Techopia Live: How Ottawa cleantech firm BluWave-ai is powering a smart-grid revolution

Ottawa-based cleantech company BluWave-ai uses sophisticated artificial intelligence technology to help utility companies around the world boost the amount of renewable energy in their grids.

The firm recently signed a multi-year deal to supply its cloud-based tech to Tata Power, India’s largest integrated power company. It has recently signed deals with a number of EV clients, many of them outside Canada, in anticipation of surging demand for electric cars 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.

This is an edited transcript from the Techopia Live podcast with CEO Devashish Paul.

You graduated from RMC with a degree in electrical engineering. Then you did an MBA in marketing. Then you did a masters in engineering. You’re an Iron Man athlete. You’re like a superhero.

I think it’s more that you end up being the average of all of the people surrounding you - your family members, your friends, your colleagues, your co-workers. We’re all an average of the people we get to hang out with, and that includes professors, parents, coaches, all of those people.  I kind of look for that when we hire our employees. What are the aspects they bring to the table, other than some fundamental algorithmic skills? 

What’s a good example?

Like a salesperson that’s travelled to 35 countries, you’re like, ‘OK, we want to do international sales and this person can probably relate that it’s a 13-hour time difference to Japan. And that changes when you should send an email out from Ottawa. Being aware of those types of things.

What is BluWave ai?

CEO: Our goal is to build the world’s premier renewable energy and transport electrification ai company, based here in Ottawa. We think there’s the skills here to really create a world champion. What we do, is we use data from our customers, who are utilities, EV fleet operators, and large industrial customers, to predict, optimize, and control how they use energy. 

Where does the AI come in?

Typically, we say to our customers that on any given incidence the human operator might do better than our software. But take that to 35,000 times a year every 15 minutes, our software doesn’t sleep, it doesn’t get sick, it can deal with exceptions in certain ways, and deal with a lot of data simultaneously, we’ll beat the human operator. That accrues to a lot.”

How are you handling things from a funding standpoint?

Our market’s a bit unique in the clean tech market. The sales cycles are longer. I was just on a call this morning with Export Development Corporation and I said, ‘Our customers don’t just enter a Visa number on a web portal and download our product and pay us $10.99 a month. That’s not how our business works. And I was joking with the guy from EDC, ‘You know how long it takes to get one dollar out of a bank account in India or Luxemburg or Dubai or Japan, and have it wired into our accounts at RBC?’ Just setting up the back-office infrastructure, and  number crunching are a critical part of us setting up all of that infrastructure. 

What’s the payoff?

The complexity with the clean tech market is our cycles are long, but once we have someone locked in, they’re infinitely sticky for a really long time. We did have VC offers along the way, which we decided not to take, and focus on the private investor, the revenue, grant-based non-diluted financing, all of those things, to basically accrue market success, product stability, team stability, so you basically incubated the company to go to the larger financing step. I’m not saying we’re on a perfect path, but this is the path we’ve gone on up to now, and the market will tell us what’s really right. The market decides.

Give us your grand vision for BluWave. Where are you two or three years down the road?

My grand vision is that we build a platform here with BluWave in Ottawa, we build a clean tech, scores of young people behind us, who are networking the tasks, they actually revector their minds and their energy into transforming the world and using energy better. And polluting less of the world. And if we can do it with our smarts, in the cloud, help the human operators make better decisions, and leave the world a better place, then everything is worth it. 

Does your current ownership structure help or hinder your plan?

Part of the reason why we’re trying to go as long as we can independently, is if this ends up in a multinational corporation, they won’t have the innovation and the carbon footprint impact that we can have in a start-up.