Pouria Ghods has never been happier to feel jetlagged.
Ghods was a little groggy during his early afternoon interview with Techopia, and for good reason. The co-founder of Ottawa cleantech firm Giatec Scientific had just arrived back on Canadian soil two hours earlier, after catching a red-eye flight home from Las Vegas, where he’d attended the World of Concrete trade show.
The World of Concrete is the industry’s equivalent of the Super Bowl – the biggest event of the season, the place where everyone who’s anyone in the concrete business gathers to rub shoulders, show off new products, schmooze with existing customers and woo new ones.
Even though only about 25,000 people showed up this year due to the pandemic – far below the typical attendance tally of 70,000 or more – Ghods said it was still worth it to endure weather-delayed flights and seemingly endless rounds of COVID testing to get there and back.
“It was a really good opportunity,” he said of his first chance to engage with customers face-to-face since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.
Founded in 2010, Giatec specializes in developing wireless sensors that measure the quality and consistency of concrete during the construction process and beyond.
Since then, the firm has evolved into a global leader in its field, with its devices now used on job sites in 80 countries. Giatec appeared on OBJ’s list of fastest-growing companies in 2018, and it finished in the top 100 on Canadian Business magazine’s prestigious Growth List in 2020 with five-year revenue growth of nearly 1,400 per cent.
The last couple of years, though, saw the firm hit a bit of a lull as customers put construction projects on hold and reduced spending in the wake of the pandemic-fuelled global economic downturn.
While Giatec’s revenues still rose more than 15 per cent year-over-year in fiscal 2021, that was well off the pace it had set the previous few years. But Ghods said he’s sensing a turnaround as the U.S. prepares to kick off a wave of new infrastructure spending driven by $1 billion in promised government spending and builders everywhere gear up for a return to pre-COVID levels of activity.
“That was a good booster,” he said of the U.S. infrastructure bill. “It pushed the whole construction industry.”
Ghods said the firm generated plenty of buzz in Vegas with its latest R&D breakthrough, a sensor and gateway that can collect data from sites as far as 300 metres away – a dramatic increase from the 18-metre range of Giatec’s previous devices.
That means skyscraper builders such as Claridge Homes – which used Giatec’s technology when constructing Ottawa’s tallest building, the 45-storey Icon condo tower – will no longer have to install gateways every few floors. Instead, they’ll be able to detect any weaknesses in concrete from a single central hub on the ground rather than having to venture into hard-to-reach or hazardous places.
Ghods says if what happened in Vegas is any indication, the market is ready to embrace the new tech with open arms.
“It was good to see the customer reaction,” he said with a smile, adding the product caught the attention of the assembled media as well.
COVID-related supply-chain issues delayed the launch of the new long-range sensors by about six months. But now that they’re here, Ghods said things are looking up for Giatec, which is also gaining traction from another recent innovation – a web-based dashboard called SmartMix that uses AI algorithms to help concrete producers calculate the ideal amount of cement and chemical additives in their mixes in an effort to cut down on material costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
Ghods expects Giatec’s 2022 revenues to exceed last year’s figures by at least 25 per cent. Now at 87 employees, the company hopes to top the century mark by the time the current fiscal year ends in July.
“Definitely, momentum is there, for sure,” Ghods said.