Cleantech powerhouse in the making: contract with Indian firm a 'major win' for Ottawa startup BluWave-ai

Devashish Paul
Devashish Paul is the founder and CEO of Ottawa-based cleantech startup BluWave-ai. Photo courtesy BluWave-ai

An Ottawa-based cleantech startup that helps utility companies around the world boost the amount of renewable energy in their grids has landed its biggest contract yet as it chases its goal of becoming a “Canadian world champion” in its industry.

BluWave-ai announced this week it has signed a three-year deal to supply its cloud-based tech to Tata Power, India’s largest integrated power company. Financial terms of the agreement, which includes an option to be extended for an additional two years, were not disclosed.

Founder and CEO Devashish Paul says the four-year-old Ottawa firm’s technology proved effective during a trial with Tata Power that began just before the onset of the pandemic. BluWave’s AI that helps predict fluctuations in power usage helped the Indian firm provide a steady flow of energy to customers in Mumbai despite massive variations in consumption and demand due to COVID-related lockdowns and other factors such as weather.

“It’s a big achievement,” Paul said of the new contract. “There’s a lot of companies who have great researchers … and they raise decent money on a lot of hype. But in many cases, they actually don’t get anything working in the real world.” 

The company’s AI solution taps into various sensors across a city’s power sources to monitor and forecast up-to-the-minute energy needs to help utilities use their resources more efficiently and avoid costly penalties. 

In many jurisdictions including India, for example, utilities have to place orders to upper-level grids based on their expected usage and can be dinged with costly fees if their predictions are wrong.

Global expansion

For the past several years, BluWave has been testing the technology with partners such as Hydro Ottawa, the University of Ottawa and the city of Summerside, P.E.I. But the move into India opens the door to much bigger foreign markets, Paul notes.

“It’s a major win because it gets us a foothold in the overall (Tata) corporate group,” he said. “It’s helpful for our brand to be associated with their brand.”

The 25-employee Ottawa firm is already starting to tap into other global geographies. 

Several of BluWave’s half a dozen utility customers are headquartered in the U.S., the U.K. and the Middle East. 

In addition, the company recently signed deals with eight clients in the EV space, many of them outside Canada, in anticipation of a massive surge in demand for electric vehicles in the coming years. BluWave aims to help fleet providers such as taxi companies anticipate demand and ensure that vehicles are fully charged and ready to go when customers call.

"Our goal is to really build something substantial in Ottawa."

“That machine is rolling,” Paul said of the EV sector, which is picking up steam as major automakers such as Ford, GM, Volkswagen and others have recently announced plans to dramatically accelerate production of electric vehicles over the next decade.

“We really need to get this stuff working in Canada, in the export market, and really show that the product, the technology and the team could make this work not just here, but all over the world.”

While Paul still hopes to keep adding Canadian customers, he says the firm’s future prosperity depends on building its brand internationally.

“The Canadian market really slowed down during the pandemic,” Paul said. “Utilities here were very risk-averse to try AI techniques. Tata was like, ‘OK, let’s get this working.’”

Still, the former Royal Canadian Air Force engineer is a proud Ottawan who makes no secret of his ambition to create a homegrown cleantech powerhouse that will remain firmly rooted in the nation’s capital. He’s adamant that BluWave has no plans to be acquired and allow its IP to fall into foreign hands.

“So many companies, they build something and become part of U.S. companies,” Paul said. “I’ve lived that as an employee, and I think we can do a lot better.”

To that end, BluWave, which raised $3.9 million in seed funding early last year, is now seeking a multimillion-dollar new round of VC investment and is also considering going public via a reverse takeover as a means of financing its growth agenda. 

“It potentially allows us to really build and scale a Canadian world champion,” Paul said, adding he expects the startup to double its headcount once the funding is secured. “That’s kind of our goal, is to really build something substantial in Ottawa.”