Brazilian By Birth, RTP-based Geo Innova Offers Industrial IoT Solutions

Geo Innova co-founders (from left) Don Ferreira and Victor Vieira doing field work at a remote location in the state of Bahia in northeast Brazil.

Four scientists and former university professors from Brazil imagined there could be easier ways to accelerate innovation, so in 2012, they set out on the startup journey of Geo Innova.

Now based in RTP after moving to the U.S. in 2018, Geo Innova offers tech solutions that integrate industrial IoT, machine learning, AI and advanced analytics, as well as hands-on technical training and scientific-mathematical model development.

Essentially, Geo Innova wants to help innovators innovate more easily by creating better data and technology insights. Co-Founder Don Ferreira said that as scientists, the founding team knew that being at the forefront of innovation at a research level doesn’t necessarily mean you will see a product go to market or achieve sales success.

The three other Geo Innova Co-Founders initially worked under Ferreira as his PhD students. Ferreira’s background has been in energy economics, tech development, energy transition and digital transformation, priming him to help lead a company like Geo Innova. The company participated in the 11th cohort of the RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP) earlier this year.

So far, Geo Innova has worked on several projects, including with the governments of Brazil and Alberta, Canada, plus oil companies across the globe. And the startup has stayed lean with its four co-founders and no traditional employees yet. The ability to keep lean without taking in equity partners has been an especially pivotal lesson for Geo Innova so far, Ferreira said.

Geo Innova is testing some of its tech at remote utility stations like this one in northeast Brazil. A remote sensor will send an alert if a panel is tampered with, saving the need for daily in-person inspections.

“I’ve always thought that by having been doing this for a while, I had a good grip on the innovation process,” Ferreira said. “But I learned that I was wrong.”

By staying small, they can focus on continued growth without other concerns getting in the way too soon.

“If you want to take the startup to the next level in terms of making that a successful and profitable business, there are things that you have to do that we had not done before,” Ferreira said.

When Ferreira looks at Geo Innova’s global impact, he knows that the data we have in our phones and every other kind of device can reduce business risks, costs and spark an energy transformation. It’s just a matter of getting there.

“We’re losing a great economic transformation because of the amount of data we have been producing,” Ferreira said. “This data needs to be transformed into information.”

All in all, Ferreira hopes Geo Innova will be remembered as a group of scientists that took the innovation process to the next level.

“We think that you need scientists like this who are able to understand the phenomenon,” Ferreira said. “Before you can produce a good artificial intelligence product, you need a good scientific, mathematical, probabilistic model.”

Looking ahead, Geo Innova intends to finish the year closer to its goal of a paid pilot customer round, Ferreira said. To date, the startup has initially picked two industry verticals—utilities and the oil sector—to begin making an impact.

For instance, Geo Innova’s tech is used for monitoring oil wells with sensors, gateways and antennas that are inside an electric panel in remote areas that don’t have mobile or internet access, and are difficult and expensive to send workers to frequently. The startup is also doing pilot tests with seals on electric panels in remote regions that send alerts if the seal is broken, to prevent tampering with a minimum of in-person human monitoring.

“I’m truly excited about the innovation process and the digital transformation that we’re going through,” Ferreira said. “We are dealing with a situation where we face problems that did not exist. We need professionals that do not exist.”

About Suzanne Blake 362 Articles
Suzanne profiles startups and innovation for GrepBeat. Before working at GrepBeat, Suzanne attended UNC Chapel Hill, obtaining a degree in journalism and political science. Previously, she wrote for CNBC, QSR Magazine, FSR Magazine and The Daily Tar Heel.