VoltSafe Blog Team – April 27, 2023

Get To Know: Trevor Burgess, Ship Skipper, Entrepreneur & Student of Life

Eight years ago, VoltSafe’s CEO, Trevor Burgess, along with co-founder, Arash Janfada, arrived at the conclusion that the popularity of Apple MagSafe, due to its ease of use, proved that a connection to high voltage power that was just as easy but with added safety features had to be created as well.

They weren’t sure at the time if demand for such a product existed. But after completing a successful Kickstarter funding campaign, with over 10,000 units of their beta product, VoltSafe Winter Magnetic Block Heater Plug sold, their hypothesis that customers were also seeking an easy and safe connection to high voltage power was confirmed.

Connecting the dots to arrive at a successful business idea has always been easy for Trevor. His entrepreneurial spirit manifested at a young age. He planned to follow his brother’s footsteps into a career in optometry. But towards the end of his pre-med studies, he decided to take a year off and started his first venture in ophthalmic manufacturing. His second venture, Allied Optical Labs, expanded to 70 employees before merging, becoming a new company and vertically integrating. The company is now called FYI Eye Doctors. He exited that business after 5.5 years.

He then returned to university and completed an Executive MBA from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University in New York. Then immediately jumped into his next venture starting a company called Wrench Patrol. Wrench Patrol sent licensed mobile mechanics to workplaces, homes or recreational spots to complete repairs that are required regularly, such as oil changes. Wrench Patrol was eventually purchased by another company in the same space called INS. Right after selling Wrench Patrol, Trevor started VoltSafe.

“One thing I will say about our team is they have taken up the challenge when it comes to putting on their entrepreneurial hats.”

He was excited by the idea that with VoltSafe Inc,  he could develop tech that would impact the way the entire world connects to electricity and acquire the intellectual property for that tech by filing the patents. Within his entrepreneurial spirit lies the drive to tackle challenging things, learn new skills and work with brilliant minds. He marvels at individuals, who like himself are unwilling to give up easily.

Creating an environment that’s more like a family of like minded people is important to Trevor when it comes to the work culture at VoltSafe. He believes it creates alignment that allows day to day business to flow naturally.  When hiring VoltSafe staff,  there are two particular qualities that Trevor and his team keep an eye out for. 

The first thing is an entrepreneurial spirit. That includes a thirst for knowledge and the willingness to jump in, with an “all hands on deck” attitude.

“One thing I will say about our team is they have taken up the challenge when it comes to putting on their entrepreneurial hats. When you’re working for a corporation, your job description is usually quite limited and you stay within those bounds.” 

VoltSafe is a small company. With that comes challenges.  So when you are innovating to the level where new problems pop up everyday, you’re faced with tasks that need to be completed in order to resolve those problems. In a small business, that may not have a perfectly matched person trained for it. So when you have a team that possesses an entrepreneurial mindset, that means that employees are pushed outside their comfort zone when it comes to finding solutions to a problem. That’s when you see personal and professional growth.Team members are always willing to jump in and try to solve problems even if it’s outside their wheelhouse.

Watching his staff take on tasks that they have never performed before is what Trevor finds exciting and makes him want to get up every morning. It’s what separates VoltSafe from his previous ventures….. by a landslide.

2022 was quite a frantic year for the company. The team was hard at work designing and building functional prototypes that look like a commercialized product to showcase at the Consumer Electronics Show in January of 2023.

Although this period of time was not the most rewarding for the company, it paid off because VoltSafe’s debut at CES ended up exceeding Trevor’s expectations. The feedback received from those who were at the show was the reward for all that hard work……and the two Innovation Awards. The company received one award for VoltSafe Marine, their shore power product, and another award for their home product, the aptly named, VoltSafe Home. VoltSafe partnered with Menlo Micro and incorporated Menlo’s relays into VoltSafe Home. Since CES, several companies have approached Trevor about trying to help take VoltSafe to market.

The willingness to jump in and help each other out also fosters the second trait of importance for Trevor in a VoltSafe team member, which is empathy. 

Trevor believes that empathy creates a safe environment for an exchange of ideas. For Trevor, it’s important that staff members feel safe to talk with one another, ask questions even if the questions are perceived as not the smartest questions. This safe environment allows team members to achieve things that haven’t been done before. For example, creating a conductive plug which will become a blueprint for any voltage ramp bridge and can be scaled up or down and eliminate the pain points that come with a traditional pronged electrical plug.  This safe space allows questions to be asked, the freedom to try new things and permission to fail and try again. That can only be fostered when there is passion for what you do.

The safe space also allows for time to have fun with one another. Like holding a Hot Wings Challenge. Trevor’s tolerance for spice is notorious in the office. Everything from spicy noodles to bottles of hot sauce with apocalyptic sounding names are a staple in the lunchroom. It may be the only office where team members look forward to monthly team meetings to hear about exciting developments in the business as well as to have some time to laugh together.

“I also always tell everyone here to do what you love. That’s gonna make you a lot more productive. I want to come to work but not do it begrudgingly and look towards leaving a legacy earlier than later in life because money will follow. It always does. Don’t think about money or hitting it rich. If you do something you love, focus on the impact. Ask yourself, is it making a positive impact?”

“I also always tell everyone here to do what you love. That’s gonna make you a lot more productive.”

His intention for VoltSafe is not  focused solely on the economic impact for the company but also for Canada, and potentially the rest of the world. He is also aware of the social impact that VoltSafe’s products can make on our aging population. “Our population has, I think, 40 million individuals that have moderate to severe physical disabilities in North America, for whom using a plug isn’t always the easiest thing.” 

Trevor describes VoltSafe Inc and the work being done by the company this way, “We create outlets that are de-energized and only transfer power once its opposite matching pair is connected.”

Current electrical outlets found in homes and businesses are electrified. In other words, the electricity is constantly on. Electrified contacts within the outlet have to be hidden and to access that electrified metal to transfer power, you need to insert metal pronged plugs into the outlet to connect with those live contacts. As a result, humans are exposed to dangerous and potentially lethal  high voltage electricity all the time.This has been the way that electric outlets and plugs have been manufactured for the last 140 years.

VoltSafe’s approach is to de-energize the outlet and set a high safety bar so that if an electrical relay welds in the live position, a watchdog circuit will detect it and won’t turn on the plug. This is why the contacts on a VoltSafe connector can be exposed because they are always off and can never be tricked to be turned on under any condition.Throw water on it, bridge it with a little metal wire and then connect it over top and it won’t turn on. VoltSafe’s unique electrical fingerprint technology is so smart, it won’t  allow that to happen.

The second layer to VoltSafe’s technology is the power metering capabilities of the tech. Machine learning algorithms are able to identify the individual devices and appliances being plugged in and the type of load. So it would predict and auto populate that information. For example if a consumer purchases a bunch of VoltSafe outlets and installs them in their home, instead of  having to populate and train the algorithm themselves or type in information to tell the algorithm what device was plugged in,  the Voltsafe outlet does it for them.

The VoltSafe outlets can also  predict different loads and the wattage associated with each device and appliance being  plugged in and then name the device or appliance. Therefore, when it comes to adoption, those touch points are a lot smoother for the consumer. It will also make recommendations about energy savings in real time, it’s very granular because it’s at the outlet level, which will make it seamless for users. A lot of solutions out there right now are trying to do the reverse with analysis at the panel level and trying to predict what is being plugged in downstream. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make it less hands on to the level that it needs to be for users to adopt it in a meaningful way. With current demand side management, even if you were to provide users with their energy usage data, they will not know what to do with it. If you want to turn off individual plugs for outlets you have to turn it off at the breaker level. This is why VoltSafe is considered a step up and a step up in the right direction.  

The real data analysis happens at the outlet level and supply for the demand for energy will be easier met by utility companies who are willing to pay for that data or help subsidize a homeowner’s, usage if the homeowner decides to provide the data to help utility companies better understand, the types of loads and when they’re being plugged in.

Trevor believes the company is well positioned to become a global game changer because of the innovation of our products, the intellectual property patents and ultimately, the intellectual property moat that has been created to allow the company to be able to have a first mover advantage.

He doesn’t expect VoltSafe technology to be immediately adopted as the only outlet going forward. Change will be slow. With a market of six billion users including residential, industrial and commercial applications,all moving towards electrification, electrical grids will be strained. Trevor believes that better hardware solutions are required  that will also deliver premium software. Without that hardware and future proofing, it would be difficult to truly maximize the economic and social impact while minimizing the environmental damage and trying to reverse that at the same time.

“We are definitely well positioned to drive change and drive it fast, especially in the verticals with the biggest pain points.These are verticals that would be in the commercial and industrial spaces.There are multiple value propositions that our technology brings.

From accessibility or ease of use to eliminating arcing or sparking. We’re also able to deliver power metering.”

Trevor’s vision for VoltSafe Inc., is to leave a legacy of positive change and create a lasting economic, social and environmental impact around the globe. 

If you would like to see what we are creating at VoltSafe, check out voltsafe.com