BluWave-ai’s scale-up drive appears to be gaining speed as the firm gears up for another funding round to fuel its global expansion ambitions.
Founded in 2017, the Ottawa cleantech startup is hoping to capitalize on a growing shift away from gas-powered vehicles in favour of cars that run on electricity.
BluWave’s software uses artificial intelligence to track power usage, predict demand for electricity and help owners of electrical vehicle fleets manage the operation and charging of EVs in a bid to save energy.
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The company’s two main products, EV Fleet Orchestrator and EV Everywhere, aim to minimize traffic congestion on the power grid by steering operators of electric vehicles toward non-peak charging times.
The Ottawa firm has filed more than a dozen patents for the platforms as it strives to fulfil founder and CEO Devashish Paul’s dream of becoming a “made-in-Canada champion” in one of the hottest corners of the cleantech sandbox.
In mid-December, BluWave closed a $9.5-million funding round to help bankroll the further development and marketing of its EV products, a deal that was officially announced Tuesday morning.
“This is solving a decarbonization problem all around the world,” Paul told Techopia late last week before jetting off to meet with customers in Dubai, India and the United Kingdom – proof that BluWave’s value proposition is already resonating well beyond Canada’s borders.
“Our hope is that we become an anchor for the local cleantech industry.”
The ink was barely dry on the news release trumpeting the new raise when BluWave announced it was already laying the groundwork for a series-B round it hopes to finalize within the next 12 months.
Muhammad Zaheed, the firm’s senior director of finance and operations, said he’s already heard from potential investors in the U.S., Europe and Asia who want in on the next round.
“Renewable energy and EV fleet management is here to stay,” said Zaheed, adding the company is aiming to raise at least $20 million but believes $30 million is achievable as it builds a warchest to fund its international expansion.
BluWave’s two main product lines are designed to help make charging electric cars cheaper and more efficient, but each one targets a different customer base.
EV Everywhere uses artificial intelligence to track power usage in particular neighbourhoods and predict when EV owners are most likely to charge their vehicles.
The cloud-based platform will automatically trigger cars to recharge when power usage is typically at its lowest, therefore easing pressure on the grid and saving consumers money. Users who don’t opt in to the software can download an app that will alert them when it’s the most cost-effective time to plug in their rides.
Fleet Orchestrator, meanwhile, analyzes ridership data to give operators of large EV fleets a clearer picture of the ebbs and flows of demand for their assets.
The system is now being employed by international customers like Dubai Taxi to help ensure vehicles are fully charged and ready to go when fares call. BluWave recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Indian energy giant Tata Power to use Fleet Orchestrator to manage Delhi’s fleet of 8,000 electric-powered buses. Paul says a “major last-mile delivery company” is also in talks to start testing the platform.
Here at home, BluWave’s technology seems more timely than ever.
While electric and hybrid vehicles accounted for only about seven per cent of new vehicle registrations in Canada last year, their share of the auto market is set to rise dramatically.
Proposed federal regulations would mandate that one-fifth of all passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in Canada by 2026 would need to run on electricity. Under the same rules, by 2035 every passenger vehicle sold in this country will need to be electric.
With the trend toward electric cars accelerating, Ottawa entrepreneur Mark Zekulin is among the high-profile local investors who believe BluWave has what it takes to become a global leader in its field.
“Everybody knows that the entire world needs to, and is, moving towards EVs,” said Zekulin, the former CEO of cannabis producer Canopy Growth who now heads a local venture called Invert that funds carbon-capture projects around the world.
“That creates a greatest opportunity for everything around that. I almost think of it like the old gold-rush narrative, where the guys who made the most money were the guys selling the shovels.
“With so much EV progress coming down the path, what’s going to be needed is all the tools that go around it. I think they have a huge market and a very nice pipeline of things they’re working on.”
Other major contributors to the series-A round include several Shopify executives as well as PowerON Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation that provides turnkey EV charging solutions to large fleets such as the Toronto Transit Commission and is expanding to other North American cities.
OPG vice-president James Brewer is joining BluWave’s board of directors. Paul says Brewer will be a valuable sounding board and adviser as the firm taps new markets.
Betting big on EVs is another step in the evolution of BluWave, which was originally launched to help utility firms manage their power grids. The firm’s municipal-level customers include Hydro Ottawa and the City of Summerside, P.E.I., which used BluWave’s software to help stage rocker Bryan Adams’ solar-powered concert in the East Coast community last August.
While utility clients will remain a key plank in BluWave’s customer framework, the firm made its strategic priorities clear in the news release announcing the latest funding round, which said the capital would be used “to grow the EV side of our business as it hits prime time during this next growth phase of the company.”
Still, economic headwinds could make the path forward a little less hospitable than Paul and his team would like.
Most of the series-A cash was already in the hopper nearly a year ago, when the venture capital pipeline was much more voluminous than it is today. But even as funding is drying up around him, BluWave’s founder remains undaunted.
“This problem’s not going to go away,” Paul said. “We think now is a good time to raise.”