With the main goal of finding smart ways of using technology to help build a better tomorrow for everyone, Zephyrus Aerolabs is a clean technology start-up pioneering the UK’s first Aerial Emission Monitoring solution for the North Sea.
Founders Christopher Solomon, Saurabh Kumar and Christos Vamvakas formed Zephyrus Aerolabs in April 2021 and were awarded a grant of £3,000 during the first round of The Elevator Foundation in June 2022. We caught up with the team to hear about their Elevator experience, pitching for (and winning!) the Scottish Young EDGE and what 2023 has in store for the business.
What was your experience of The Elevator Foundation, on a whole, like?
Saurabh: “At the time, we were still at the stage of creating our minimum viable product when Christopher met Karen Clark during a networking event at The University of Aberdeen, who suggested we look into the Elevator Foundation since we were all under 30. We were excited to be awarded the full £3,000 and that’s where our relationship with Elevator took off.”
Christopher: “The Elevator Foundation was one of the early funds we applied for. The entire process from the application, interview to the post-funding support has been phenomenal. The Elevator team have been very encouraging and supportive. We would love to contribute to the foundation in the future to support new start-ups like us.”
How did The Elevator Foundation help move the business forward?
Saurabh: “Being an early-stage start-up, it was challenging to find suitable financial support to build an early prototype to demonstrate our concept, because the various funding bodies, investors and banks required us to be at a certain Technology Readiness Level (TRL) before supporting us.
The Elevator Foundation grant provided us the opportunity that helped us break through this impasse and continue our development. This, coupled with the advice and mentorship we received from Bob Andrew and Susan Dowds, we were able to make a lot of progress in a short time and are now able to see a clear path to launch.”
Christopher: “Our mentors have opened quite a few avenues for us. They helped us shape our pitches for the Converge Net Zero Challenge and Scottish Young EDGE. Their business background and vast experience in their respective fields helped us at the time.”
You went on to win the Scottish Young EDGE in December 2022. How did you make that step?
Christopher: “That was a lot of hard work from all of us, that was one of the best applications we’ve put forward. I still remember we had been working on 8 different drafts on our combined shared drive, to make sure we got it right.”
Saurabh: “I think right from the beginning, from the application to the video that we had to submit, we had a very professional approach. We didn’t want to leave any stone unturned because we thought we had a really strong chance for Scottish Young EDGE, and we knew that winning would open doors for bigger avenues after that.
We were thrilled to win the top prize but there were some very fantastic ideas in the competition, as well.”
Christopher: “Professor Gary McEwan, Elevator’s CEO, was one of the judges at the live final of Young EDGE – and back in June, he was also on our panel for The Elevator Foundation.
He seems to really like our idea and Professor McEwan has continued to show up as an acute supporter of ours.”
So what’s next for the business?
Saurabh: “We have a lot in the pipeline for this year. It’s a broad range starting from fundraising to commercially developing our disruptive aerial technology.
As soon as we complete the functional prototype, we plan to hold a Tech showcase for all interested parties including clients, partners & potential customers - we’ve made some incredible connections along the way so we’re trying to use them in the best way possible.
The testing will be done in real world conditions and we’re hoping that will catch the right kind of eyes for potential collaborative opportunities within the industry.
And, if we have our demonstrations done by later this year, we should be ready for the challenge of the main Scottish EDGE semi-finals.
Christopher: “This is also a very important stage where we have to make that breakthrough to ensure we can demonstrate the technology at an appropriate readiness level for our interested investors and potential customers to engage with us, which will enable us to enter the market as early as possible.
We have the potential to become the cornerstone in fast-tracking UK’s climate change commitments to achieve Net Zero by 2050.
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