We interviewed Yiqiang Zhao to find out more about Looper, the building performance analysis company he co-founded with Dr. Shashwat Ganguly, their entrepreneurial journeys and how the Graduate Enterprise Grant, the University of Edinburgh, and the DDE programme have helped them connect their ideas to the world.
I taught design students as part of my PhD in Architecture at the University of Edinburgh and quickly realised there was a gap in design software – especially when it came to sustainability. So I started on a journey to address this, with help from organisations such as CodeBase and Creative Bridge. As soon as I thought I had the basis for a company, I got in touch with Shashwat Ganguly, who was a System Data Science Professor at the time, and asked him to join me.
When it comes to analysing how sustainable a potential project is, architects face a slow process. They may need to hire a consultant, run tests and wait for results. Looper offers performance analysis software to help architects automate sustainability analysis, which means they save time, money and are also able to contribute to tackling climate change.
Making the move toward carbon-neutral building is our goal and by creating a commercial entity, we are able to move more quickly and effect more change than I would have if I had pursued a research-based role. My other motivation is my father, whose entrepreneurial spirit has inspired me to always keep striving.
For us, success is not only the turnover or size of the business, it’s also the success of our clients. We want them to be securing contracts for museums, galleries, public and commercial spaces – and for our technology to help them reach zero-carbon models.
The grant has been invaluable, it will allow us to hire freelancers and grow Looper in the coming months. As an International Student, one very valuable thing the University helped me with was my visa. Without it, there could be no startup. Their support was a foundation for the business.
We are currently running pilot studies before launching a beta that’s open to customers. By the end of this year, we want to be working directly with clients.