I’m Ian McLeod and This Is How I Mesh

I started Envenio with my former thesis advisers Andrew Gerber and Gordon Holloway back in 2010. Over the next 4 ½ years, we bootstrapped development of our core technology with revenue from consulting projects and with help from a couple of other former graduate students and National Research Council programs.

In January 2016 we took on our first investor and grew our full time development & business development staff. About a year later, we brought in a Toronto VC firm and increased our sales staff and marketing outreach.

Leading a technology company is a challenge unlike any I could have imagined. Long hours, operations planning, fundraising, HR, BD, project work, and marketing activity are all part of my daily routine. It requires that I shift gears about 20 times a day. All the same, I know that my team and I are building something significant, and I’m happy to go to work every single day.

It’s a far cry from what I originally set out to do – which was to live on a boat in Vancouver BC and work for an engineering consulting firm. Wife, life, kids and a great R&D job in Fredericton NB sidetracked that plan completely but I have no regrets. It put me in a position to found Envenio, to grow my professional skillset, and I get to do it all in the only part of the world I truly call home.

  • Location: Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Current position: CEO
  • Current computer: Microsoft Surface Book 2
  • One word that best describes how you work: Frenetic

How do you know Pointwise?

My company gravitated toward Pointwise because of its unique ability create hybrid multiblock meshes that contain both structured and unstructured blocks.

Hybrid meshes really enable our GPU solver EXN/Aero to shine – unstructured blocks can conform to complicated geometry easily while structured blocks can fill less complex regions. EXN/Aero solves structured blocks much more quickly than the unstructured blocks. By starting with Pointwise hybrid meshes, our solver can create a super-efficient and an incredibly cost-effective output.

What do you see are the biggest challenges facing CFD in the next 5 years?

The demand for complexity, fast solutions, and virtual prototyping is increasing across all sectors. We see and hear this from people every single day.

CFD is already suffering because most vendors are not taking advantage GPU architectures. CPU-bound codes become very expensive when large numbers of CPU resources are needed to solve large meshes quickly.

We have responded on the solver side by making a code that’s optimized front-to-back for a CPU-GPU environment. We offer this in the cloud so that users can scale up or down according to their daily computing needs. As highlighted in our recent survey, there is still work to be done to address the perceptions around the cloud and to get more users confidently making the migration.

Pointwise continues to maintain its focus on good hybrid meshing solutions, and so is positioned to be the best possible meshing tool in a rapidly-evolving computing architecture landscape.

What are you currently working on?

Envenio is working to grow its user base for EXN/Aero with on-demand solutions and cloud-hosted GPU architectures. This takes up the majority of my day most days, but in a small company I wear all hats. I’m also working on a few engineering projects and some custom code development initiatives for clients.

We’re always looking to introduce potential users to the platform with our free demos, and these are a great way to see the platform first hand, and to see how it could help your specific operations. You can sign up for a free demo on our website.

We’ve recently introduced two new engineering services to further support those who wish to benefit from using CFD – the Onboarding Program and the Discovery Project. With Onboarding, clients receive support and training on the platform from our engineers during a live project. With the Discovery Project, we run the simulations on behalf of the client, returning the results, engineering data and our conclusions to them once complete. Both options are also useful to those looking to give CFD a try or for those considering the migration to EXN/Aero and cloud compute resources.

What project are you most proud of and why?

Our work with JUUL labs is definitely a staff favorite. We recently ran an interview with Bill Alston from JUUL and that’s well worth checking out.

On the technical side, it involves complex conjugate heat transfer, vaporization models, multicomponent fluid models, porous media and a bunch of custom development.

On the business development side, it provides a stunning example of how CFD and virtual prototyping can make a real impact on an organization’s ability to innovate and achieve faster product releases.

We have also just completed a project with FAURE QEI in the cleanroom/HVAC space, and the case study highlights how effective EXN/Aero is for analyzing sensitive rooms and optimizing HVAC systems.

Are you reading any interesting technical papers we should know about?

I’ve been brushing up on my porous media literature lately. Partly in support of the project with JUUL and partly in support of some other projects we have involving vegetative canopies.

Coming up with an engineering representation of a biological system is really difficult and nuanced. There have been lots of attempts to do so over the years and it’s super interesting trying to draw out and combine the most successful pieces from the general body of knowledge on the subject.

What software or tools do you use every day?

Pointwise on the cloud of course! Oh, and our on-demand platform, EXN/Aero.

Day-to-day I choose Google Chrome for its speed, simplicity and security features. I find ParaView really useful for quickly building visualizations to analyze data using qualitative and quantitative techniques. I also use TigerVNC which enables me to launch and interact with graphical applications on remote machines. As a cross-platform remote desktop server, I make regular use of ThinLinc, and FileZilla is a great free-to-access FTP solution.

Office Suite has all the everyday document tools we use including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint. We make use of the Google Docs capability when we need to work on a particular document as a team.

Most of the work we do with EXN/Aero is remote and our clients are scattered globally, which explains the large proportion of connectivity tools in the mix. As a team, we use Slack to liaise on client projects and find it a really useful platform for communicating throughout the day.

We use HubSpot as our central CRM tool, and our sales and marketing team use the platform to monitor and review our overall lead generation and business development.

We’re currently developing our YouTube channel, uploading our previous webinars and working on several ‘explainer’ videos around our EXN/Aero platform. For all our webinars, we use GoToWebinar, which is a great way of creating invitations and monitoring registration and attendance, and GoToMeeting is hugely useful as a scheduling tool for conference calls or meetings. Our marketing team are very active on social media, using HubSpot to monitor and post content across our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn channels. We find LinkedIn hugely useful for sharing articles and discussing CFD or engineering topics.

Our marketing manager regularly monitors CFD Online to seek out relevant content or questions that we could assist with. Digital Engineering, HPC Wire, CFD Newspaper and the Pointwise blog – Another Fine Mesh – are all essential reads for the majority of our team.

We recently ran a CFD survey which revealed just 14% of engineers to be completely happy with their current setup. For this, and other surveys, we use Survey Monkey.

What does your workspace look like?

6’x3’ desk, with a scattering of paper from three or four ongoing projects, several empty espresso cups, photos of the family & the company chequebook.

Do you plan on attending any conferences or workshops this year?

Envenio attended Ecobuild in London this year, though I was personally unable to attend. We are concentrating on the HVAC space at the moment, so we are targeting some of the North American events later this year, such as ASHRAE. The use of CFD in the medicinal cannabis sphere is also an interesting area and we will look at attending events around indoor agriculture, horticulture and agri-tech.

What do you do outside the world of CFD?

Boating. I’ve always wanted to combine my love of the water with CFD too – we have almost completed development on our VOF models and one of the first demo cases I have planned is a hydrodynamic model of my Whitehall

What is some of the best CFD advice you’ve ever received?

That complexity doesn’t always make a simulation better. Always aim for the lowest level of complexity, both in terms of mesh resolution and time resolution, that gives you an acceptable answer.

If you had to pick a place to have dinner, where would you go?

Marben in Toronto. Great cocktails, great food and I make a point to go there every time I visit the city.

About Travis Carrigan

A Pointwise engineer helping other engineers solve their meshing problems.
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