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.
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.