Hatched at UNB and Driven by Alumni: Envenio Provides Engineers Faster Simulations without Sacrificing Accuracy

Author: Engineering Alumni Office

Posted on May 15, 2018

Category: Alumni Spotlight

There are plenty of examples that prove New Brunswick is a great place for innovators and startup companies to thrive. Envenio, in Fredericton, is one of them.

Envenio is a growing company that develops fast and cost-effective Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation solutions for engineers. CEO Ian McLeod (BScME ’04, MScME’06) helped create the company, along with Dr. Andrew Gerber and Dr. Gordon Holloway of UNB’s Faculty of Engineering, in response to a significant shift in computer hardware design toward low-cost, powerful computing architectures. “The progression from single CPUs to parallel CPUs and then to graphics processors (GPUs) has forced a constant evolution in the way we handle supercomputing applications. Dr. Gerber realized that this created an opportunity to leverage GPUs to provide engineers who use CFD with a new, much faster and much cheaper way to provide high-quality simulations,” says McLeod, who had been a grad student of Holloway and Gerber.

It took a lot of time and work to build their new solver software. To fully utilize GPUs you must rebuild a CFD code entirely. So they started from scratch, part-time in 2010, then hiring more talent from UNB along the way, including Jian Tao Zhang (MScME’10) and Kevin Wilcox (BScME’06, PhDME’11).

The prototype was ready in 2016. It was at this point that they pitched for their first round of funding, securing the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation as an investor. Along with funding from ACOA and NRC-IRAP they raised close to $1million, which they used to develop their prototype into a marketable product. They grew their development team and hired Scott Walton (BBA ’09) as the VP, Business Development. The team tried various sales & pricing models, such as licensing, but settled a cloud model that would provide CFD simulation capability on-demand. Their solution bundles software and hardware and requires no upfront costs or term license agreements, and delivers 20x faster solutions than competing vendors. 

Their product is unique – it’s the only software that is optimized for GPU processor architecture, making it the only code that can give customers the speed and quality they need at an affordable price point. It appeals to big firms as a product that supplements their current CFD solution, but it also allows freelance and small-shop engineers to use CFD as well because there isn’t a high licensing fee. Consulting engineers previously weren’t able to provide their clients simulations – now they can, not only because of Envenio’s software but because their product also comes with an onboarding program to train engineers in how to use it. “There’s huge trepidation about simulation,” says McLeod, “but we work directly with them to solve their problems and show them that simulation can be easy.”

This combination of the technical component plus the personal component has been a winning combination for Envenio. In January 2017 they received a second round of funding, this time from Celtic House Venture Partners, an independent investment firm out of Toronto. They used the funding to scale up their business development to meet and exceed targets and become self-sustaining. McLeod is happy to say that they’ve just crossed the threshold on that goal, having landed clients in Europe, the U.S. and across Canada. They’ll likely look for a third round of funding later this year to continue to grow.In addition to pitching more clients, they’ll use the funding to continue to build out additional modules for their product that will allow modeling of radiative heat transfer, wave simulation and other applications. “We want to help improve the productivity and profitability of engineers worldwide.”

Ian grew up in Sussex, N.B and was always mathematically and science inclined, so heading to UNB for engineering was a natural fit. He received advice that mechanical engineering would be the most versatile, and so entered that stream. He ended up getting a summer co-op placement with Dr. Holloway to work on a processing issue project for ALCAN. He went straight into the Masters program from there. After graduating, Ian spent a year in Vancouver before making the decision to come back home. He was hired by Forest Protection Limited as a research engineer to design and operate a wind tunnel facility for testing of aerial application of pest control products. He spent five years helping to minimize drift from spraying and reduce the environmental impact before moving to Envenio to grow it full-time. “Being able to help develop an exciting and thriving tech business from right here in New Brunswick is amazing. We have the talent and funding and support we need, plus a great lifestyle and working environment. We’re surrounded by other innovators who are also building thriving companies. We couldn’t ask for more.”  

UNB Engineering now offers a Master of Technology Management and Entrepreneurship 1-year program that will help you plan and launch your own tech startup and earn a masters degree at the same time. Find out more.