Creating firsts in smart off-grid technology
Miriam Tuerk’s company, Clear Blue Technologies, started creating an Internet of Things before there was a phrase for it
Clear Blue Technologies was inspired by opportunity. Miriam Tuerk, her husband, John, and their co-founder, Mark Windrim, saw an opportunity in renewables, specifically, creating reliable solar power through their off-grid cloud-based energy systems.
Miriam and John Tuerk were both electrical engineers by training. After university, Miriam worked in telecommunications, e-commerce and Internet banking. John went into the power industry. “He said there’s change coming,” she said of a conversation they had before founding Clear Blues. “The biggest change is that the world is moving from analog to digital.” Renewables would be the future, but they knew the world needed new technology to make solar power a reliable possibility.
Clear Blue Technologies, based out of Toronto, provides off-grid energy to the world—clean, reliable, wireless power to communities around the globe. Their hybrid controller, integrated communications network and Illumience Cloud software controls their off-grid systems remotely.
“It happened a little bit by accident,” Miriam Tuerk, CEO of Clear Blue, said. “It was this unique marriage from technology from both our industries . . . the technology, the convergence of our two industries and the timing.” At the time of the company’s founding in 2011, they were building technology that nobody had a word for. “Today we have a word for it. We call it the Internet of Things,” she said.
A startup taking on the global market
It’s easy to connect the dots in the story of Clear Blue’s growth. This startup took on the global market right from the beginning. They work with technology that hasn’t existed before: smart off-grid systems. To accomplish their current scale—and still be growing—it’s clear that the team behind Clear Blue shares a unique drive. “We don’t just look at our own market,” Miriam said. “We look at the whole world.”
Their experience is partially responsible for this drive. “The team has a lot of passion,” Miriam said. The combination of passion and their diverse experience has fueled their drive to seek opportunities. They have systems across Canada, “but we also have a system in Nigeria where the need is the biggest.” Miriam travels around the world to work with new clients.
“Startups are created by communities, not individuals,” Miriam said. At the same time, it’s clear that Miriam’s passion leads her team forward. “I put lots of passion and energy into everything I do. I get into what I’m doing. I call this my third child,” she said.
Captaining a community
It’s an exciting time for Clear Blue Technologies as the company continues to expand on a global scale. “It’s also a relief because when you are building a startup, it’s kind of like you’re running a sprint. When it turns into a marathon, you can’t go that fast,” Miriam said.
When building the Clear Blue team, the co-founders look for employees with similar values. “Knowing how to work hard and having a good attitude are huge for me,” she said. Attitude and soft skills trump experience. “We are a new technology, so we can’t hire someone who has five years of experience in smart off-grids. We’re the first smart off-grid company, so nobody does what we do.” If they hire team members who know how to work hard, they can learn the details.
Teamwork and transparency are also core values within the company. “There are no job titles in a startup,” said Miriam. She helps wherever her skills or extra hands are needed in all departments within the company.
For investors and potential new investors, “Open communication, passion and energy are what I try to convey,” she said. There is always a challenge in bringing new technology to the market, but there is an increased challenge in bringing new technology as a startup to the risk-adverse Canadian market. “They question if it’s required,” Miriam said. However, she tackles tough problems like communication with investors through her transparent and straightforward attitude.
Clear Blue’s hard work is paying off. “The most rewarding is when a customer comes back and says we delivered on value,” she said. “It’s a five-year overnight success story. When people come back to you, that is validating your vision.”