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A conversation with Julie Angus

February 25, 2019 By: Barry Chong

What is your company trying to do?

Our goal is to transform how we understand and protect our waters by helping build an Internet of Things for the ocean. We are developing energy-harvesting autonomous boats equipped with sensors and cameras to make oceanic observations that can be relayed instantly. We offer a safer, more efficient and affordable way of collecting data compared to conventional crewed vessels. Using solar or wind power, our boats produce no greenhouse gases, noise pollution or risk of oil spills, and can travel non-stop for a year, always collecting information.

Now that you’re a finalist, you have about two years ahead of you to develop your tech. How would you describe the first few months of this challenge?

There’s a saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” For me, the support provided by the challenge is that teacher. I’ve been inspired by the five outstanding women who were also selected, met incredible entrepreneurs and mentors at MaRS and taken online courses in customer development and business strategy. We’ve started collaborating with Natural Resources Canada to further advance our technology, hired two engineering co-op students and moved from our garage to a spacious facility in the Vancouver Island Technology Park. It’s been a ton of work, but often it feels more like play than toil, challenging my skills on every level.

What has surprised you most so far?

Realizing how much I have to learn. I’ve met many talented and brilliant people who’ve shared their insights on building a business. But as my many questions are answered, it often highlights further areas of learning that are required. At first, this overwhelmed me, but now I’ve accepted that building a business is a marathon not a sprint. I need to pace myself, just like when I rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. The important thing is setting ambitious — but attainable — goals and maintaining the stamina and motivation to get there.

What are you hoping to achieve over the next few months?

Our solar electric autonomous boat prototype, Solar Xplorer, is close to completion and soon it will undergo extensive ocean testing. We’ll conduct trials for self-right capabilities, sustained speeds (to support earlier trials that indicated it as the world’s fastest automated energy-harvesting boat), autonomous navigation for multi-day voyages, video streaming and communication via satellite and 3G/4G telemetry. We will build our team and hire a senior engineer, as well as two more co-op students for the summer term. We’ll also continue to talk to our potential customers to better understand their needs.

What was your New Year’s resolution?

In 2018, I found that meditation helped me relax, focus and be more connected to those around me. But despite the benefits, I struggled to make it part of my daily routine. My goal for the New Year is to meditate for at least 15 minutes a day.

Julie Angus Profile