before Innovation Starter that they have a sustainable business model and are capable to monetize their business and get their first clients in the three-months period of the program. To be eligible for funding, the startups will have to be registered as commercial companies and have an existence between one and three years. 

In July 2020, Innovation Starter announced that the first seed investments for €10k per company will be made in Cardinal Bites – a protein candy manufacturing company, Cintelly – a company for big data client analysis, and Nosiya which is a brand for clothes with traditional folklore motifs. The next round of funding for three new companies will take place in September 2020 when the new investment cycle is going to be launched.

Combining opportunity for growth and environmental impact

The decision to apply for the program has to be well-thought through as the equity share of Innovation Starter in each company will be between 5 and 15 percent. On the other hand, according to Aslanova, the growth of the companies in the accelerator program is between 20 and 30 percent per year. One is clear, this opportunity is a possible start for many companies that are struggling with bringing a final product to the market. The partnership can result in additional support for the commercialization of cleantech technologies in the local ecosystem following the steps of organizations like EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator Bulgaria, while the participating startups might be able to join the recent wave of successful green and biotech companies in Bulgaria among which are Nasekomo, Biomyc and Lam’on.

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