Shaan Cory: A Passionate Entrepreneur Committed to Help Buildings Decarbonize At a Global Scale

BTune - Shaan

Shaan Cory, Founder & President, BTune

For some, sustainability isn’t just a passion; it’s the foundation of their business.The sense of fulfillment that comes from positively impacting the environment and the community is what serves as their driving force. With innovative ideas, passion, and a deep commitment to the planet, these forward-thinking entrepreneurs are leading the way toward a more sustainable future. In this edition of APAC Entrepreneur, we are proud to share with our readers the inspiring story of one such exemplary leader, Dr. Shaan Cory, the Founder & President of BTune, an automated HVAC retro-commissioning solution for the built environment.

Sustainability has always been a driving force in Shaan’s life. As a building scientist with the professional services firm Beca, he loved working with customers on their energy and carbon challenges. In fact, he had never thought of being an entrepreneur; rather, his focus was on using his skills to solve meaningful sustainability problems. But it was during his tenure as a building scientist that everything changed. As he was developing and implementing a more efficient way for customers to optimize their Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems, he was approached by the New Ventures Accelerator, Beca’s dedicated innovation and entrepreneruship team. These skilled business experts recognized that the issue was far bigger than just their existing customers and there was a far broader opportunity for Shaan’s solution, which uses smart data analytics to reduce the energy consumption and associated carbon emissions of buildings.

That’s where his entrepreneurial journey began – learning how to transform an idea into a scalable solution for a significant problem. Shaan quickly realized that rather than assisting 50 buildings to reduce their carbon footprint annually, he could help 500, then 5,000, and even 5,000,000 – an exhilarating prospect that fuelled his drive to make a greater impact.

The Beginning of BTUNE

While pursuing his PhD in Building Science, Shaan conducted energy audits on numerous buildings to determine if they could be retrofit to achieve Net Zero Energy. It was during this process he discovered that every single building was wasting HVAC energy for no apparent reason and that the HVAC system could be optimized to produce energy savings of 10-30%. However, he also discerned why clients were not taking the initiative to optimize their systems. The conventional process was notoriously cumbersome, time-consuming, unreliable, and expensive. As a result, customers were limited by both time and budget, rendering the task a non-priority or seemingly impossible. 

Nevertheless, Shaan and his team were determined to devise a better solution. They developed cutting-edge technology to go beyond just providing insights and instead implement changes that produced the desired outcomes for their clients. Thus, BTune was born in 2016. Backed by Beca, BTune is an advanced technology service that helps buildings optimize their HVAC systems via their Building Management Systems to reduce energy use, running costs, and carbon emissions, with no capital expenditure or major infrastructure changes. So far, BTune has helped its portfolio of customers reduce their energy expenses and carbon emissions by an average of 20%, all by operating and controlling their buildings more efficiently.

Conquering the Challenges along the Way

Undoubtedly building a successful company is no easy feat and Shaan had to face several challenges along the way to lead BTune toward success. Speaking of one of the key challenges of his journey, he asserts, Most people don’t understand how complex buildings really are. There is so much more to operating a building than meets the eye – lots of energy consumed and masses of data generated. Getting systems to talk to each other the right way was a challenge we faced almost immediately.”

So, rather than losing time trying to create their own solution, they partnered with a data acquisition company that had already successfully solved this problem and could help them accelerate their business. Another major obstacle that they had to navigate was to ensure their technology didn’t create other problems while delivering their solution because saving energy isn’t enough if it’s wearing out plant equipment faster or putting a massive strain on facilities teams. Because they are backed by Beca, they could leverage the firm’s teams of building scientists, engineers, and digital product experts to solve technical challenges and refine their solution using the real buildings of Beca’s customers. “These experiences are worth their weight in gold for an early-stage startup and meant that by the time we started our initial roll-out, we knew our solution could deliver great results,” adds Shaan.

Redefining True Entrepreneurship

While every leader has their own unique perspective on entrepreneurship, Shaan views it as continuous perseverance. “You have to be willing to show up every day without losing sight of why you started this journey. It’s important to celebrate the small wins because, over time, they will lead to big successes, even if they don’t feel that way at the time,” he elucidates. 

For Shaan, humility has been the an essential quality asa leader. He believes that leaders don’t have to know everything, as this will eventually lead to burnout. Instead, they should entrust their team to perform at their best and not be afraid to look for help. “I’ve learned how many resources there are for entrepreneurs who are open to them,” says Shaan.“For example, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, a government agency helping New Zealand businesses scale internationally, has been an amazing resource helping us refine our strategy and find ways to grow.”

In his advice to emerging entrepreneurs, he encourages them to “think big and act small,” focusing on the next small steps that will bring them closer to their ultimate goal. He goes on to explain that entrepreneurship can be a demanding and challenging experience, but it’s important to concentrate on taking small, incremental steps each day to get closer to achieving their mission. Although progress may not always be apparent in the short term, Shaan assures entrepreneurs that consistent effort over time can yield incredible results.

Cultivating a Transparent and People-Centric Culture

Since its inception, BTune has had a clear mission: to help the building industry reduce global carbon emissions. And this noble goal is what drives the dedicated team at BTune every day. Despite offering a technology-based service, they still consider themselves a sustainability company, as that is the core issue they strive to address. As Shaan explains, “it is a big challenge, and it can be overwhelming at times.”

Driven by his philosophy—‘A problem shared is a problem halved’—he empowers his team to perform their job in the way they believe is best, providing them with the necessary flexibility and resources. The company strongly advocates for transparency, not only with its customers and partners but also with its own team. Every quarter, the company evaluates its progress, discusses challenges, and aligns on how to move forward. This alignment is critical in a startup where things can change rapidly.“At the end of the day, it’s often the little things that make the big difference. For example, every Friday, each team member outlines at least one win to celebrate that week. It can also mean giving people the time away from work they need, even if it’s just going for a surf at lunch,” adds Shaan.

Continues Paving the Way for a Sustainable Future

Shaan’s vision has always been to establish BTune as a global leader in reducing carbon emissions from buildings and making it synonymous with sustainability. While the company is continually honing its technology, it is now focusing on expanding its solution to as many buildings as possible. “The clock is ticking on the world’s decarbonization timeline, so we want to move fast. We’ve already got some great partners like ACE IoT Solutions and Intellimation helping us deliver in the U.S. and we’re exploring other partnerships in APAC and Europe to help us scale,” concludes Shaan.