Robert Lee, a geologist from Australia, has always been intrigued by underground mining conditions. As a visual person, he found it difficult to learn through books, so he used his skills as a photographer to start documenting mine sites through photos. He continued to present his findings through the use of photogrammetry and 3D mapping using terrestrial photogrammetry. After the mining boom burst, Robert found himself in a position that he needed to find out what was next for him. He found his “what next” in an unlikely place- the sewer! Leveraging his expertise in mining and photography, he soon realized that he had a unique, one of a kind technology that could address problems in the wastewater industry, plus every city has a sewer. Right now only about 10% of sewers get inspected in the U.S. and as the industry becomes more automated the data he is collecting will be globalized, thus opening up new markets for him.
It took Robert many months to perfect his technology. He endured many close calls while trudging waist-deep in sewage. Finally, he figured out a way to get himself out of those sewers, but in a way that allowed him to collect valuable imagery and data.
SubterraAI utilizes advances in robotics, computer vision, cloud, and artificial intelligence to be the world leader in subterranean infrastructure intelligence. The SewerScout™ is the world’s first untethered floating condition robot. This technology makes sewer inspections safer and more cost-efficient. Lee knew that his device could streamline how governments inspected sewers. Not only did the device streamline workflows into an online platform, but it also used machine learning to increase efficiency.
Lee knew he wanted to build globally, and after considering other locations, he finally landed on the US for his beachhead market. He successfully completed the Cincinnati based Pipeline H2O accelerator back in 2017 and decided to leverage Cincinnati as his US base of operations. He spent 2.5 years traveling back and forth from Australia before finally making Cincinnati his final destination. The Cincinnati Metro Sewer District was his first U.S. client. He is focused on the Midwest at this time because the water infrastructure is all very similar throughout.
Through bootstrapping, always selling, and actively fundraising with VC and Angel Investors Subterra AI has experienced some short-term wins. They have an ongoing contract with the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati. They secured new contracts in Butler County, Ohio (also in Greater Cincinnati) and in Chicago recently. As they look to the future by pursuing contracts from all over the US they are now seeking investment to meet this demand. The long term goal for the first year after funding will be to hire about 10 employees, and then to double that growth year over year as they grow globally.
Recently Subterra AI was awarded the 2020 Innovation and Technology Award from the Cincinnati Business Courier. Additionally, a Main Street Ventures LEAP Grant provided them with funds for their hardware buildout and they are looking to grow the team for prototyping.