NEXUS-NY Blog


Top Clean Energy Companies Demonstrate Groundbreaking Technologies

Meet the Founders at the 2017 NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Demo Day October 10 in Rochester

NEXUS-NY is soon to complete another season of moving innovative energy technologies from research labs to the market. You’re invited to meet the founders of some of the top clean energy companies in Upstate NY. Each founder will demonstrate their prototypes, and reveal what’s on the horizon for their ventures.

Get free tickets -> 2017 NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Demo Day

Here’s a look at the companies graduating from NEXUS-NY this year, including exclusive insights from NEXUS-NY Executive Director Doug Buerkle.

Active Energy Systems
Cornell University / Oak Ridge National Lab
Mitchell Ishmael, CEO; Levon Atoyan, COO

Active Energy Systems | NEXUS-NYActive Energy Systems’ large-scale (> 10 MWh) energy storage technology makes major improvements in round trip efficiency (> 95%) when compared to today’s batteries. The company’s innovation enables it to capture and convert low temperature waste heat, which side-steps the efficiency barriers that limit most conventional energy storage technologies. In addition, by storing energy thermally, Active Energy SYstems uses safe, low-cost materials. The founders are currently de-risking their technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory through Innovation Crossroads, a DOE sponsored entrepreneurship program.

Doug’s Outlook: It has been great to watch Mitchell progress, first as a Commercialization Fellow at Cornell, then through NEXUS-NY, and now as a member of the DOE’s Innovation Crossroads program at Oak Ridge National Labs. He, and co-founder Levon, are working on a unique solution which makes maximum use of low grade waste heat. Their energy storage solution could be a game-changer for large data centers which consume more than 70B kWh of energy.”

More -> https://www.f6s.com/activeenergysystems

FirePower
Syracuse University
Ryan Milcarek, CEO; Dr. Jeongmin Ahn, Inventor

Firepower - Syracuse University - Ryan MilcarekFirePower is a Syracuse, NY based technology company focused on enabling self-powered residential furnaces, hot water heaters, and boilers. Self-powered furnaces are able to power parasitic loads like blowers and igniters when the electricity goes out. FirePower uses innovative and patented fuel cell technology to enable the production of electricity from post combustion exhaust gas in furnaces, boilers, or hot water heaters. The company’s technology produces enough electricity to provide constant power to furnaces plus supplemental power to an external outlet for cell phone charging or other critical loads during a power outage.

Doug’s Outlook: Ryan and his team have made tremendous progress with their prototype and customer understanding. They’ve demonstrated they can overcome one of the key limitations that has inhibited broader adoption of solid oxide fuel cells. More specifically, they’ve achieved a high number of thermal cycles. Soon they’ll have their technology fully integrated into a commercial furnace.”

More -> From Customer Discovery to De-Risking Technology – It’s Time for NEXUS-NY Phase 2

Lux Semiconductors
SUNY Polytechnic Institute
Shane McMahon; Graeme Housser

Lux Semiconductors is poised to become a leading manufacturer and supplier of high quality substrates to the rapidly growing flexible electronics industry. The company is developing a patent pending thin-film recrystallization process capable of producing highly crystalline flexible semiconductor films on low cost rolls and sheets. Electronics manufacturers no longer have to compromise on performance or cost when designing the next generation of lightweight, flexible devices, including photovoltaics, OLED displays, lighting, wearables, batteries, and sensors.

Doug’s Outlook: “Shane and Graeme are working on what could become a very disruptive innovation. Their lightweight, high quality substrates solve problems for many customers, including those manufacturing weight-constrained solar panels. Early proof-of-concept devices have demonstrated a high degree of crystallinity. They are currently optimizing their processes, working to produce Germanium substrates, and engaging the numerous commercial and research partners who’ve demonstrated commercial interest.”

News -> Albany Business Review; Times Union

AmbientPV
Rochester Institute of Technology
James Sinka; Dmitry Liapitch

AmbientPV | NEXUS-NYAmbientPV makes energy harvesters that are uniquely effective at capturing indoor light. AmbientPV outperforms silicon solar by more than 3X in its target applications. Its solar cells are less costly to produce, and can be molded to custom shapes to maximize the surface area available for energy collection. AmbientPV’s technology can be used to supplement, and in some cases totally replace batteries in wireless applications such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Ambient PV’s customers benefit from extended operational lifetime and reduced battery waste.

Doug’s Outlook: James is the first undergraduate who has ever participated in the NEXUS-NY program. When we first met him, we were immediately impressed with his intellect and passion around solar technologies. He decided to put off his PhD because he didn’t want to delay solving big, real-world problems. James and Dmitry have surpassed our every expectation; their early prototypes are outperforming commercial silicon cells in indoor applications, and they are gaining traction with early customers.”

More -> Simone Center Innovation Spotlight

SelfArray
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Mark Durniak, Principal Scientist; Clint Ballinger, CEO

SelfArray | NEXUS-NYSelfArray, Inc. has developed a novel manufacturing technology which will enable the broad adoption of direct-view LED displays. These displays are 30x brighter, 100x faster, and 10x more energy efficient than the best LED, OLED, or projection displays. SelfArray’s diamagnetic directed self-assembly technology promises to increase manufacturing speeds by 10x while lowering overall system cost by up to 50%. The company’s technology enables fast and simple arrangement of LEDs into a grid for assembly into “pixel panels.” SelfArray intends to sell these pixel panels to leading display makers. The company is located in Troy, NY.

Doug’s Outlook:NEXUS encourages researchers to: 1) validate market opportunities; 2) de-risk technologies; and 3) demonstrate customer interest. Most researchers struggle to fully embrace the process of learning from customers, but Mark Durniak has thrived during NEXUS-NY. He and his co-founders have gained audiences with the world’s largest display makers and have pivoted numerous times based on their learnings. You won’t want to miss Mark’s presentation and SelfArray’s demo on October 10.”

More -> http://www.selfarray.com

Sunny Clean Water
University at Buffalo
Matt Singer, CEO; Qiaoqiang Gan, CTO; Zongmin Bei, COO

Sunny Clean Water | NEXUS-NYSunny Clean Water is a startup company from the University at Buffalo that has developed a carbon-based cloth, to enhance solar powered evaporation.  This technology has been applied to solar water distillation to help bring clean drinking water to developing regions around the world. It’s initial target application is in Lithium mining, where the technology promises to speed salt recovery while simultaneously providing fresh drinking water to mine workers. (Buffalo)

Doug’s Outlook: ”SunnyClean is probably the most altruistically motivated participant in cohort #4 of NEXUS-NY. Co-founder, Matt Singer wants to bring clean, affordable drinking water to third-world countries. Throughout the NEXUS program, his mentors have encouraged him to also consider how his enhanced solar still technology might provide unique value for commercial applications like salt mining. As a result, SunnyClean anticipates installing its first prototype with the help of a large Lithium mining company later this year.”

More -> https://www.sunnycleanwater.com

In addition to these cleantech companies, Demo Day guests will also hear an update from past NEXUS-NY participate Dan O’Connell, Founder and CEO of American Fuel Cell.

American Fuel Cell is the premier supplier of individually tailored Membrane Electrodes Assemblies (MEA) for multiple fuel cell applications. Noted for bringing high tech fuel cell jobs to Rochester, NY,  American Fuel Cell aims to power the future by creating cheaper, more efficient and more practical cells. Dan will share progress on manufacturing underway at the Kodak Eastman Business Park, and the latest on the company’s fundraising efforts.

To date, NEXUS-NY has helped launch 21 startup companies. 15 graduates have one on to raise more than $22 million in follow on funding, and five companies have generated initial customer revenue. Is your idea next? Applications for NEXUS-NY Cohort 5 open on October 2. Sign up for newsletters to receive a direct link to the online application form.

Biological Energy Wins $250,000 in 76West Competition

NEXUS-NY graduates Adrian Cosma and Jose Lozano, cofounders of Biological Energy, awarded funding in 76West Clean Energy Competition

Designed to advance clean energy technologies and further develop a clean energy ecosystem in the Southern Tier, 76West is one of the largest clean energy competitions in the world. Funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), a total of $2.5 million was recently awarded to six innovative companies from New York and across the United States. This is the second time Biological Energy has competed in 76West. In 2016, Biological Energy was a semifinalist.

“It feels great, we’re excited to be among the small handful of clean energy companies recognized at 76West,” said Adrian Cosma, CEO and cofounder of Biological Energy. “Now it’s time to move forward, and speed up our process to scale.”

Biological Energy (formerly BioEnergySP) has developed a breakthrough, patent-pending technology for wastewater treatment that is novel in its capacity to reduce energy use, dramatically increase water treatment capacity, and eliminate over 95 percent of nutrients harmful to the environment. The company’s modular, drop-in design is scalable, cost-effective, and can be deployed in existing infrastructures. Cosma developed the technology with CTO and cofounder Dr. Jose Lozano, laboratory director for the Ithaca area Wastewater Treatment Facility. Cosma and Lozano completed the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Accelerator in October 2016.

READ -> 7 Clean Energy Startups Changing the World

Biological Energy is currently running a 1/5th scale demonstration pilot Albany County Wastewater Treatment Plant, where they have launched in scale the technology they are trying to commercialize. Cosma says the company is running two separate units. One of them is utilizing Biological Energy’s technology, which allows the team on a weekly basis to test how much better their system does compared to the controlled units at various treatment speeds.

“I think the biggest differentiator from being a semifinalist last year to a winner this year, is our demonstration pilot program with Albany Wastewater, a facility that has been such a huge advocator of our technology. We’re collecting data to validate how our technology is better than the conventional treatment method at significantly faster treatment rates,” said Cosma. “We have momentum on our side and we will keep progressing and growing fast, trying to commercialize the technology. Just be be considered as a finalist, and to win, is a testament to our growth,” he added.  

Cosma says the funding received from 76West will allow Biological Energy to build full-size commercial EAG units for deployment at municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants. This will increase their treatment capacity without the need of new construction or changes to hydraulics of their treatment processes. Cosma also anticipates hiring several teammates in the next three months as they look to scale up and find a customer to adapt their technology.

“Specifically, we’re going to use the funding to create jobs on the operations side. We’ll be looking for a design engineer to spearhead the scale of our modular units, and we’ll also need to hire someone to oversee the operational applications and running of the units at other facilities.”

Cosma revealed that the potential customer pipeline for Biological Energy is pretty attractive right now. The co-founders are in discussion on expanding their services to private customers, such as food and beverage companies, that generate a lot of wastewater in their operations.

76West complements “Southern Tier Soaring” – the region’s strategic plan to generate robust economic growth, community development and job creation. Winning companies have proven technology or innovation that advances clean energy efficiency, renewable energy or decreases nonrenewable energy use.

Biological Energy was awarded a $250,000 prize during a special ceremony in Binghamton. The $1 million win went to Skyven Technologies, a solar heating company from Dallas, TX. As a condition for the awards, winning companies must either relocate to the Southern Tier or establish a direct connection with the region, such as a supply chain or strategic relationships with Southern Tier entities that creates jobs.

“76West is another example of creative economic development strategies spurring startups in the industries of the future,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul in a press release. “Investing in renewable energy and other clean energy solutions also ensures a cleaner environment and stronger economy for future generations of New Yorkers.”

“There are amazing resources in the Southern Tier for companies like ours looking to scale up. Manufacturing in the region is world-class, as are supply chain partnerships, said Cosma. “We will be working with both to help build out our technology, and we’re thankful to 76West, NYSERDA and NEXUS-NY for supporting us with their various programs.”

This is the second year of 76West Clean Energy Competition. The competition will run annually until 2019.

This year, MicroEra Power (NEXUS-NY 2017) was also a finalist in 76West. In 2016, two NEXUS-NY affiliated companies received funding. Micatu, Inc (2014) was awarded the $1 million grand prize. ChromaNanoTech (2015) received $250,000.

Sign up for NEXUS-NY newsletters to find out when applications for Round 3 of the 76West Clean Energy Competition open.  

Leveraging Upstate NY funding sources to spur next generation clean energy companies

The NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Accelerator has worked with dozens of emerging clean technologies – ranging from renewables and energy storage, to wind turbines – all of which have great potential. But with the continued decline of cleantech angel investments and venture capital, clean energy company founders frequently stress difficulty locating funding sources to commercialize their inventions.

 

VC investment in cleantech companies on the decline

 

Hear from some of our founders on Overcoming Hurdles on the Track of a Clean Energy Future

NEXUS-NY aims to assist clean energy companies with their proof-of-concept and go-to-market strategies. These fresh commercialization tactics include ensuring the availability of capital to help bring breakthrough cleantech to market. Whether in the form of solar panels, new kinds of batteries, or even environmentally-sustainable dog treats, providing new and more diverse approaches to finding funding sources for New York’s great cleantech companies is a NEXUS-NY priority.

“For the past four years, NEXUS-NY has been focused on providing the resources and know-how to catalyze commercialization of clean energy innovations discovered by New York researchers,” said Doug Buerkle, Executive Director of NEXUS-NY. “In that time, our clean energy seed accelerator has helped form 20 companies; half of which have gone on to raise roughly $20 million in additional funding. This is a testament to our program and the strong partnerships we have developed with equity investors such as Excell Partners.”  

Upstate NY VC firm believes in partnerships to help commercialize innovative clean technologies

Excell Partners, Inc. is a seed stage venture fund that invests in emerging technology spinning out of Upstate NY universities and our regional communities. With a portfolio of nearly 50 companies and counting, Excell is playing an important role in accelerating the commercialization of game-changing new technologies, including cleantech.

“Rami (Katz) and I have known each other for years,” said Theresa Mazzullo, CEO of Excell Partners.“ He was working for High Tech Rochester and our paths would cross regularly. Our organizations have been strong collaborators from the start.”

High Tech Rochester (HTR) is a nonprofit with a mission to be a catalyst for entrepreneurship and innovation-based economic development. HTR provides a suite of services including technology commercialization for very early-stage opportunities, business incubation for high-growth startups and growth services for existing manufacturing companies seeking to improve their top and bottom-line performance. The NEXUS-NY clean energy proof-of-concept center (POCC) is one of the programs under the HTR umbrella.

“When NYSERDA came out with the POCC program, we knew it was something HTR wanted to pursue,” said Jim Senall, President of High Tech Rochester. “We were excited about the prospect of leveraging our previous lean startup experience, and applying that to very early stage opportunities, that were mostly physical sciences based, and not even actual companies yet. With partners like Excell Partners, we knew we could build a world class program, and we couldn’t be happier with the results so far!”

Excell Partners, Inc is a statewide brand. Whether the fund is interested in investing in companies out of Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, Excell’s leadership team first looks for venture development agencies like High Tech Rochester, and resource programs such as NEXUS-NY that are wrapped around the technology.

“Everything is about relationships. Life is about relationships. It’s that simple. We’ve known HTR for a long time. There’s a comfort level and mutual trust with all the people in the organization,” said Theresa. “Upstate and the Finger Lakes region have been operating on fumes for so long. I feel we’ve made great strides with very little resources, and this is because we try to see how we can help each other regularly. You don’t typically see this kind of relationship in other places. We’re proud of it,” added Theresa.

“We realize there are limited funding sources to go around, so we’re very thoughtful in how we approach each investment,” said Rami Katz, COO of Excell Partners. “It’s about partnering instead of going it alone.”

The collaboration between NEXUS-NY and Excell starts early with due diligence

Standing on the policy of how Excell and NEXUS-NY work together, Rami says the proof-of-concept center does a great job at sourcing and vetting early-stage clean energy technology from across the state.

“Before we decide to invest, Excell enacts a thorough due diligence process that includes five strategic steps. By design, and throughout our partnership, we have originated these steps into  the NEXUS-NY application process. This helps us provide feedback on the promise of the young companies very early in the process, much earlier than most VCs.”

This collaboration allows for the team of coaches at NEXUS-NY to work closely with the companies and founders, while Excell provides an outside perspective. Each NEXUS-NY participant meets with Excell at least twice throughout the accelerator. These meetings, and Excell’s feedback, are structured to identify specific gaps that must be addressed in order for a specific company to improve its chances of obtaining venture funding.

“This process is what truly differentiates Excell Partners from other venture funds. The first meeting is what we consider a ‘friends and family session.’ We tell them to stand up straight, get rid of a slide from their pitch deck and slow down their presentation,” explained Theresa. “The second round includes pairing the teams with domain experts. These professionals help challenge the tech at a deeper level.”

To date, Excell Partners has invested in four NEXUS-NY portfolio companies

Excell Partners reviews approximately 1000 deals a year. This gives them an overall picture of what is available in New York State. About 150 of those applications are reviewed in depth, and roughly 50 are considered for investments.

“Our experience gives us a good feel for what makes a good opportunity. We make sure the market is large enough, there are resources in the founder’s community to help the company grow faster, and check if they have the right management team in place,” said Rami. “If we feel confident in these areas we look for elements in which we can help close the gap, and ultimately push the venture forward.”

Participants of the NEXUS-NY program receive up to $75,000 of equity-free direct financial support, which is largely supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

NEXUS-NY portfolio companies Excell Partners has invested in include:

American Fuel Cell (Rochester) – Premier supplier of individually tailored Membrane Electrode Assemblies (MEA) for multiple Fuel Cell applications;

Conamix (Ithaca) – Commercializing new Cornell technology that has the potential to dramatically increase the performance of lithium ion batteries;

Full Circle Feed (Syracuse) – Healthy, environmentally-sustainable dog treats made from meats, vegetables, fruits and breads from restaurants that make more that can be served; and

Molecular Glasses (Rochester) – Develops organic semiconductors for OLED and organic electronic applications, which can be used to manufacture lower-cost and high-performance TVs, smartphones, tablets and lighting devices.

“We realize the amount of money we put in alone isn’t always sufficient. The company may need additional capital in 18-25 months. So we address this up front by leading the deal and committing to helping the company seek other funding sources or capital matches,” explained Rami. “This is why building strategic partnerships is so important to us, as seen in several successful co-investments with HTR, as well as other funds and venture development organizations across New York State.”

Recently Excell was selected by Empire State Development as the only fund manager for a pilot minority grant. Through this appointment, Excell was able to assist in getting Molecular Glasses certified as a M/WBE business, and eligible for matching funds from the state. “With Excell’s assistance, we were able to complete this process successfully,” said Mike Molaire, Founder and CEO of Molecular Glasses.  Molecular Glasses was selected as one of five companies in the state to receive funding to spur M/WBE innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation.

“Our mission is to assist clean energy companies commercialize. Continuing to partner with local investors like Excell Partners, and connect our founders to more novel sources of funding such as Shell’s GameChanger program, is a strategy we stand by at NEXUS-NY,” added Buerkle.

Ready to commercialize your clean energy innovation? Apply online to pitch Excell Partners or contact NEXUS-NY to learn more about our proof-of-concept accelerator.

Two NEXUS-NY Companies Make 76West Clean Energy Competition Finals

Biological Energy (Cohort 2016) and MicroEra Power (Cohort 2017) have been selected as finalists for the $2.5 million 76West Clean Energy Competition.

Biological Energy is located in Spencer, NY. The company has developed a breakthrough, patent-pending technology for wastewater treatment that reduces energy use, increases water treatment capacity, and eliminates greater than 95 percent of environmentally harmful nutrients, which leads to significant reductions in residual bio-solids such as landfill waste. This is their second year competing in the 76West Clean Energy Competition.
MicroEra Power is a Rochester-based company commercializing novel. ultra-efficient stationary power generation solutions for commercial customers that help produce monthly energy savings and reduces generator footprint.
76West Clean Energy Competition finalists were selected from 15 semifinalists and dozens of applicants from across the U.S. A special ceremony announcing the winners will be held on August 16 in Binghamton, NY.
Follow NEXUS-NY on Twitter starting at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, August 16 for REAL-TIME TWEETS throughout the competition to see who wins -> twitter.com/nexusny 
Last year’s 76West Clean Energy Competition winners included two NEXUS-NY companies. Micatu, Inc. won the $1 million grand price. ChromoNanoTech received $250,000 in funding.
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