While transportation and goods movement are key contributors to carbon footprint, solutions for reducing GHG emissions don’t fall squarely on their rims. Founder of Kevares, Joel Nascimento saw the potential of robots as an additional way that municipalities could reduce their carbon footprint. Given their size and form, robots can go to places where electric cars alone cannot (not to mention perform tasks that transcend getting from point A to B). Many civic operations are fuel and labour-intensive and Joel wanted a way in which cities and towns could decarbonize their operations while at the same time making them more efficient and requiring less manpower. And so was born Kevares Autonomous Services.
“We decided that we could make our small contribution to the world by gathering a group of notable engineers, technicians and business professionals to craft robots, artificial intelligence and software into autonomous services that offer communities a streamlined way to migrate their operations from internal-combustion-engine and labour-based to aggregated operations driven by electric autonomous robots.” Joel explains, “These robots would allow municipalities to focus their workers on the things that only humans can physically do.”
In his home country of Brazil back in 2018, Joel was introduced to Spark Centre through its sister company Synergy Lab which was educating the Brazilian entrepreneur on how and what conducting a business in Canada would entail.
“We were already looking at Start-Up Visa-designated incubators, but after getting to know Spark Centre through Synergy Lab’s soft-landing program, we knew that Spark Centre would be instrumental to our future in Canada.” Joel says.
Creating a business from scratch in a new country is a heavy undertaking. For an international entrepreneur on new soil, everything — from the innovation ecosystem to funding and resources — is “alien” (as Joel puts it). Besides understanding the Canadian market and business practices, Kevares needed the right connections to get his autonomous services off the ground: connections to funding agencies, qualified business peers and to industry partners.
Once Joel was settled into Oshawa, Ontario, Spark Centre helped Kevares to navigate Ontario’s maze of grant processes and available resources and introduced Kevares to industry professionals to help form potential partnerships. They also connected Kevares with its team of advisors — experts in the areas of finance, investment, marketing and sales — who provided the personalized guidance Kevares needed to launch and grow the business in its new country.
“An early-stage startup is like both a baby and a rocket,“ Joel says, “And Spark Centre provided both the crib and the launch platform.”
What happened next was eight months of outreach with investors, funding agencies and other municipality and agency stakeholders to determine market value, followed by incorporation in 2020. Within one year following incorporation, Kevares had secured a two-year R&D project in robotics and AI with the Ontario Centre of Innovation and Queen’s University in addition to AI training at the University of Toronto’s data centre and had begun talks with the City of Oshawa.
By 2022, Kevares had grown to a team of thirteen and had closed its first paid pilot with the City of Oshawa for autonomous sidewalk inspections. Its robot-based scanning and AI-based processing is estimated to reduce staff
Looking back on Kevares’ steady growth from an idea formed in Brazil to a Canadian company that’s transforming municipal operations and reducing carbon footprint, Joel had this advice for international entrepreneurs with their sights set on Canada:
“When it comes to launching or growing your early-stage business in a new country, you should pay extra attention to and appreciate the good-hearted approaches and deeds of your new-land business partners and incubator. Money and concrete can
make fancy buildings but what really matters is the people you can count on. In the long run, money and success will happen, but it’s the people around you that can take you there.