NEXUS-NY Blog


NEXUS-NY Represents at 76West Clean Energy Semifinals

Come for the Competition. Stay for the Transformation. That’s the intent around the 76West clean energy initiative.

May was an exciting month for NEXUS-NY, with five of our seed accelerator graduates, and one Cohort 3 team pitching at the 76West Clean Energy Competition Semifinals.

76West is a business competition focused on attracting founders to build clean energy startups and create jobs in New York’s southern tier. Candidates selected for the semifinals demonstrated a significant clean energy impact that solves important problems customers would pay to address.

NEXUS-NY graduates and participants joined dozens of clean energy companies from across the state, country and globe to compete for a spot in the finals, which guarantees them prizes ranging from $250,000 to $1 million! Sponsored by NYSERDA and implemented by the Southern Tier Startup Alliance, in addition to funding, each finalist will receive incubator space, support services and national recognition.

Adrian Cosma is the Cofounder and CEO of BioEnergySP. Cosma and his partner, Jose Lozano recently entered into Phase 2 of the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Seed Accelerator. Cosma says being part of NEXUS-NY helped prepare him to pitch in the semifinals of the 76West Competition.

“The information we received from our advisors and mentors at NEXUS-NY was a key component in being selected into the 76West semifinals,” said Cosma. “Throughout the program we’ve learned how to identify our customers and uncovered the value proposition to offer potential customers as part of the customer discovery process. This gave us a lot of insight into what customers want and how we convey our technology to them, or anyone who wants to acquire or purchase our technology. NEXUS-NY has really challenged us to learn what company we are, and what company we want to become. We applied all of these lessons into our pitch for 76West.”

BioƎnergySP is a newly incorporated clean energy company. Cosma and Lozano have invented novel 4th generation compartment free Microbial Fuel Cells. This patent pending industrial equipment Electroactive Attached Growth (EAG) technology saves energy for wastewater treatment, allowing facilities to grow to meet demands beyond limited in-house wastewater capacity, limited municipal capacity and local laws.  

This technology, combined with a leadership team working towards commercialization and profitability, makes BioƎnergySP a perfect fit for the 76West Clean Energy Competition. Their technology broadly reduces energy consumption and improves the efficiency of energy utilization at the consumer and industrial scale. It also improves the processes and systems that use energy, while providing a solution to permeate the marketplace.  

76West Clean Energy Competition, Supported by NYSERDA“76West is designed to further develop the regional community of clean energy technology innovators, industry experts, educators and investors, as well as help startups get early users for their technologies.” – NYSERDA.ny.gov

The team chose the name BioƎnergySP based on Lozano’s background in physics and biology, harnessed to create the technology. “SP is used in biology to signify ‘any’ – so any form of biological derived energy is the key. An inverted ‘E’ means energy in physics, so we apply it to Energy Bio of any type,” explained Lozano. “We are dealing with wastewater and SP of any kind, which is kind of neat. It’s demanding and sophisticated and requires a lot of innovation to create the breakthroughs needed to make it an energy producer,” he added.   

Prior to the 76West pitch sessions, each candidate was brought to the Ithaca, NY area to explore the Southern Tier’s ecosystem. What they learned on these tours allowed Cosma and Lozano to incorporate what impact BioƎnergySP would have on the region and New York State.

“They took us to Corning, Binghamton and Cornell to show us the culture of the startups so we could get an idea of what they are looking for,” said Cosma. “At the same time it was very valuable to meet so many entrepreneurs and and learn about the programs and resources that would help us commercialize. From the tech centers and equipment, to the surrounding pool of talent, we can really see ourselves accelerating there.”

In one example Cosma referenced Cornell University’s new Blackstone LaunchPad. Lozano holds a PhD in Biology and Ecological Physiology from Cornell, so BioƎnergySP would be able to tap into those resources. Another part of the tour that caught their attention was the innovation center being developed at Binghamton University. “It would make it very easy for us to engage future employers and students from the area to help research and advance our technology,” said Lozano.

In speaking with representations from the Southern Tier Startup Alliance, finalists will be announced within the next few weeks. The $2.5 million in prize money will be payable in increments based on a series of milestones accomplished. During this time, startups will work with technical and industry experts, companies, incubators and mentors to craft their engagement with the region. If BioƎnergySP advances to the next round, Cosma and Lozano intend on taking full advantage of the funding and support offered. The team is committed to concentrating 100% of their focus on the company to develop a full commercial pilot.

“If we make it into the finals you can expect larger, better plans because we’ll be able to tackle more than one use of the methodology,” said Lozano. “With more than one product we’ll go to market even faster, and contracts with manufacturers and engineering firms will result in the creation of type A jobs at the same time.”

President of BIOEnergySP Adrian Cosma

BioEnergySP President Adrian Cosma presenting at the NEXUS-NY Business Opportunities event.

Engineers are key components of the strategy because the way wastewater works is through engineering firms. Lozano said their first hire would be an environmental engineer with experience in wastewater or biology to help develop their technology faster and impact more industries.

“By speaking with people about our project and presenting to an audience we also realized how significant our business is on the energy market, and the impact BioƎnergySP will have on the broader environmental society by supporting other businesses in the community,” said Cosma.

Cosma explained that there are 600 wastewater treatment facilities in New York, and over 20,000 in the country. This, he said, makes BioƎnergySP’s market very significant. He added that the costs for energy usage on a yearly basis is around $600 million to run wastewater treatment plants in NYS alone. BioƎnergySP focuses on the activated sludge process which uses around 50% of that energy. This means that BioƎnergySP’s target is in NYS is $300 million, and Cosma says BioƎnergySPs’ technology can provide a 60% reduction.

“That’s $180 million a year in cost savings, and that’s only in NYS,” continued Lozano. “There’s also larger states like Texas and California that have much bigger use of energy.”

BioƎnergySP doesn’t just impact wastewater treatment facilities. With an increased capacity of infrastructure, the technology has the potential to grow other industries and communities. This includes any industry that uses activated sludge to treat their wastewater, such as pharmaceuticals and breweries.

“A lot of municipalities are limited. Wastewater effects whether private companies go into a certain area or not. Imagine that someone wants to build a new hotel in NYS. They can’t because the wastewater treatment is to capacity. Or a brewery might have to ship out their wastewater because they are full to capacity, said Lozano. “The hotel can’t be build, and the brewery cannot expand. These are indirect impacts that are also very significant. In each case, they would have to build their own wastewater treatment facility, which is very costly, or contract the process out to another state. Either way, they don’t grow as quickly, and the revenue is pushed outside of our region.”

As part of the 76West Clean Energy Competition, winners outside of New York must relocate to the Southern Tier region. If a startup already exists in NYS, like BioƎnergySP, and can demonstrate how their company will have a positive impact on the Southern Tier, they don’t have to relocate. Here is a complete list of competition details.

“What’s clear to us is that we are committed to New York State, and we want to be a NYS enterprise. Our primary goal is to have an impact in NYS, and tackle the NYS energy crisis. New York has significant resources available that is only going to make us better and help BioƎnergySP get to market faster.”

NEXUS-NY Affiliated Teams Who Pitched at the 76West Clean Energy Competition

AMBIS TECHNOLOGIES – Upcycling the World’s Most Underutilized Material Resources to Cool Our Buildings

CHROMANANOTECH – Letting the Light In While Keeping the Heat Out

eCOLECTRO – Regenerating the Fuel Cell Economy

LIONANO, Inc – Batteries Engineered at Nanoscale

MICATU, Inc – Fundamentally Changing the Way the World Senses Light

NEXUS-NY Teams Showcase Business Opportunities

Phase 1: Seeking Problem-solution Fit Through Customer Discovery

Over the course of the last several months, NEXUS-NY participants have been working on their interim “business opportunities presentations.” In a closed session for a few members of the NEXUS-NY community, each team debuted their progress in Rochester, NY.

NEXUS-NY is a clean energy proof-of-concept center sponsored by NYSERDA, charged with moving innovative energy technologies from research labs into the market. Operating under a seed accelerator business model, participants strive to complete three primary objections:

  • Seek problem-solution fit as informed by customer and industry interaction
  • De-risk their technology by building early prototypes
  • Work towards third party validation of customer discovery and prototypes

The past 10 weeks of Phase 1 has been dedicated to customer discovery, and their final presentations reflected the current views of their business opportunities, which is different from pitches startup founders traditionally give to investors.

During this milestone, researchers and entrepreneurs were tasked with answering several key questions surrounding market opportunity, plans for commercialization and if there is a large energy benefit.

“The teams have been working hard and showing tremendous progress,” said Doug Buerkle, NEXUS-NY Executive Founding Director. “In addition to identifying if their market opportunity is of sufficient size, they have been focusing on if their envisioned product or service is sufficiently differentiated, compelling and protectable.”

In front of a room full of peers, mentors and NEXUS-NY community members, the teams also revealed if significant progress can be made over the coming five months as they seek approval to enter into Phase 2 of the program, which concentrates on de-risking and third party validation. 

Entrepreneurial Lead Adrian Cosma presented for BioEnergySP. He and Technical Lead, Jose Lozano, a Cornell PhD of Biology and Ecological Physiology and current Lab Director at the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility, have invented novel 4th generation compartment free Microbial Fuel Cells. This game-changing industrial equipment Electroactive Attached Growth (EAG) technology saves energy for wastewater treatment. Based on the customer discovery process, the duo was excited to reveal a perfect problem-solution fit.

“After speaking to more than 75 potential customers as part of the NEXUS-NY customer discovery process we came across Stone Brewing in California. This facility cannot grow to meet demands due to limited in-house wastewater capacity, limited municipal capacity and local laws. With our technology they will be able to increase production,” explained Cosma.

Cosma and Lozano have also spoken with leaders at Frank E. VanLare, the largest wastewater treatment facility in Rochester, NY.

“With our patent pending EAG units, BioEnergySP can save VanLare tons of money per year in energy reductions,” added Cosma.

Nine new research teams total from across New York State took part in phase 1 of NEXUS-NY’s 2016 cohort, including a few universities that have previously not participated in the program before. These teams include researchers from Clarkson University, University at Buffalo and SUNY Alfred State.

Parham Rohani is a Chemical and Biological Engineering PhD candidate at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has developed a proprietary water-reactive nanomaterial that can split water and generate hydrogen gas from water at room temperature, on-demand, for mobile electricity generation using fuel cells.

“We turn water into fuel,” said Rohani. “We pelletize our nanomaterial and package it in a cartridge. The cartridge connects to a hydrogen generation device  to generate hydrogen gas from water. We and our partners will design the hydrogen generation device based on their requirements. The device can provide hydrogen gas for any off-the-shelf fuel cell.

Rohani says his innovation offers customers great value given a high specific energy density source of power with longer runtime. He announced to the judges a potential business opportunity with a gross rate of over 50%. If Rohani moves to the next phase of the NEXUS-NY accelerator, he plans on continuing to validate the technology, work with manufacturing partners, file new provisional patents and begin the material production development phase.

Representing research out of Clarkson University, Ken Visser, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering and Director of the Center of Sustainable Energy Systems at Clarkson, is working on an optimized ducted wind turbine that uses a slotted duct system to augment the wind flow and increase the efficiency of the turbine rotor. Over the course of the last several months, Visser has reported 70% energy extraction and improvement over open rotors of the same size.

Recognizing the high capital costs associated with using a turbine to run your home (roughly a 10kw machine at $55,000), Visser says it could take 10-30 years for homeowners to receive a return on investment. This is why the team has decided to establish a two-prong affect that caters to manufacturers and installers.

“Based on our customer discovery, it’s the cost per kWh that drives the business. Our new approach will allow manufacturers and installers to save money installing our turbine technology,” explained Visser. “The $80 million wind turbine market is set to explode. There is a new leasing model that has jumped into the industry. The market needs a less expensive and more efficient turbine. We can deliver this by focusing our attention on the IP, which is centered around moving the rotor. This will open up more markets by offering the same power at lower wind speeds, which reduces the overall costs.”

Visser says the technology has already turned the heads of several manufacturers interested in taking advantage of the cost savings. Moving forward, they will look to validate the technology and build a working prototype.

This was also our first look at how NEXUS-NY’s pilot program with Cornell University is progressing. The team of scientific researchers, entrepreneurs and students from the Johnson School of Management have been exploring if two Cornell technologies make sense together by looking at a method to convert CO2 into methanol.

“We have gathered lots of feedback that still needs to be researched in the lab based on potential synergies,” said Cornell Entrepreneurial Lead Jason Salfi. “The great news is we have identified many partners excited to take this technology to market throughout the NEXUS-NY customer discovery process.”

Additional entrepreneurs and scientists in the 2016 NEXUS-NY program include researchers from Binghamton University, SUNY-ESF, Rochester Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Each team will know by mid-May if they will advance into phase 2 of the clean energy seed accelerator.

“Phase 2 is designed to be a little less rigorous,” said Doug Buerkle. “We encourage the teams to get back in the lab and deep dive into the information gathered during the customer discovery process to determine which of them might be potential sources of third party validation.”

NEXUS-NY will continue to provide each team financial support in phase 2 ($40-50,000 on average), as well as couple the researchers with various partners including the Syracuse Technology Commercialization Law Program and Excell Partners, which will assist with investor due diligence.

At the end of the program, the teams will be in position to pitch their novel technologies to investors at demo days in New York City and Rochester, NY. These events are scheduled for early-mid October.   

eColectro Ready to Scale, Seeking Investors

Funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and administered by High Tech Rochester, NEXUS-NY is a proof-of-concept center chartered with accelerating the transition of clean-energy technologies from New York’s research labs into the marketplace with educational, financial and business support.

eColectro is one of the startups that participated in NEXUS-NY’s second cohort. In 2016, eColectro joined the Cornell’s Kevin M. McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences. Over the past several months, Founder/CEO Gabriel Rodriguez-Calero has been working hard on research. He is now in position to raise his first seed round, and it actively seeking investors. 

eColectro | NEXUS-NY Cohort 2Company: eColectro

Description: eColectro is developing structurally robust and highly conductive polymer membranes for a range of applications, including fuel cells. eColectro’s alkaline membranes enable the replacement of platinum catalysts with non-precious metal alternatives within fuel cell membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs). Fuel cells manufactured using this technology can be potentially produced at half the cost of current state-of-the-art systems while promising to double durability.

Location: Kevin M. McGovern Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Achievements: eColectro continues to research ways to revolutionize how we power the nation. In December, 2015 eColectro received the Small Business Innovation Research Award (SBIR) from the National Science Foundation for approximately $150,000. In phase 1 of this project, eColectro will develop alkaline anion exchange membranes (AAEM) to enable lower cost, and durable fuel cells. The technical objectives of this process are to decrease the number of steps in the synthesis pathway of AAEMs, while simultaneously reducing time and increasing yields. Proving these technical developments is crucial for scaling and commercializing eColectro.

Founding Team: Gabriel G. Rodriguez-Calero, PhD (CEO); Robert Lewis (CRO); Kristina Hugar, PhD (CSO); Geoffrey Coats (Cofounder); Hector Abruna (Cofounder)

“We’re researching polymers to make the whole system less expensive and longer lasting. Our core competency lies in making membranes that can enable the removal of precious metals from electrodes,” says Rodriguez-Calero.

eColectro Screenshot from New Energy MagazineNEXUS-NY Research: Throughout the second phase of the NEXUS-NY program, eColectro has been working to de-risk their technology by building a prototype, while continuing the customer discovery process and developing their go-to market plan.

Next Steps: eColectro team members are continuing their research of membrane technology, which could result in the complete removal of platinum from their catalyst layer. This is a result of alkaline chemistry, which allows for cheaper metals that can remain stable and will not corrode under operating conditions, like stainless steel or nickel. The company will now partner with other companies and universities who are actively using the various final applications of their technology.

Contact: Gabriel G. Rodriguez-Calero | ggr@ecolectro.com

To learn more about how eColectro is changing the world, take a deep dive into their technology featured in NEXUS-NY’s latest edition of New Energy Magazine.

Molecular Glasses Wins Rochester Venture Challenge

NEXUS-NY is a clean energy startup accelerator chartered with catalyzing the commercialization of technologies discovered by New York researchers. Funded largely by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), NEXUS-NY increases the number of scalable clean energy startup companies within the region. Molecular Glasses participated in NEXUS-NY cohort 2, enabling the company to develop more relevant concepts through the program’s extensive discovery process. As a result, Molecular Glasses is now in position to revolutionize the manufacture and applications of OLED materials.

In April 2016, Founder/CEO Mike Molaire competed in the Rochester Venture Challenge hosted by High Tech Rochester. The panel of judges based its decision on criteria that included the probability of success of the business, as well as the size of its potential economic impact. Molecular Glasses came in third, receiving $2500 in cash and $1000 rent credit for space at HTR’s Lennox Tech Enterprise Center. 

In the next six months, Mike hopes to raise $500,000 by making use of his industry contracts. Read more in his recent interview with the Democrat & Chronicle, Catching up with Mike Molaire, CEO of Molecular Glasses.

You can also learn more about the company’s proprietary NONcrystallizable molecular glasses for stable and long-lived OLED and other organic electronics in the latest edition of the NEXUS-NY New Energy Magazine.

Molecular Glasses: NEXUS-NY Cohort 2Company: Molecular Glasses

Website: MolecularGlasses.com

Description: Molecular Glasses has developed highly stable host materials for OLED devices.  OLEDs have become ubiquitous in small display applications but their adoption has been hampered in large display and lighting.  Molecular Glasses has created a new class of materials which combine the best features of SMOLED and PLED.  More specifically their materials enable lower total system cost and better features today and they provide a bridge to low cost, roll-to-roll device processing in the future.

Location: Eastman Business Park, Rochester, NY

Achievement: Molecular Glasses has developed a third class of OLED materials with the performance of SMOLED, which will not crystallize. This advancement will revolutionize the manufacture and applications available for these materials, while providing 50% reduction cost for large television manufacturing and enabling light extraction improvement by 30%. The company has received several awards, including a $60,000 DOE testing award. 

Founding Team: Mike Molaire (CEO, Founder); Mark Juba (COO); Dr. David S. Weiss (Advanced Research Director)

“Our materials will be used to manufacture large size television, smartphones, tablets and commercial lighting modules. The solution printing process will be a lot easier to implement with our materials. As a significant aspect of our strategy, we have designed our materials to work in the current vacuum/thermal process,” said Molaire. “Thus we do not have to wait for the emerging solution/printing processes in order to start selling materials and making money.”

NEXUS-NY Research: During the NEXUS-NY customer discovery process, Molecular Glasses has spoken with forty experts and potential customers. This enabled them to discard concepts and generate new ones more relevant to the marketplace.

Next Steps: Now seeking to commercialize their technology by selling materials to display and lighting OEMs, Molecular Glasses will complete their proof-of-concept work and begin to market their materials and will partner with an established chemical manufacturer to produce them. The company believes they are 18 to 24 months from selling their first product. They will start delivering samples to interested customers in four to six months.

Contact: Mike.Molaire@yahoo.com | 585.210.2861 | @mmolaire