Garbage disposal—wasteful, harmful to the environment, costly, smelly, loud and often gross. Engineering student Victor Nicolov found himself thinking more and more about how to create a clean, efficient alternative. He’d spent a lot of time tinkering, tweaking and innovating in his dad’s home workshops, constantly seeking ways to improve things. With a keen curiosity and technical aptitude, Victor always envisioned making a product and selling it. When he mentioned his idea to a colleague while attending the Engineering program at UVic, they told him about The Coast Capital Innovation Centre, UVic’s start-up incubator, which laid the foundation for Sepura and ANVY Technologies.
Incubators, programs that give early businesses access to mentorship, support and potential investors, are generally hard to get into—“But there it was, at my school. It easily shaved a year off my progress. The team was so helpful and knowledgeable,” Victor says. He graduated from Engineering in 2018, the same year he entered the incubator.
What is Sepura (seh-pure-ah)? It is an eco-friendly garbage disposal system that accepts all organic waste down the sink, separates the compostables and stores them in a “stink-proof”, ready-to-compost bin. The rest carries on down the drain. It’s quiet, reliable, and elegant.
Conceptually, there have been many design modifications and iterations along the way. An auger pushes waste along. Victor initially tried a centrifugal version with a crushing mechanism. However, when you crushed things, everything went down the drain, which was not where you wanted compostables. Plus, it used too much power and water to be good for the environment. Victor received a lot of great information from the City of Metro Vancouver, as well as plumbers he would chat with during Home Depot visits.
The incubator set the stage for Victor’s success. He won $5000 for the PlanIt competition and the Entrepreneurship Co-op Award for $6000, which allowed him to patent his idea. Meeting the other entrepreneurs provided great learning, support and a sounding board, plus introduced him to Connor Pickard, now Sepura’s VP of Sales and Marketing. There, he also connected with other advisors, potential customers, and investors. Victor still talks to the Centre of Innovation team today for general advice.
Victor attended the Consumer Electronics Show in 2020 with Sepura. This famed and influential international event was a prime opportunity to showcase his invention. Sepura’s anatomy? The separating component (self-cleaning), installation accessories and the collection centre. Installation is straightforward, which is key for those not technically inclined. The event was a triumph, and Sepura was featured as one of the top 100 inventions of 2020 by Time Magazine.
Starting a business was a significant shift for Victor. “You don’t know how hard it will be…you’re pushing it on people and investors, starting every meeting. Then, all of a sudden, there is a lot of pull, and you don’t have time to do anything and can’t find money fast enough. It’s challenging to adapt and prioritize.” As a self-described calm person, the stress was unexpected. How does he manage it? Victor works out, listens to music and shares thoughts with his spouse, who always has a helpful and always-valued perspective.
What advice would Victor offer young university students considering the incubator?
“Don’t wait—university is the best time to start something, especially if you have no other commitments. You can afford to fail, and there are a ton of resources.”
Sepura has sold 314 as of writing and is primed to launch in July. “I love how easy it is,” Victor shares, “It’s exciting, and I’m really proud of it. It’s fun to throw so much stuff in it.”
The Coast Capital Innovation Centre has been made possible through a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Coast Capital Federal Credit Union. Since 2016, Coast Capital has committed over $1.5 million to support entrepreneurs and innovators at UVic.
Written by Gillie Easdon