This week, two New Brunswick startups are in India for Global Affairs Canada’s Smart Cities Mission to the country.
Saint John’s EhEye, Fredericton’s TotalPave and six other Canadian startups are there to show Indian officials how their technology can help redevelop city infrastructure and introduce smart technologies in areas such as energy, water, transportation, public safety and education.
We reached out to EhEye CEO James Stewart to see how the trip is going so far:
First of all, what is the nature of this trip?
We’ve been invited to participate in the Smart Cities Mission to India by Global Affairs Canada and the High Commission to India. This is in support of Prime Minister Modi’s focus on investing in smart city infrastructures across India.
How can EhEye help the country?
Well, it turns out that you cannot have a smart city until you address public safety and security. As we head into more turbulent times, and with the proliferation of CCTV cameras, we need the ability to really extract the value from these investments. EhEye can automate the monitoring of streaming video for objects, activities and behaviours of interest to help keep folks safe.
Can you describe some of the things you’ve done so far?
We just concluded two full days of meetings in Delhi and are en route to Bangalore for the second half of our trip. Bangalore is the tech hub of India. The High Commission has done an incredible job arranging meetings with key stakeholders within the country. So far, I have met with 12 different potential partners. These are very positive people who are as eager as we are to collaborate. Of these, there are 3 in particular that I am especially excited about given our common focus.
What has been the reception to your business?
It’s interesting, the reception to EhEye has exceeded my expectations. But I think the real success is how all of the Canadian companies have been received. There is a feeling in the room that folks from Canada can really help here. It’s like a natural trust in what Canadians are all about. I’m very proud to wear the Indian-Canadian lapel pin they gave us.
What is India doing that Atlantic Canada can learn from?
One item, in particular, stands out to me – their focus on the problems. They have a saying that “all of the world’s problems can be found in India.” If you aren’t delivering a solution to a top-tier problem, they aren’t interested no matter how cool it is. Here in Atlantic Canada, perhaps because we aren’t under the same pressures, there is a tendency to waste time thinking about data before identifying and prioritizing the problems that need to be solved.
Why do you think it’s important for startups like yours to take a global perspective?
I didn’t realize the importance until arriving here in India. As an entrepreneur, you need to find that real problem. Where better to find one than in a city of 20 million people. These aren’t just nice-to-have smart city applications. These are applications that lives are dependent on. I also didn’t realize how being Canadian can open the door to these conversations. I think many are under the impression that being Canadian is almost a hindrance and there is pressure to hide where we are from. From my current vantage point, we need to be embracing where we are from as part of our company DNA.
What do you hope to learn from this trip?
I honestly went into this trip looking for the standard early adopter. I’m not even sure what I was hoping to learn… maybe market fit. What I have learned is so powerful that it feels like the blinders are off. My view of the horizon feels so much wider than it was. If you’re an entrepreneur searching for ‘market pull’, start exploring countries that understand deeply what their problems are – they are in dire need of meaningful solutions.
EhEye and TotalPave will be in India until Feb.11.