Asif Hasan Is Making a Positive Impact at Home – in New Brunswick and Bangladesh

Author: Engineering Alumni Office

Posted on Nov 26, 2018

Category: Alumni Spotlight

You’ve no doubt been seeing the economic impact that the tech sector is having on New Brunswick – from exits like Radian6 and Q1 Labs to new startups like Eigen Innovations and Resson – innovative companies have been putting money into our economy and providing well-paying jobs.

You may not, however, have seen how many of the entrepreneurs behind these companies are personally making a big impact on our province as well as other countries around the world.

One of those is Asif Hasan, CEO and co-founder of SimpTek, a tech company that offers a new platform to help customers better understand and manage energy usage.Asif Hasan, SimpTek

Asif came to New Brunswick from Bangladesh on scholarship to study engineering at UNB, and in the seven years since he’s arrived, he’s started a company that now employs ten people, become a foster parent for New Brunswick children in need, and begun working with social development agencies to figure out solutions to better help vulnerable people in the province.

Not only that, but Asif is also committed to helping his home country of Bangladesh as well: he’s doing business there and sharing knowledge on innovative ways to grow and solve problems. Says Asif, “I have two homes now: Canada and Bangladesh.  I feel strongly about giving back to both places.”

Arriving in Saint John in January of 2012 was a cold awakening for Asif. The first in his family to leave home, he arrived in Montreal and transferred to a “tiny commuter plane that flew into what looked like nothing but snow-covered forest! I didn’t know what to expect.” Thankfully, he got a warm welcome from UNB and from a community that was very supportive to international students. “I came to Canada because it has such a good reputation for being peaceful, friendly and having a good social structure. All of that has turned out to be true.”

After a semester of engineering courses and working at the Saint John campus over the summer, he transferred to the Fredericton campus and the electrical engineering department. “I loved being amongst bright minds collaborating on projects and innovative research.”

In his third year, he enrolled in the Technology Management and Entrepreneurship (TME) multidisciplinary course and, along with classmate Keelen Gagnon, pitched a wearable tech device for seniors as their project. “The course exposed me to a lot of real-life entrepreneurs with practical knowledge. I learned that it’s not about what we think will be a cool product; it’s about what the customer wants.”

Asif says he learned three big things at UNB that have served him well in the startup world and beyond:

“First, I learned to dedicate myself to something and push through. I didn’t know what courses I really wanted to take but I pursued them, worked hard and succeeded at them. Second, I learned problem-solving skills. In all of my courses – whether it was physics, math or philosophy – everything came down to problem-solving. And third, I realized the importance of working on projects that impact real-life. Sometimes as engineers we get excited about a cool new idea, but we have to listen to those who will use the product and validate it.”

In the summer of 2014, Hasan and Gagnon, with the support of TME and UNB partner Planet Hatch, were accepted into the Propel ICT Launch program. They learned the business side of startups and began validating their product. “We had the tremendous opportunity to learn from seasoned mentors like Jeff Thompson, Larry Shaw, Marcel LeBrun, David Alston and Gaetan Thomas. It felt like everyone around me wanted me to succeed.”

After advice from mentors and meeting UNB engineering alumnus Brad Wasson, of NB Power, at a TME lunch-n-learn, Asif began to understand the needs of the energy sector. “We knew we could extend our thinking around simplifying technology to empower people with smarter energy decisions through data and insights.” That’s when SimpTek was born.

 “The software business is a very human-oriented business,” Asif explains. “It creates highly skilled jobs and requires a collaboration of minds. It’s a very fulfilling area of business.”

SimpTek provides customers with the ability to easily understand where and how they can be more energy-efficient. The software measures, analyzes and suggests actions. “You can’t see what you can’t measure,” says Asif. “So we collect 24/7 data from customers using our Build 360 platform that then provides an analysis on a dashboard and pinpoints problem areas. It recommends the right products and services for better energy efficiency. It’s virtual energy management with an evidence-based approach.”

Their clients, like the City of Fredericton and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure have been using the product in public buildings and schools to produce savings and meet sustainability goals. “Our core value is to make a positive impact on the planet. It’s really gratifying to see that happening.”

In the four years since the company began, they’ve grown from an idea to employing ten people with team members from Bangladesh, India, the Philippines and Canada. They’ve attracted investors from around the world and are now expanding into the international market, starting in the Middle East. “We’ve got support from ONB, EDC, Ignite and the Trade Commissioner Service. It’s really a remarkable community of support here in New Brunswick.”

As we focus on scaling up, we’re augmenting our team skillsets and continuing to look for advisors and support,” Asif asserts. “Building the right team of talented people around us is critical, so we’re looking for UNB and New Brunswick alumni to fill those roles.”

Asif lights up even further when he talks about the other people in his life; he and his wife, a Saint John native, have become foster parents. “Fostering is an amazing experience. Working for kids and vulnerable sectors in the community is something I’ve always had a passion for. There’s a big need that’s not all that visible here in Canada, unlike back home in Bangladesh. But it still exists. It’s a hidden problem that I hope to help improve.”

He has big plans to do just that. He’s working on a new digital software platform that would connect those in need with the various organizations and people who can help. He’s currently looking for collaborators to get off the ground and make a big impact on social development in Canada and potentially in Bangladesh as well.

“Canadians might not realize it but this country affects the world simply through welcoming international students here to gain knowledge and then spread that knowledge back to the country we came from. Students are agents of change. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and grow here, and now be able to give back and make an impact in both of my home countries.”