Arun Gopinath, CEO and co-founder of Vahanomy, shares a little about the company’s journey and how it came to develop an AI powered location intelligence tool to assess potential locations for electric car charging points.

An electric car charging

You set up your own business, did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, having had two technology businesses in India and the US in the past. I’m also very passionate about the environment, equality, and human rights. In 2019, I was looking at the connections between the environment and transport, how the two interplay and affect each other and our vision to contribute to tackling climate change through decarbonising transport and eventually offer and promote mobility as a service.

The plan to transition to electric cars was already clear and I was able to see what is going to be a huge need for suitable Electric Vehicle charging stations, both in the UK and around the world.

And that’s how Vahanomy was born?

‘We want to be able to help accelerate the rollout of electric vehicles by tackling problems around accessible and viable EV charging stations.’

We started off looking into the sort of sites that would be suitable for EV charging stations and quickly found that researching the opportunity, viability and risks of potential sites was difficult. There was very little readily available data out there. At the time, we were looking at potential EV charging sites. We were looking at an average of four potential sites before selecting one.

While most of ‘the low hanging fruit’ sites have already been taken up, the demand for EV charging stations is expected to be 60M by 2030. And, 90% of these sites are yet to be installed with EV chargers. That’s a huge potential challenge. So to address it, we pivoted and started developing our own solution, using AI and data collection based on over 90 data points to make it easy to access the data required and to analyse the opportunity, viability and risk potential sites present.

From the point of view of businesses or governments, the people who are going to invest in building charging points, there’s a lot of risk involved. They need to know how viable a location is, how likely it is that it will be used, what the risks are and what sort of longevity they can expect. Our tool collects the data they need, and we can offer either raw data, for companies to look at themselves, or also provide insights and analysis. But we’re looking at it from the user’s point of view too, will they feel safe and comfortable at a particular location and if it is accessible? That’s important to us.

Have you found working with universities helpful

We are a part of University of Edinburgh’s Data Driven Entrepreneurship AI Accelerator programme. It’s an opportunity to work with experts in AI from the university and potentially build our team, bringing talent into the business. The support and exposure this programme has offered us in just the first few weeks has been tremendous and we are excited about what we can learn over the course of the six month programme.

The brilliant thing about working with universities is the people and the collaboration opportunities. Being a part of the Accelerator has opened opportunities for us to work with the Edinburgh Earth Initiative, the Business School, The Data Lab, and academics within the university that link up with our work. This could also provide us with access to the private sector partners of the university. Universities are also well placed to help with funding, all startups need funding, and for this, being introduced to the right investors who bring value beyond just money is vital. We are also part of the University of Edinburgh’s Engage Invest Exploit (EIE) cohort for 2022 and we will be presenting to investors on 6 October 2022.

What’s next for Vahanomy?

We’re poised to take our next big step, after a couple of years of research and validating the demand we are building our marketplace for the EV charging infrastructure, and securing the data sources for building our AI-driven location data intelligence tool. We’ve had some excellent support already, including debt funding from Excellerate USA for our marketplace and are also part of the mobility accelerator, MSIP Accelerator, designed to help ambitious young companies who are developing new solutions in sustainable mobility.

Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

‘We want to help everyone in the ecosystem, from consultants and decision makers to the people who will be charging their cars.’

By 2030, we want to be leaders in the mobility as a service space, having helped facilitate and meet the need for electric vehicle charging stations and helping stakeholders access the data they need to make it happen. There’s scope to go beyond electric vehicle charging too, our tool will be tweaked to be adaptable to be used for alternative fuels and applications in the future.

We not only want to help Scotland and the UK meet its Net Zero targets but there’s great potential for taking our tool globally, from America to India to Asia, where the local challenges may be different but the need for electric vehicle charging stations remains high. In 10 years’ time, I want us to be a Scottish company that’s gone global and leading in the sustainable mobility and data solutions space.

Why is tackling these big, societal issues your goal?

Advocating for transport justice is very important to me. I’ve been Manager of the Central Scotland Regional Equality Council and a member of the Board of Directors of Scottish charity SACRO and the Port of Leith Housing Association. When I think about transport justice and equality, it’s clear that reaching Net Zero is a key part of those ideals. Our vision and technology relates directly to travel and mobility and the location of EV charging stations will have a direct impact on how equitable travel is in the future.

When I left the third sector, a lot of people wondered whether I had changed my ideals, but that’s not the case at all. I could see a way to enact change and wanted to do it in a way we could contribute directly through our services. We want to be a kind company that guides people, not just internally, but by doing good.

Arun Gopinath, CEO and co-founder of Vahanomy
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