Vienna Zhou was inspired to take on a career in technology and clean energy in the early aughts around the time of the dot com boom.
“The idea that we could create many things to change the world was inspiring to me,” she says. “With my engineering background, I realized energy storage paired with technology was the solution to revolutionize the way people generate and use energy.”
Today, she is the CEO and founder of TROES, a Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESSs) manufacturer and Microgrid solution provider that specializes in clean technology. The organization has a wide scope of clients from project developers to government officials. TROES was established in 2018 and in a short three months closed its first sale. The company’s first office was at ventureLAB’s tech hub in Markham, Ontario.
“Energy storage is the future,” Zhou explains. “[It] will play a major role in the decarbonization of global pollution and play an integral part in supporting the grid.”
Batteries, Zhou notes, are one of the most common solutions for energy storage and they’re made up of a number of different integral components. Each, she says, plays a crucial role in effectively keeping the batteries safe and cool, allowing for optimal charging and discharging.
What makes TROES stand out is its use of a proprietary controller that monitors, dispatches and manages the distribution of power for consumers as well as small- and middle-market power distributors. The result is an incredibly effective and fire-safe tool that can reduce utility bills, bring reliability to power distribution, and service remote communities where weak infrastructure is often common.
TROES is a complete solution provider responsible for developing, designing, and manufacturing the BESS hardware and microgrid simulation and control technology software. By 2025, TROES believes it can capture a significant share of the overall North American battery-based energy storage Commercial, Industrial, and Microgrid market segment, which requires higher safety, shorter lead times, higher customization, and better pre-sale and post-sale service. Long-term, TROES’ vision is to become a global champion within the decentralized energy environment, while accelerating the worlds transition into decarbonized energy and building energy infrastructure resilience. Zhou notes the company’s goal is to be a “global champion in the decentralized energy environment,” and to accelerate “the world’s transition into decarbonized energy.”
One thing that’s helped her along her entrepreneurial journey is support from organizations like ventureLAB and initiatives like Seneca’s Applied Research Program.
“Seneca’s Applied Research Program bridges the talent gap by creating opportunities for smart students and expert faculty to learn and collaborate on meaningful real-world projects,” she says. For TROES, that meant gaining exposure to community partners and industry leaders in the clean energy space while also receiving coaching and guidance from experienced Seneca faculty. The Seneca research team of Seneca student Research Assistants, led by Professor Abdur Rahman, created a custom-built system assisting TROES engineers with the prediction of energy storage needs of potential customers. The Research Assistants adapted open-source software with algorithms and data specific to TROES use cases to develop the software tool.
ventureLAB also contributed to the growth of TROES by helping Zhou juggle the costs of startup life while giving her the resources to expand the business.
“Make sure you have the resources (money, time, skill, business partners) to execute your idea,” she says. “Evaluate the worst-case scenario as if your business couldn’t make money for three years and you lost all of your investments. Determine if you could bear it. If the answer is yes, then get rid of [extraneous] things and focus on [what matters]. Make a full commitment.”
Today, Zhou is as committed as ever to bringing her clean tech vision to the masses. “TROES' technology, products, and marketing position have received a very good response from the market,” she says, adding she’s thankful for all of the support she’s received to date. “[Everyone’s] efforts will play a pivotal role in the future of energy storage.”
About Seneca Applied Research
Seneca Applied Research brings together Seneca’s students and faculty expertise to collaborate with industry and community partners in solving real world challenges. Seneca has been engaged in applied research activities since 2003 and has research expertise in areas such as (1) software and data sciences, (2) life sciences, (3) design and animation (4) engineering (5) health sciences and (6) business and finance.
ventureLAB is a leading global founder community for hardware technology and enterprise software companies in Canada. Located at the heart of Ontario’s innovation corridor in York Region, ventureLAB is part of one of the biggest and most diverse tech communities in Canada. Our initiatives focused on raising capital, talent retention, commercializing technology and IP, and customer acquisition have enabled thousands of companies to create over 4,000 jobs and raise more than $200 million in investment capital. At ventureLAB, we grow globally competitive tech titans that build-to-scale in Canada, for global markets.