When Abhishek Gupta and Daniel Tarantino wanted to make a tangible impact on the environment, they took matters into their own hands and started ENERj.
Both of them studied at McGill and met while participating in the Solar Decathlon, where they found they shared similar interests with regards to environmental impact.
“I graduated in civil engineering two years ago, and during my undergraduate I was very interested in how we solve big problems like climate change. We actually met on this project called the Solar Decathlon, where the goal is to design, build, and operate a home powered completely by solar.” Daniel told MTLinTECH.
“I’m originally from India. I came to McGill in 2012, did my undergrad in computer science, and graduated in 2015. For me, one of the prime motivators to do something like this was the fact that we have a lot of talk about how to make a sustainable impact, how to solve big issues, but there’s a lot of talk and very little action,” Abhishek told MTLinTECH. “And the message itself has gotten very stale. For me, it was really about getting down on the ground and figuring out how we can make a tangible impact.”
After university, the two of them spent a year exploring the job market and generally adjusting to life after university.
“For me, I come from an Indian education system and background which highly values methodical step-wise growth: you go to a good school, you study a field that will get you a job easily. You do all of those things and it’s supposed to work out, right? I did that, and guess what? It doesn’t quite work out. At that point I realized there is room to do something bigger,” said Abhishek.
And with the skill sets I have, I don’t have to wait for anybody to do it, I can build it myself. If it’s the right idea and you’re with the right people, there’s nothing stopping you from doing what you want.
“I’ve always looked up to people who were able to take something they imagined and turn it into something real. And the world we live in now, we have so many tools at our disposal to execute on them. We can learn not just from our university degrees, but the internet has so much information for us to lean on. In Montreal also, a lot of resources to get ideas and execute them,” said Daniel.
Then, in 2016 the two found out about a Google Startup Weekend focused on sustainability called Sustainable City.
“It was Startup Weekend-Sustainable City where Dan and I came together. And we thought, ‘this is the perfect time to kickstart this’. ENERj came out of that motivation to make tangible impact. What we saw was this tremendous knowledge gap with households who have the willingness or the desire to save more money on their hydro bills. We’re not advocating you to live in the cold or lower your quality of life, we’re just rearranging it a bit so it’s more efficient. It was driven by this willingness and the fact that most households don’t have the tools to act on that desire,” said Abhishek.
“There’s a bit of a gap between intentions and what’s actually happening. In Ontario, they spent $2 billion on deploying smart meter infrastructure. But what they found is that the effect of that program was less than predicted: the goal was to change peak consumption and they reduced the consumption by like 3.3%.
There’s so much more improvement that can happen in that area. From the utility point of view, as consumers, a lot of us want to do things to help use less energy, be more socially and environmentally responsible, but what can we do?
There’s a few things we know we can do, like eat less meat, but as a homeowner, how can I use less energy? That’s a little more vague. If we can provide people with incentives to act on the energy data that’s being collected already, then there’s a big opportunity there,” said Daniel.
Considering they met and developed the idea for ENERj at events organized through the Montreal startup ecosystem, Daniel and Abhishek have no plans to move the company away from that support system in the near future.
“Personally, I think that the startup ecosystem in Montreal is very supportive and nurturing. Of course there’s competitiveness, which is a must if any startup is to succeed. But there’s also this sense of brotherhood and nurturing rather than stealing opportunities or that sort of cutthroat behaviour. it’s really that nurturing and supportiveness that’s motivating,” Abhishek said.
“Let me be honest: I grew up here, I like Montreal, but it’s more than that. Montreal has so many students, there’s just so much creativity in this city. I think there’s a lot of good things happening, there’s a lot of upsides,” Daniel said.
ENERj is well on their way to having a prototype ready and are hoping to deploy soon. With the right data in hand, consumers can feel that they, too, are making a tangible impact on the environment.
Have you read the rest of the Entrepreneurs under 25 series?
Retinad’s Samuel F. Poirier and Anthony Guay – January 11
Wizrd’s Rory Bokser and David Kleiman – January 12
Ambo Technology’s Pascal Leblanc – January 19
LaPresse3D’s Omar Ayesh – January 24
Community Art’s Gary Parker – February 9
stay22’s Hamed Al-Khabaz – February 10
YUMiBOX’s Zoey Li – February 25