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 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.”
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