The Vancouver-born founder of BluWave-ai has cared about climate change, sustainability, energy availability and consumption for as long as he can remember.
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Devashish Paul is a minute or so late for our interview — he was biking back to BluWave-ai’s headquarters in Ottawa after taking a lunch break and didn’t have time to change out of his yellow-and-black cycling jersey, bike shorts and helmet before our Zoom call. The life-long cyclist has a history of making the most environmentally conscious and eco-efficient choices in everything he does, in business and in his personal life. “Do I look like someone who drove to work in a giant gas-guzzling vehicle?” he laughs. “I’ve been getting around on my own power for a long time. I have a big beef against consumerism and the unnecessary burning of fossil fuels.” It makes perfect sense, then, that Paul is the mastermind behind Bluwave-ai, a company built around bringing super-smart, game-changing innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-based computing and edge computing to a sector that’s in serious need of a revolution: distributed renewable energy. Vancouver-born Paul has cared about climate change, sustainability, energy availability and consumption for as long as he can remember. He spent most of his elementary school years living in India, a country where many have historically lived without electricity. “I remember studying by candlelight; we didn’t always have power where we lived. Think about how massive that is. Studies on kids who had insufficient power growing up have shown they have lower academic scores because they can’t study without light and cooling systems,” he says. “Right now, there are two billion people in the world who don’t have access to reliable power, a quarter of the world’s population. Power affects communication and education and, without these, the progress of the world is stunted.” Paul says his interest lies in democratizing access to education and electricity, both of which, he passionately believes, should be fundamental rights for all humans. “When renewable energy is available to everyone, poor parts of the world can become energy-rich, giving them a higher standard of living.” His background — including multiple degrees in engineering and a successful career in the semiconductor industry that focused on AI, supercomputing and networking — inspired him to consider how the computing world could address the issues contributing to climate change. “I knew AI could have a huge impact. If we could pull together smart people from telecom, software as a service (SaaS) and universities and build a company dedicated to energy transition, there would be something there,” he says. “We want to move the needle in a big way. This could transform societies.” BluWave-ai has a shot in driving the transformation Paul so fervently believes in. The startup, with offices in Ottawa, Calgary and Summerside, P.E.I., was founded in 2017 with the goal of evolving from a centralized, carbon-based energy model to clean energy (think solar and wind) that can be produced and consumed anywhere on the planet. AI and real-time computing is thrown into the mix to boost the generation of this energy. Renewable energy fluctuates (of course, we need wind and sun to produce it) and for utility firms to manage and properly schedule their power grids, the BluWave-ai team understood there needed to be a system or tool to anticipate and dispatch it efficiently. Their AI-enabled SaaS has been adopted by many enterprises (those on- and off-grid), campuses, electricity utilities, government operations and more on three continents and it’s paying off. So far, they’ve improved the effectiveness of renewable, clean energy by 10 to 20 per cent. Meanwhile, Paul and his team of scientists, tech leaders and experts in power systems and data science have also been looking at the transport sector, figuring out ways to ease the operational and financial challenges of electrification. In 2022, BluWave-ai launched a cloud-based EV charging platform called EV Everywhere, which tells users when to charge their vehicles based on the time of day when power usage is at its lowest, and another product called EV Fleet Orchestrator (which examines ridership data). The former is being used in Ottawa and there’s a phased national and international release scheduled for next year. “Part of the motivation for me is wanting to do this work in Canada. But most of the municipalities and transit agencies we’ve spoken to about electrification of their bus fleets here at home want to know who else in the world has used our tech. To me, they should be the first,” Paul says. “We ended up taking our tech overseas just so we could show decisionmakers here it works. We signed a contract with Dubai Taxi Corporation to deploy EV Fleet Orchestrator and got a fleet of a couple hundred Teslas. It would’ve been great to go over there with reference points from our home market, but we’ll bring our results back here.” Paul calls it a slow-moving industry and Canadian municipalities have been sluggish to jump on the bandwagon. Local angel investors are another story; these supporters have been quick to get involved. Paul’s angel journey has been a successful one since connecting with Ottawa’s Capital Angel Network (CAN). “An investor saw my video pitch and within two days he was ready to invest. He brought in another angel from CAN who quickly invested,” he says, adding investors have come from all over the world, including his network from the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined in 1983. “Some of our angel investors sit on our board and have been vital in helping us scale. We finished our $9.5-million Series A financing round, which CAN was part of, and there’s potential for a Series B within 18 months. It’s all about the mission we’re putting our money into. Now we have to execute. I tell my staff that it’s not easy and it takes time. This hasn’t been done before.” While investment dollars have poured in, accolades have also been plentiful. BluWave-ai was named a Deloitte Fast 50 Technology Winner in 2021, an Ontario Centre of Innovation Mind to Market finalist in 2022, and one of Inventure$: The Future Fastest Growing Sustainable Companies in Canada in 2022, to name a few. Paul was also named to the top 50 over 50 and two of his senior directors have been on top 40 under 40 lists. So far, the eco-warrior has grown his brilliant team and onboarded a host of customers from every corner of the world. “It’s really cool that our customers in India, Japan, throughout Europe, Dubai, the United States and Canada want to make this work and solve the kinds of universal problems we’re looking at. That’s how we know we’re onto something. Whether we solve it or not, what’s important is that we try and help build the pieces needed for the upcoming energy transition,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll be the multinational that can do it. That’s the goal. We’re giving it a shot.” Suzanne Grant is an entrepreneur who has built bootstrapped and equity-financed businesses in Canada, Australia and Qatar. Today, she supports business growth and positioning while sharing insights to demystify early-stage fundraising. Grant leads the Capital Angel Network as part-time executive director.