Sam Poirier is a co-founder and CEO of Potential Motors Canadian-based software company building a next-generation AI-based vehicle control software for fully electrified drivetrains. Sam has a background in mechatronics engineering and has always had a passion for sustainability and solving technical problems. He has transitioned that passion into Potential Motors as he and his team make an impact in the automotive industry.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily ,Sam says:
I would like to be remembered for the ways that I have helped people.
I believe marketing should be around creating a market pull. And further to that showing that you and your company are innovating in a way that other companies want to come to talk to you regardless of the product you are selling just because they understand your vision for the future.
This is fairly generic, but I think it makes a big difference: surround yourself with smart people who motivate you. Having people who are as excited about what they are doing will make a massive difference on the days that you feel unmotivated. The second piece of advice is to make sure you love what you are getting involved with because starting a company is a lot of work, so having a passion for what you are building makes it less work and fun.
Read on to know more about Sam Poirier and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background, and What motivated you to get started with your company?
Sam Poirier: I have always been passionate about technology and especially how it can solve emerging problems. The focus of my studies at university was in mechatronics engineering. During that time, I had the opportunity to work abroad in Germany, where I began to realize the impact that a move towards electrification of mobility was going to have on the world. From that point, my other co-founders and I knew that we needed to play a role in aiding the world’s transition to electric.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Sam Poirier: Our company, Potential Motors, started by developing kits for converting existing vehicles to electric. The goal of this was to quickly swap out engines of vehicles that no longer met emissions standards for an electric powertrain. We realized that this opportunity could only grow to have a smaller scale of impact and had begun to realize that there was a more significant opportunity rising due to this transition to electric vehicles and advancements in other technology such as computing power.
At this point, we transitioned the company to our new direction, developing a next-generation AI-based vehicle control software for fully electrified drivetrains. At the heart of the system, we are developing is our RallyAI module, which takes input from the driver, the surrounding environment, road surface conditions, and vehicle state. It then uses an Artificial Intelligence-based predictive approach with drive-by-wire to control 1-, 2-, 3-, or 4-motor (or more) electrified drivetrains. The net result is an augmented driving experience that is smarter and faster than a human but still leaves the driver in control.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Sam Poirier: In February of this year, we closed our CAD2.5M seed round.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fundraising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors and which channels worked best for you?
Sam Poirier: The first step was to come up with a solid and in-depth plan for what we needed to accomplish. From there, we determined if this could be done without raising capital. In our case, our development is very capital intensive, so we began the process of raising investment based on our plan and vision that we had developed.
In the process of raising our seed round, we met close to 10 investors who were all interested in our vision. The best approach that we found was through the network connections; having a warm introduction goes a long way when you are trying to raise money. Many of these connections came through advisors that we have, so taking time to build out your network before raising money can help.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fundraising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Sam Poirier: The biggest challenge we faced was in realizing the amount of time that the process would take. Our investment went through faster than most, and it was still a much longer process than you would hope for. The reality is you need to have a significant runway left when starting the fundraising process, or else you could find yourself in a position where you don’t have much time.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Sam Poirier: Our milestones are both technology and business development based. We have set goals that we want to accomplish for the development of our technology, and that will be shown in tests that we can pass. On the business development side, we are focused on creating industry connections that can lead to a collaboration with our future customers.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Sam Poirier: Our company is still focused on developing the product, so we do not currently have any users. However, we have taken a customer-first approach from the start doing a lot of outreach to determine how what we are building will provide value to our future customers.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Sam Poirier: So far, it has mainly been through the articles we have written. However, we have not had a large marketing focus yet.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Sam Poirier: I think it can come from where the focus is. I believe marketing should be around creating a market pull. And further to that showing that you and your company are innovating in a way that other companies want to come to talk to you regardless of the product you are selling just because they understand your vision for the future.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Sam Poirier: The automotive industry is global, so this is a focus of ours. We plan to expand globally through creating connections with our customers in these global locations; a lot of this can be done remotely now but will involve a lot of travel wherever that is again possible.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
Sam Poirier: The COVID-19 outbreak has to lead us to be very cautious about the decisions that we make. This is especially true in the way we spend money, moving forward as we gain more clarity on the impacts of this pandemic. We will be moving with the expectation that things will take even longer to happen than what would have been the case before this pandemic.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
Sam Poirier: I think it is common for people to be afraid to ask for help. The reality is that you are only as good as the people around you, often it is the case that you are diving into topics that you have never explored before, so it is important to find people who have to some extent who can then help to guide you.
There is no shame in asking for help. Often people are excited to help ambitious founders. Another common mistake is that people doubt what they are doing when speaking with “more experienced” people than yourself. The fact is you as the founder know more about what you are building than anyone else, so you need to be confident about what you
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Sam Poirier: This is fairly generic, but I think it makes a big difference: surround yourself with smart people who motivate you. Having people who are as excited about what they are doing will make a massive difference on the days that you feel unmotivated. The second piece of advice is to make sure you love what you are getting involved with because starting a company is a lot of work, so having a passion for what you are building makes it less work and fun.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
Books: Shoedog – This is an inspirational book about Nike’s founding that I think could motivate anyone to consider starting a company.
Autonomy – For people working within the automotive industry, this tells a great story of how we got to where we are today with vehicles and specifically autonomous cars.
It opened up my eyes to the difference between small agile companies and how they work compared to large existing companies and how small companies can prove larger ones wrong.
American Icon – Another great book focused on automotive but is overall a great story of leadership. This follows the story of Alan Mulally during his time at Ford when he turned the company around. There are lots of leadership tactics in here that I believe can be applied to any organization.
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Sam Poirier: I work around a team of extremely motivated people, so they help to motivate me each day. When I’m not with them, though, reflecting on what you are doing can be extremely motivating. Not everyone has the chance to start a company, so if you are, and you think about that opportunity, I believe it is motivating.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently to improve your life if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Sam Poirier: I would have started reading more books, and I would have started paying attention to emerging technology in more detail earlier.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Sam Poirier: I would like to be remembered for the ways that I have helped people.
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