Asheville, North Carolina-based environmental monitoring, reporting, and data forecasting startup Ecobot has raised $700,000 in seed funding, bringing total investment to over $1 million, according to CEO Lee Lance.
Lance says Ecobot will use the capital to grow staff in sales and product development, which he calls “the two-headed monster” of any startup.
“After spending a year talking with hundreds of potential customers across 50 companies, we’ve refined our product market fit and storytelling to connect best with prospective customers. So now we’re ready to grow and make this available to everybody.”
Having celebrated its 1-year anniversary just last month, Ecobot will enter 2020 with this new injection of funds in the form of a convertible note from existing investment partner Cofounders Capital. The infusion of capital adds to an earlier $450,000 seed round Ecobot closed last year.
Lance tells Hypepotamus that Ecobot didn’t have to go fundraising for the latest investment round. “They approached us, asking ‘Why don’t we invest more and scale this faster?’ It’s a pretty good vote of confidence from very, very savvy investors who’ve been with us for a year.”
Ecobot is a tool that aims to provide efficiency for the environmental services industry. Lance says it helps professionals digitize field data collected in wetland observations, thereby cutting 40 to 50 percent of the time it takes to complete and report projects.
Lance has received rich feedback from invite-only customers after Ecobot’s installation, and has heard that it’s saving users 2.5 hours per day in the field on average. He adds that even though Ecobot’s initial goal was to bring 30 percent efficiency, he’s received reports that it’s “closer to 60 percent.”
As Lance explained to Hypepotamus in 2018, environmental scientists conduct thorough assessments on properties before real estate developers and builders can start their work, to ensure that their projects have no detrimental effects on the environment. As these scientists collect data on the local ecology, including but not limited to soil, water and wildlife, they have historically used the tried and true — but also time-intensive — method of pen and paper.
The scientists then send longform reports to the regulatory agency for wetlands: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This is an often tedious process that Lance, a tech development veteran, and Ecobot cofounder Jeremy Schewe, an experienced ecologist, botanist, and environmental consultant, believed could be improved.
As Lance said at the time, “It would be as if you love your job and what you do … but two days out of every week you had to do your personal taxes. It’s that bad.”
The funding news coincides with the App Store release of Ecobot’s first field app, Ecobot Wetland Delineations. According to Lance, it not only provides scientists with the ability to record observations digitally, but also leverages Ecobot’s partnership with mapping and geospatial analytics tool Esri to integrate with geographic information system (GIS) mapping— something that hadn’t been previously incorporated into wetland field collection tools.
“Our partnership with Esri will bring the ability to interact with maps and data while in the field, even when there’s no cell phone coverage,” Lance says, adding that along with geospatially smart automated data and functionality tailored to customers’ needs before, during, and after groundwork, it will also provide turnkey wetland delineation PDF reports from the Army Corps of Engineers to be submitted for regulatory review.
“The challenge customers in this space face goes well beyond the need to collect data in the field,” Lance says. “They need reference guides to be able to ensure that they’re capturing the correct scientific info. We already provide all the calculations they were having to do manually.” He says this includes information involving contextual vegetation, soil data lookups and more.
Customers will need a subscription to Ecobot’s services in order to use the iPhone/iPad app, and will be prompted to contact the company after downloading.
Ultimately, Lance says these developments have given Ecobot a great boost as 2019 comes to a close, and feels confident about Ecobot’s direction in 2020 and beyond. “It’s a great start to the year.”