Don’t tell Ketan Patel that something can’t be done. He’s likely to take it as a challenge, invent new technology and start a company so cutting edge it wins the Arizona Innovation Challenge.
That’s essentially how Naya Energy came to be. A colleague developed a smart meter to track how a company uses electricity. Patel, who has a background in analytics, suggested it would be great to develop an “easy button” so customers wouldn’t have to learn the ins and outs of electricity. His colleague said that wasn’t possible.
So Patel connected an Excel spreadsheet to the smart meter’s interface to show how it could work. Six months later, with the idea refined, the smart meter company became Naya Energy’s first customer.
Patel is passionate in describing what Naya does. Essentially, it uses the Internet of Things to measure each device’s energy use in real time, taking 1,000 readings a second. The data is sent to the cloud, where it is analyzed and mapped against the customer’s rate plan, showing where and how to cut costs.
“It’s like GPS,” Patel says. It overlays real-time traffic to show you the fastest way home.
Naya’s customers include produce houses, who must keep fruits and vegetables at a constant temperature; hotels, with their 24-hour cycles; and owners of large buildings seeking to increase property value.
The company focuses on the intricacies of demand charges, which can result in half of a company’s energy bill being based on its worst 30 minutes of the month. Naya’s approach is far more elegant than a load controller, which bluntly shuts off machines. Instead, it measures where energy is being used, considers the options, finds where peaks can be smoothed, and then verifies whether a solution works. The system learns with time.
That’s where the name Naya came from. It is a Sanskrit word that translates into “intelligence acquired through experience.” The system knows nothing when it is installed, but learns as it collects data. “Naya fit perfectly. Plus, I could get the domain name.”
The company guarantees that customers will save money on energy bills and backs it up with a promise to lower its fee if savings fall short.
Patel says hyperbolic claims are common in his industry. Winning the Arizona Innovation Challenge helped him address skepticism from potential clients. “It validated that we are one of the six most innovative companies, vetted by top business leaders. When we talk to schools who have been burned in the past, we can say we won this award, we’re here to stay.”
Patel started four companies in Massachusetts before moving to Arizona and has no plans to go back. Arizona has lower startup costs and the state is incredibly supportive of entrepreneurs.
Patel says Arizona is attracting a top-notch workforce.
“I have five or six young people working for me I’d put up against anyone from MIT. They work hard, they’re motivated. One decided to stay after being recruited by Google and Uber because he feels he can make a contribution here. He wants to stay in Arizona.”