Nanoprecise Sci Corp is scaling up to help companies around the world reduce their carbon footprint by improving the efficiency of their industrial equipment.
Earlier this month, the company announced it had raised US$10 million in a Series B round led by Export Development Canada (EDC). Honeywell Ventures, NSK Ltd., and EC Mergers & Acquisitions — all new investors — also participated in the round.
The company, founded in Edmonton in 2017, offers an end-to-end predictive asset maintenance and monitoring solution that uses artificial intelligence and IoT technology to help companies reduce unplanned downtime and gain clarity about the right things to fix.
But another interesting benefit — one that Graham Kawulka, chief commercial officer at Nanoprecise, told Taproot was of particular interest to EDC — is the improved energy efficiency that comes from having better-maintained equipment.
"It might sound funny, 'machine health monitoring' — it doesn't sound like cleantech at first, but it really is," Kawulka said. "When you have healthy machines, you use less power to run them, and it can be substantial, the amounts of wasted power and excessive greenhouse gas emissions just because you have poor maintenance."
The company has so far focused on serving the mining, metals, oil and gas, chemical, and cement industries, several of which are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. "We're seeing a lot of interest from industrial players who are looking to improve their overall efficiency, while also getting all this other stuff."
The latest funding round, with participation from government and some of the largest industrial companies in the world, should help Nanoprecise close more deals, as it shows its target clientele that "we're growing up, and we're into that more mature startup phase," Kawulka said.
"We're really after enterprise-level customers that are pretty large, and when they look at startups there's an element of risk," he explained. "As you get along these milestones, it really helps to establish credibility."
Kawulka said about 30% of Nanoprecise's business is in India, thanks in part to founder and CEO Sunil Vedula's connections in the country where he was born. The company, which already has customers in more than 30 countries, also plans to expand further in the United States and is starting to enter the European market.
"We have lots to do, and we have so much runway. Some of the biggest opportunities we've seen in the history of the company started to come through in the last six months," Kawulka said. "We're starting to really experience brand recognition, which for a startup is amazing."
Although the company's marketing often talks about the use of artificial intelligence, Kawulka was more measured in his description of how Nanoprecise uses AI.
"Machine learning is not what we're doing today," he said. Instead, the company uses models of physical phenomena and data tagging to provide its predictive capabilities.
"One of the problems in machine learning in this particular space is how many thousands of different types of machines from different manufacturers are there, and how much data do you need to train the ML?" Kawulka said. "We were doing some simple math on how many hours of machine runtime you would need, and it's billions and billions of hours."
Kawulka said there could be narrower applications of machine learning in the future, but for now it is focused on the end-to-end solution.
"We're a combined hardware/software play, which is super hard as a startup," he said. "We really needed the full end-to-end solution, and it has served us well so far."
Nanoprecise has about 70 employees, including about a dozen in Edmonton, and it plans to remain headquartered here, even as it grows around the world.
"I've lived and worked on four continents, and I would say the Canadian and Albertan ecosystem for starting a company and the support you can receive is outstanding," Kawulka said. "I would say it's easier to have started this company in Alberta than it would be just about anywhere else on the planet."
The company feels a responsibility, especially with taxpayer dollars from EDC, to make the most of that support, he added.
"We really want to do that justice and show the world that we're building incredible things in Canada."