North American tech is alive and thriving. And as an ecosystem partner, we want to highlight the people and stories behind that growth.
So we’re giving you the inside track into how a few rising tech companies got started, the challenges they’ve faced, and their take on the future of tech in Alberta.
We connected with Gursh Bal and Kai Fahrion, Co-CEOs at Virtuoso Energy. This dynamic duo is enabling Western Canadians to live greener lifestyles with innovative sustainable energy solutions.
Let’s see what Gursh and Kai had to say…
What inspired you to found Virtuoso Energy?
Gursh: “It was to do something that is bigger than myself, and to strive towards leaving the world better than how I found it.”
Kai: “For me, the reason for starting the company goes back to my roots as a child and from the influence of my parents. I was brought up learning the importance of making a positive impact for the world.”
What does Virtuoso Energy do and how are you making an impact?
Gursh: “We do residential home solar solutions. This includes solar PV panels, EV charging stations, energy monitoring systems, and battery backup systems. Our solutions empower people to do their part in reducing humanity’s environmental impact.”
What were the biggest challenges you faced in the early startup days of the company?
Gursh: “We didn’t have any formal business acumen and didn’t necessarily understand what was required for a business to function in a formal manner. This ended up becoming an advantage in the long run because we were able to think more innovatively.”
Kai: “It was also challenging to be in the renewable energy sector in an oil and gas province. We had to figure out how our solutions tied in with Alberta’s energy portfolio and communicate this to Albertans.”
What marketing activities have you prioritized/invested in? What has worked well for you?
Gursh: “Ultimately, it’s a mixture of multiple activities done harmoniously with one another.”
Kai: “Our marketing activities revolve around communicating our ‘why’ and getting that message across to as many people as possible.”
How has COVID impacted Virtuoso Energy?
Gursh: “Positively! It’s pushed our organization to be more efficient and work remotely in a successful manner. It has also put our services at the forefront of people’s minds and has highlighted a lot of environmental issues. We have also become more resilient from dealing with issues that come with a pandemic that many companies at our stage have never experienced before.”
Kai: “It has helped us dial in our processes, evolve quickly, and adjust to challenges that have come our way. As people are spending more time at home, it has allowed them to better understand their energy usage. The environmental aspects have also come to the forefront of people’s minds during COVID and many people are starting to realize that we are in a race against time.”
What’s on the horizon for Virtuoso Energy post-pandemic?
Gursh: “The pandemic didn’t change anything for what our company was or wasn’t going to do. Our goal of reducing humanity’s impact has always been the same. We will continue doing that, but we will most likely do it in an amplified manner due to the environmental awareness that has increased during the pandemic.”
Kai: “As Gursh mentioned, we are not going to change much of our plans. In fact, the pandemic has accelerated those plans to grow, expand, and provide jobs to Canadians.”
What do you think the future holds for the Alberta tech sector? Please comment on industry trends you may have observed, investor growth, etc.
Gursh: “The tech sector in Alberta is bright. There is a lot of opportunity in the province specifically because the people who have existed here have always been in the tech sector. It just wasn’t defined as such. Our oil and gas industry is one of the most technologically advanced in the world. We already have capable individuals from various backgrounds with skills and knowledge in tech. And over time, these skilled individuals will move into roles in various growing areas of tech in Alberta.”
Kai: “Tech will be a big aspect of our economic growth and bring more jobs to our province locally. A lot of industry trends are showing that there is a massive opportunity for companies to come here due to Alberta’s highly skilled labour and favourable economic conditions. There are many examples of companies achieving great things in Alberta who continue to lead the way in growing our economy.”
What Alberta tech startup(s) are you currently watching and why?
Gursh: “The ones that come to mind are Greengate and Radicle. These companies are doing unprecedented work in their space. Greengate is bringing some of the biggest energy projects that we’ve seen in the province in the last decade, attracting investors like Amazon to Alberta. Radicle is doing lots of cool projects that ensure carbon is being managed properly. Radicle is cutting edge in the way that it creates new ways of quantifying carbon offsets while making sure they are managed in a responsible manner.”
Kai: “Helcim. Nick and his team are really at the forefront of payment processing and making it affordable for all businesses. Helcim, which competes with companies in Silicon Valley, is bringing this technology locally to Alberta.”
What advice would you give to someone considering starting a tech company in Alberta?
Gursh: “If you want to be in tech because you want to be part of the industry, don’t do it. If you want to bring something to the forefront that’s going to change the way humans experience the world or help move humanity forward, then this is the place to do it. There’s a lot of support here and there are a lot of good talented individuals who are willing to help you.”
Kai: “Make sure you stand by what you want to do and that you are 100% bought into your own ‘why’. Don’t follow the status quo when it comes to what you are trying to bring to the province. There are a lot of companies that will support you and connect with the right people if you have a great idea. So, my advice would be: if your idea will really push humanity forward and bring a positive impact to the world, do it. There is nothing better than starting a company that you really believe in.”
What’s your must-read, listen, or watch for anyone in tech?
Gursh: “I personally subscribe to biographies. I recommend ‘Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike’ and ‘Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future’. They will provide good insights into what it takes to bring something new to the market.”
Kai: “The best books based around tech would be Steve Job and Elon Musk’s biographies. ‘Shoe Dog’ also has a great overview of a company starting from nothing to becoming one of the biggest organizations in the world. In terms of podcasts, listen to NPR and ‘Masters of Scale’ by Reid Hoffman.”
More tech stories to come…