April 2017


Dimensional Energy Wins 2017 Venture Showcase

Dimensional Energy takes first place at CU Energy Symposium Venture Forum pitch event in the early-stage category

It’s 4 a.m. and Jason Salfi is behind the wheel en route to NYC to participate in Columbia University’s Energy Symposium. The event featured early and mid-stage companies, including Dimensional Energy, a Cornell research-derived startup that Jason serves as CEO.

“It was a fun day of adventure,” said Jason. “Filled with solid speakers and impressive pitches.”

Dimensional Energy has created an artificial photosynthesis process that converts waste carbon dioxide from power plant emissions into useful fuels and feedstocks of high values. Jason says, think of the process as operating a horizontal chimney:

“We’re creating a platform technology that will allow companies to divert large scale emissions from going into the atmosphere, utilizing what would otherwise be waste (CO2 and other GHGs) by running them through our reactor.”

Dimensional Energy will use the prize money from the Energy Symposium Venture Forum for fundraising related travel, and advanced graphics to best represent how their technology works. Jason says this is part of their big picture communications strategy.

Fully understanding customer requirements

Jason believes Dimension Energy stood out at the Energy Symposium because their technology is a bigger picture look at an untapped opportunity, whereas a lot of other pitches were early-stage, with many assumptions based on how they were going to take over the respective markets.

“Our pitch was more generalized. It laid out an open roadmap for how we’re going to go to market, who we’re talking to, and how a decision process is going to be formalized,” said Jason.

Most importantly, Jason shared how Dimensional Energy fits into the plans of a much bigger industry. These factors (market size and growth potential) echo what each team learns during the NEXUS-NY discovery process.

The power of a solid team

Jason credits the early success of Dimensional Energy to a core team of experts from different disciplines that bring together two departments of Cornell University and fellow NEXUS peer Clayton Poppe.

In 2016, NEXUS-NY piloted a new way to test the commercial potential of university research. David Erickson, Associate Professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell, paired his technology with that of Tobias Hanrath, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

These principal inventors, along with a diverse team of scientists, entrepreneurs and MBA students from the Johnson Business School at Cornell, have proven the experiment successful.

Learn More: NEXUS-NY Pilots New University Research Opportunity

The ability to capture resources can make or break your startup

In a podcast produced by the New York Academy of Sciences, NEXUS-NY Executive Director Doug Buerkle said, “The thing that differentiates a successful startup from a failed startup is the ability to capture resources….and the way you get resources is if you’re able to tell your story in a compelling way.”

Dimensional Energy first captured the attention of Columbia Energy Symposium organizers during NEXUS-NY’s Demo Day in NYC last year. Jason believes it’s these kind of networking opportunities made possible by NEXUS-NY that are positioning Dimensional Energy front and center of this budding industry.

“The feedback from the judges at the Energy Symposium was positive. They could understand what Dimensional Energy was doing at a higher level,” added Jason. “Our presentation was relatable. It included slides with key takeaways and 40-point font. NEXUS-NY helped shape the way we communicate our technology, and we’ve had success as a result.”

Jason says over the last several months his team has been introduced to a whole new slew of industry partners ranging in size from small researchers from across U.S. and Canada, to corporations like Shell. “NEXUS-NY was the catalyst to getting a broad introduction to these resources, as well as assisting us gain an understanding of the carbon dioxide utilization market, and the needs to be met.”

Dimensional Energy preps for round 3 of Carbon XPrize Competition

Around the time NEXUS-NY’s 2016 accelerator was ending, Dimensional Energy started engaging deeper with the XPRIZE Foundation, which hosts a competition that awards $20 million to the team that designs the best solution for converting carbon into something that can be sold to offset the cost to capture it.

Having already moved into phase two, Jason says the team is currently building a Highlight Reactor as they prepare to compete in the next and final round of the Carbon XPrize Competition. Jason says the prototype will be available soon to test in the lab with a simulator.

“Through a partnership with Cornell’s Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant, a 30 mw facility, we’ll pipe emissions into our reactor and see what we get out the other end.”

Dimensional Energy will continue to refine their prototype, and have the results validated by a third party standards XPrize team. This process will determine if Dimensional Energy moves forward to round three, and unlocks $500,000 in funding.

“If we can scale quickly enough and prove out the efficiency of our reactor, it will make sense and align with industry partners to raise the money for the installation,” added Jason.

In total, the XPrize Competition will award $20 million in prize money, with the two winning teams each receiving $7.5 million.

Watch Dimensional Energy’s Promotion Video

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NEXUS-NY Portfolio Companies Raise Millions in Funding

NEXUS-NY portfolio companies continue to attract attention after graduating our clean energy proof-of-concept accelerator.

These clean energy companies have ventured on to raise millions in funding. We caught up with a few of our talented founders to get the latest on their successes.

Molecular Glasses closes $200,000 seed round; Wins 2nd grant from the Department of Energy for OLED testing 

2016 was a big year for Molecular Glasses Founder, Mike Molaire. His team moved into the Eastman Business Park and incorporated their business, which develops organic light-emitting diode (OLED) materials that work like semiconductors. These materials can be used to manufacture lower-cost and higher-performance TVs, smartphones, tablets and lighting devices.

While participating in the NEXUS-NY accelerator Mike began discussing funding opportunities with Rochester-based venture capital firm, Excell Partners. At the end of the program, executives at Excell expressed an interest in working with Molecular Glasses, and began the due diligence process.

Mike’s goal was to raise $400,000. With Excell’s investment requiring 50% matching from other investors, Mike first had to raise $200,000 from individual investors, friends and family. Excell recently started a new MWBE fund sponsored by NY state to support women and minority-owned businesses. Eligibility for that fund requires MWBE certification.

“With Excell’s assistance, we were able to complete this process successfully,” said Molaire. “At the end of December 2016 we secured a $100,000 match and were able to close on the first $200,000. We are now working toward closing the next $200,000 by the end of March. We have a $50,000 match already committed.”

Molecular Glasses will use its first round of seed funding to support patent activities and manage day-to-day operations. Currently, Molecular Glasses has five pending U.S. and twelve international patent applications. Mike says this is an important part of the company’s strategy.

“Our IP is very strong, and needs to be protected both nationally and internationally,” he added. Most of the people we are dealing with in this space are international companies from the far east, Europe, Japan and China. It’s important we maintain our patents.”

Last year Molecular Glasses was also awarded a grant from the Department of Energy, which helped the company fund its benchmark work. OLEDWorks in Rochester produced the 90 OLED devices under contract with the DOE. Mike says having his materials tested in a DOE certified laboratory provided credibility to the benchmark results, specifically 6 to 15x improvement in device lifetime.

“We took full advantage of this resource,” said Molaire. “We’re now working with OLED chemical suppliers, device manufacturers and independent nonprofit centers in Europe and Asia under nondisclosure agreements to continue this process.”

Mike continues to explore various grant options that will assist in the development of the technology. He says it will be exciting to supply these companies with samples so they can conduct their own tests using his materials. Mike believes this process to will be completed within the next 3-4 months.

American Fuel Cell Closes First Seed Round

Together with the support of High Tech Rochester, Excell Partners and independent investors from the Finger Lakes region, American Fuel Cell has closed its first seed round.

American Fuel Cell (AFC) is a premier supplier of individually tailored Membrane electrode Assemblies (MEA) for multiple Fuel Cell Applications. Through uniquely tailored chemical formulations, system level optimization expertise and high speed, thin film manufacturing machinery, AFC is producing high quality, low cost MEAs specific to any fuel cell application.

AFC Cofounder and CEO Dan O’Connell says the seed funding will be used to bring on additional resources and gear up for volume production. This includes acquiring new capital assets and purchase of raw materials. AFC is also looking for Process and Quality engineering talent, as well as those skilled at final assembly.

“The support American Fuel Cell is getting from the area is amazing. Between High Tech Rochester, Excell Partners, Greater Rochester Enterprise, NYSERDA, M&T Bank, Pathstone, SUNY Alfred State and RIT, we’re leveraging academia, industry, and state resources to expand our industry connections and take huge strides in extending our testing capability,” said O’Connell. “We consider ourselves very fortunate to be tapped into the local startup scene and bringing R&D/Manufacturing jobs back to NY state.”

In addition to closing this seed round, AFC has numerous funding opportunities in the pipeline that will accelerate research into the next generation MEA technology.

Ecolectro wins $150,000 with the Grants for Growth initiative 

Gabriel Rodriguez-Calero first heard about Grants for Growth from the Cornell network. As a co-Founder and CEO of Ecolectro, his mission is to advance his business by putting Ecolectro’s materials into the hands of customers early on in the material design process.

“Before applying to a funding source, I like to learn more about the objectives of each program,” explained Rodriguez-Calero. “If there are milestones associated with the program, if the funds can be used for manufacturing and business development, and how the funding can help Ecolectro reach more clients and potential customers.”

Gabriel says Grants for Growth was a perfect fit for what he’s aiming to accomplish. Ecolectro has developed structurally robust and highly conductive polymer membranes for a large range of applications, including hydrogen generators and fuel cell systems. Having already received $12,500 from the Grants for Growth program, Ecolectro was able to do material characterization and better understand the physical properties of their materials. The research also allowed the Ecolectro team to fine tune their value proposition for potential clients. Ecolectro has now moved on to Track 2 of the Grants for Growth program.

“We get a certain amount first, and as we hit milestones we unlock additional amounts of funding,” added Rodriguez-Calero.

In 2017, Ecolectro is busy making materials and doing evaluation work with customers, as well as reaching out to more clients. This process involves talking to clients and finding more potential synergy with system integrators that can use Ecolecto’s materials in their devices.

Ecolectro has recently opened an investment round. The team remains busy shipping samples and working through collaborative efforts with customers. Gabriel says Ecolectro is receiving a lot of customer interest.

“I love doing this. It’s pretty great,” he said. “I came to the university (Cornell) to work on things that had applications beyond pure research. That’s exactly what we are doing at Ecolectro!”

Other NEXUS-NY portfolio companies making big strides include:

  • Lionano recently closed its Series A;
  • Micatu won $1 million in the 76West Clean Competition, and ChromaNanoTech received a $250,000 prize;
  • Conamix received seed funding from Excell Partners, with the help of High Tech Rochester;
  • AMBIS Technologies partnered with CASE-RPI and the Mmofra Foundation in Ghana for a pilot testbed project;
  • And Dimensional Energy took home first place at Columbia University’s Energy Symposium 2017 Venture Showcase

Since the start of our clean energy accelerator, NEXUS-NY has worked with 30 participants, engagements from which 18 startup companies have been formed. With our help, numerous university licenses have been received, and each of the NEXUS-NY portfolio companies have completed, or are in the process of completing, successful pilot/customer evaluations.

We’re now working with 9 new NEXUS-NY portfolio companies in our 2017 cohort. Here’s a look at the next generation clean energy talent from across New York.

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