Clean tech company Moment Energy took 3rd place in the 2021 Competition. What started as an idea at SFU has spun into a growing team of now 20 employees. Beyond the NVBC prize, the team took home $100,000 at the Spring Activator National Impact Investor Challenge. Interview with Sumreen Rattan, Co-Founder, Moment Energy.
You started the company at SFU during your studies in mechatronic systems engineering. You then went through E-co-op and SFU’s Venture Connection program. Can you describe what it was like building a company while still a student?
We had a lot of great mentorship with the programs we were in at SFU. In the last eight months of engineering, we combined our engineering capstone with one in entrepreneurship.
We were learning something new every day–for most of us, it was our first time starting a business or doing anything close to that. We were talking to as many people as possible and getting feedback on our ideas, doing customer discovery, and having lots of conversations.
Through that process, I was able to get more confident in talking to strangers, and it helped us in building what Moment Energy is today and transitioning into working on the startup full time.
What inspired you to start Moment Energy?
We were Moment Meditate before we were Moment Energy. We had a 5th co-founder at the time, and we had taken a course on brain technologies, so we looked at creating a brain-stimulating device during meditation that would help users with anxiety.
We pursued that as our initial problem, then pivoted in 2019. As a team of four engineers, our founding team wasn’t as qualified to solve that problem as we were at solving this one with EVs. We applied the mental health learnings to clean tech.
What drove me personally was my course Intro to Entrepreneurship. It was a whole new world that I had never explored before. Because of that, I decided that I was going to do the Tech E program, and then start my own startup. It gave me the framework to get started and planted the seed for me.
Why did you enter the competition? What were you hoping to get out of it?
We had first applied to the competition with our meditation device and we didn’t get in. The second time we tried, we just made it to the first round. Then, the last time, when applying with Moment Energy, we started making it past each round, so that was pretty exciting.
When you entered did you expect to place as well as you did? Any expectations? Where was your company at then?
We didn’t really have any expectations but thought, “let’s put in the effort and see how far we can get.” Internally though, when we got to the Top 10, we were thinking, “hey, we have a chance here. We really put in the work.”
How far along was Moment Energy when you entered the competition?
When we were going through the process, we experienced a lot of growth. We had just closed our pre-seed round, then deployed two additional pilot projects.
We had hired quite a few new employees, going from four co-founders to 12 employees. Big milestones were achieved in Sept. When we reached the finale in Oct, we moved into our first facility–our own office and manufacturing space.
Congrats on winning third place! How did you use your prize money?
The prize money coincided with our seed raise at the time. The first thing we used it for was helping furnish our office–buying tables and chairs to create a working environment for everyone.
What was the most impactful part of going through the competition?
The development of the business plan was the biggest thing that we achieved. We had an incredible mentor as well–David Dunnison was extremely helpful on the business plan, adding comments throughout the weeks.
Throughout the submission, the emails, phone calls, and advice other mentors gave us helped as well. We were applying for a grant–our mentor Gurmninder Minhas had gone through that process. Everyone helped us with our business plan, and overall were amazing.
What was the best piece of advice received from your mentors?
It was very specific to our business. Something that David Dunnison tried to drive home was that we’re in the energy storage business, and in the business plan, we have to outline the driving factors. We focused on the solar industry, energy storage, and renewables. They helped us to find supporting articles on these topics, and data that we should include in our pitch decks.
It helped us to define the clean-cut factors that drive our business, and why we are in this business.
Any advice for this year’s competitors?
If you get to the stage where you’re assigned mentors, leverage their help and expertise. They have amazing experience that they can use to guide you, and many have been through competition before.
My other piece of advice is to work on refining your pitch deck and business plan throughout the competition and ask for feedback.
You’ve recently raised 3.5M and won $100,000 at Spring Activator’s 2021 National Impact Investor Challenge, plus the Social Impact award at SFU’s Coast Capital Venture Prize. What’s next for moment energy?
Last year was a great year for awards for us. For this year, we’re focused on deploying larger energy storage systems in off grid and utilities. We’re building a solution and testing it for those applications, and looking to expand to a larger facility later this year, as we’ve already outgrown our current facility.
We’re also working towards conversations with Series A investors and plan to close that this year.
Was placing in the competition helpful when talking to investors?
For VCs we hope that it adds credibility. Outside of Canada, one of our automaker clients congratulated us on winning both the NVBC and the Spring awards. These prizes helped us get on their radar–they were impressed to hear we were a top Canadian startup.
What is one thing everyone can do to help support a greener future?
Simple things, essentially! Take those little steps–they might seem small, but when seven billion people are doing them, it makes a difference.
You can support sustainability through greener modes of transport, turning off lights when they’re not in use, and taking shorter showers.
Any last comments?
We’re always open to having conversations with people in the renewable energy field or folks who are working on renewable energy projects. If you’re reading this and see potential for collaboration, please reach out.
We’re also seeking investors for our Series A round–if anyone would like to connect on that please feel free to get in touch.
2022 competition open for entries
Want to enter the 2022 New Ventures BC Competition? Entries are open until April 11, 2022.