Tag: High Tech Rochester


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.

HTR Demo Day Featured NEXUS-NY’s AMBIS Technologies and American Fuel Cell

A premier showcase of entrepreneurial talent, ten startups shared company successes and stories about how High Tech Rochester programs helped advance their success.

Innovate. Incubate. Grow. Helping Entrepreneurs Build Successful Companies

High Tech Rochester (HTR) is a nonprofit whose mission is to catalyze entrepreneurship and innovation-based economic development throughout the Finger Lakes region.

During the HTR Demo Day 2016, a handful of promising startups associated with High Tech Rochester showed of their services and products to an auditorium of ecosystem supporters at Hatch Recital Hall at the Eastman School of Music. In his introductory remarks, Jim Senall, President of High Tech Rochester, said HTR and its affiliate programs have assisted over 850 startups and small manufacturing firms over the past five years.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 5.03.14 PM“We know that startups and new businesses are what really create the most net new jobs in our country, so we know that to create jobs longer term you should be creating more startup companies in the shorter term,” said Senall.

Senall continued to say, while startups aren’t always visible to the public, there are many good things happening within our community and at HTR.

HTR provides a full suite of services, including technology commercialization for very early stage companies, business incubation for high growth potential startups and growth services for existing manufacturing companies seeking to improve their top and bottom line performance.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 5.04.04 PM“High Tech Rochester helps bring many of the innovations that come out of the area universities from the inventive mind of our community,” said Mike Riedlinger, HTR Program Manager of Technology Commercialization. “So based on their ideas and their views of things that could be, we can help them craft new business opportunities that really enrich all of the economy for the area.

One of the standout programs under the HTR umbrella is the NEXUS-NY clean energy proof-of-concept center lead by Doug Buerkle.

Buerkle explained how the audience had a chance to hear from two NEXUS-NY graduates. Both AMBIS CEO Mae-ling Lokko and American Fuel Cell CEO, Dan O’Connell presented updates. Buerkle said both are doing very well.

“The goal of NEXUS-NY is for companies to demonstrate that their technology works, that they also sort out their business models and that they work towards 3rd party validation. In Dan’s case he has attracted an MOU (memorandum of understanding) from a leading customer. His samples are in that customer’s hand and they are currently testing them, so we are hoping he’s going to have a large purchase order here in the next few months,” added Buerkle. “Mae-ling is also doing fantastic. She announced today that she has installed her system in a leading architecture firm in NYC, and her first commercial customer in Ghana is placing orders and starting to build those units.”

AMBIS Technologies Pivots to High Premium Product

AMBIS s a building technology company that upcycles materials from agriculture in order to condition our air. The startup does this by leveraging one of the world’s most underutilized material resources – waste from the bio industry.

AMBIS Technologies CEO Mae-ling Lokko explained during High Tech Rochester Demo Day that today’s building consume 40% of all our world’s energy – ahead of transport and industry. These buildings spend over half of that energy to condition air. This means that 20% of all our energy goes into heating, cooling, drying and pumping air through hundreds of miles within our buildings. Using AMBIS Technologies’ building panels and systems, air is dehumidified and filtered de-centrally, providing a more elegant and more energy efficient solution.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 5.02.55 PMSince graduating from the HTR NEXUS-NY program, Lokko announced, “AMBIS Technologies has pivoted from a commodity fiberboard product into a high value premium product that is able to offer air mediation, acoustic performance, and all the while looking pretty cool.”

She continued to explain how the NEXUS program became a critical platform for her company to identify partners and tap into the extensive mentorship and business expertise of the program, which have all added to a strong foundation for her company to grow and pivot many times. By maintaining these relationships after graduating from NEXUS-NY, AMBIS continues to develop, eliminating a lot of potential materials and applications, as well as sharpening their value proposition.

“Today our business model reflects the strength of the Upstate New York ecosystem that we built and accessed through NEXUS,” said Lokko. “Over the next year, AMBIS looks to raise about $250,000 to build a prototype for our base catalogue, and deploy within critical building testbeds throughout the world in order to demonstrate our value proposition – all the while doing so with beautiful clean materials that can impact building energy consumption.”

The AMBIS team has also continued to grow. Nina Wilson recently came onboard as a co-founder and CTO of the Troy, NY-based startup.

“What we’re really looking to do at this stage is to embed maximum performance into panels and approach a distributed modular all-in-one system framework through which to employ technology transfer and really increase the value proposition for the building systems,” added Wilson.

In addition to installing a 100 sq ft wall packing system at CASE in Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Office in New York City with funding from High Tech Rochester’s NEXUS program, this August AMBIS will deploy their system in a testbed in Ghana. Working with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology (CASE) in conjunction with ongoing work with a leading private foundation, this testbed aims to test the system’s air remediation performance within a Net Zero testbed. AMBIS has also secured project with a first client, and the team is deploying their systems in commercial, high-end luxury applications in early 2017.

“We really wish to thank Doug Buerkle, Allison Yacci and Mike Riedlinger, as well as Jim Senall and the High Tech Rochester team who have opened up their extensive network over the past year and half. They helped us realize the first of many steps in fulfilling our company’s mission,” said Lokko.

Harnessing Local Resources to Make Rochester the MEA Manufacturer of the World

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, the clean energy startup aims to power the future by creating cheaper, more efficient and more practical cells.

Dan-OConnell-American-Fuel-Cell-Presentation-1

Dan O’Connell, CEO of American Fuel Cell presents at HTR Demo Day 2016.

“How a fuel cell works is pretty simple,” explained American Fuel Cell CEO Daniel O’Connell. “As long as you have hydrogen on one side of the membrane and you have air, which is oxygen, on the other side, it makes clean, efficient electricity, and that’s a really good thing. When you make that electricity the only byproduct is heat and water. So our goal is to bring fuel cell jobs to Rochester leveraging local resources.”

O’Connell and American Fuel Cell co-founder David Wetter, both worked at General Motors’ Honeoye Falls fuel cell vehicle lab until GM moved its fuel cell research work to its Michigan powertrain facility. O’Connell shared at HTR Demo Day that when GM closed its research facility, they thought a majority of the people who were working there would move to Michigan.

“What they didn’t understand is that Rochester is a great place to live and work, and we have great quality of life here. So it turns out that only a small percentage of those people decided to move to Michigan, said O’Connell. “What that means is we have a wealth of fuel cell expertise, a supplier network, and some really excellent resources right here in Rochester. To me that’s an amazing opportunity for all those resources to be utilized.”

It’s for these reasons both O’Connell and Wetter committed to staying in the Finger Lakes region and now operate American Fuel Cell out of the Kodak Eastman Business Park to best leverage local fuel cell resources to grow their company and create high paying technology jobs in the Rochester area.

“We graduated from the NEXUS program where we really learned how to become a business,” said O’Connell. “We started out as a couple of guys with a great idea, and ended up as a company with nearly a dozen folks working for us getting ready to go into volume manufacturing at the Kodak Eastman Business Park,” said O’Connell.

American Fuel Cell is focused on two markets – mobility (forklifts), and backup cell tower applications. According to O’Connell, this market is expected to double within the next two years to $375m. O’Connell said American Fuel Cell is making great progress and wants a piece of that pie. Already the startup has sold parts to the navy, and they have secured an MOU with their first big customer for thousands of units. Due to this activity, American Fuel Cell is ramping up production to make these units within the November timeframe, and they are looking to add more staff to their team in order to ensure success.

“We couldn’t have made this progress alone. From the NEXUS-NY program we did some outreach to our customers and they were consistent in their message. They told us we needed to get the cost down of the membrane electrode assemblies inside the fuel cell. So that’s our product, and that’s what we’re focused on,” explained O’Connell.

Today, American Fuel Cell has a sellable product with a proprietary “secret sauce” formulation, and low cost manufacturing utilizing the thin film roll coating capability at Kodak. This product is not only ready for the forklift and backup cell tower application markets, but also puts American Fuel Cell in position to enter into the “other electric vehicle” market.

O’Connell says right now there is a lot of focus being placed on battery operated vehicles, including where they’re headed and how that market is going to expand. But he tells us that the fuel cell vehicle industry is also something to watch. Toyota is already in production with a fuel cell vehicle, which makes clean, efficient energy. O’Connell says fuel cell vehicles have some advantages because they have a fast refill time and extended range compared to a battery vehicle.

O’Connell closed his High Tech Rochester Demo Day presentation by telling a “what if” story:

“There were 85 million vehicles sold last year in the world. What if just a little over 1% of those vehicles turn out to be fuel cell vehicles. That’s 1 million fuel cell vehicles a year. Each fuel cell vehicle uses around 350 membrane electrode assemblies. Do the math, and that comes out to a million MEAs a day! So I ask you, why wouldn’t we want to manufacture those MEAs here in Rochester? Why wouldn’t American Fuel Cell want to go after that market? And why wouldn’t we leverage the Kodak equipment to make Rochester the MEA manufacturing capital of the world?”

By working with NYSERDA, American Fuel Cell received a grant to help ramp up its production. The company has also acquired great resources with the NEXUS-NY program to build strong relationships with RIT, Cornell and SUNY Alfred State for some of their testing. The company is now looking to raise enough money to complete existing orders and prepare themselves, and Rochester, to power the future.

What’s Next for High Tech Rochester?

With a new innovation district forming in downtown Rochester, Jim Senall said he’s excited about High Tech Rochester being the anchor.

By 2017, Senall said HTR will have a new downtown accelerator at the Sibley building, which is being redeveloped as a mixed-use facility. RIT Center of Urban Entrepreneurship is next door, and multiple other buildings within that close geography will support the lifestyle that new entrepreneurs want to have.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 5.03.30 PMIn the interim, HTR will be opening up its own temporary space in downtown Rochester this Fall. HTR is looking for some pioneers – entrepreneurs in the community that want to help build an amazing facility in downtown. HTR has a $3 million capital campaign to raise for the cause. The fundraising is underway with about $1.5 million raised already.

Senall requests that if you’ve had success and you want to give back either as a mentor or supporter, to contact High Tech Rochester on how you can get more involved.

Watch Video -> Introducing High Tech Rochester

NEXUS-NY Phase 2: On the Path to Commercialization

7 Clean Energy Research Teams Start De-Risking Technology in NEXUS-NY Phase 2

The difference between success and failure is finding focus as early as possible. This is a primary mission of the NEXUS-NY clean energy seed accelerator, and over the last several months, participants have been developing and testing numerous business hypotheses through interactions with industry participants to find this focus. The desired outcome is to validate whether a viable and scalable business model exists, and to decide whether and how best to pursue their commercialization objectives – a process the teams will continue to explore in NEXUS-NY Phase 2.

As Phase 1 of the program came to a close, each team presented to a room of judges and industry experts to share the latest results around their business opportunities. These presentations played a large role in determining which participants would move onto de-risking their technology by building prototypes and seeking third party validation.

When selecting which teams to advance into Phase 2, NEXUS-NY Founding Executive Director Doug Buerkle said, “We asked the entrepreneurs to convince themselves of the business opportunities first. When that happens, it’s usually easy for them to convince us that they’re ready to move to the next level.”

NEXUS-NY selected several judges from the business community to evaluate the team’s business opportunity pitches. The judges looked for answers to key questions. Some of them included:

  • Is there a large market opportunity?
  • Has the team identified a compelling business model?
  • Is the product unique and compelling?
  • Does the technology promise a major energy impact?
  • Can the team make significant progress in the coming 6 months?

Jim Senall, President of High Tech Rochester, was among the judges. He remarked on the quality of the team presentations as being excellent. “It’s always so impressive to see how much the teams accomplish in just twelve short weeks from the kick-off of the program,” said Senall.

NEXUS-NY is one of the many programs run by High Tech Rochester (HTR). Senall says it’s unique in its statewide diversity of teams, and the high-impact technologies that are being developed. In his experience having watched each cohort participate in Phase 1, some teams learn that their initial assumptions may have been wrong, and that there may not be a market for what they are developing. Senall believes this is a good thing, as teams gain valuable knowledge in months versus years. If one particular idea doesn’t pan out, they have the opportunity to move to a different one.

“Each year the NEXUS-NY teams seem to get stronger and stronger. It’s never easy at the end of Phase 1 to select which teams to move on. It’s usually the market that makes that decision,” added Senall. “We look forward to seeing the others take what they’ve learned in Phase 1 and apply it to their next ideas.”

NEXUS-NY Finalists Represent the Most Promising Clean Energy Technology in NY

The teams moving to the next round of the NEXUS-NY accelerator include: BioƎnergySP, Clarkson University, Cornell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Alfred State and University at Buffalo.

NEXUS-NY Research Teams | RIT at Cohort 3 KickoffRyne Raffaelle and Brad Sparks are leading the charge of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) team. RIT researchers are working on a novel technology that incorporates patented carbon nanotubes within lithium ion batteries to improve their performance. Sparks says this is what makes their product unique and compelling.

“This has been demonstrated to provide 30-40% more energy than currently available off-the-shelf batteries,” said Sparks. “In particular, this is extremely important for our military and intelligence communities, where extending mission life is critical.”

In addition, the team from RIT is working on a technology that allows these batteries to be stored and shipped safely without charge to meet ever increasing shipping regulations. The core team has been working together for over a decade to develop these technologies.

“We see our primary market opportunities as the military and intelligence communities,” added Sparks. “Specifically, we are looking at developing our high-end batteries for small satellites, remote sensing and unmanned aerial vehicle applications.”

Since joining NEXUS-NY, the RIT researchers have spoken with dozens of potential customers to better focus on the specific market segments. Over the course of the next 6 months in the accelerator, the team will work towards commercialization on the technical side by spending a bulk of their time on improving their initial prototype. Their intent is to reduce the product cost without sacrificing the battery performance. On the commercial side, their goal is to find one or two initial customers to provide market feedback so they can continue to refine their products.

Now in Phase 2, all the researchers will begin building early prototypes and working towards third party validation of customer discovery. Buerkle said, “Typically during Phase 2, teams build prototypes which are aligned with the minimum features that customers want to test based on the interactions they had in first half of the accelerator.”

Theodorian Borca-Tasciuc and Berardo Matalucci represent the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) team. They are seeking to commercialize a novel modular and scalable building system for personalized comfort that can result in energy savings, increased productivity and healthier indoor environments.

RPI presented an early-stage prototype to the judges during the business opportunities event. They are now looking forward to building prototypes that are fully functional, making sure their demonstrations can move from proof-of-concept to real-world applications by verifying their assumptions.

“It’s time to build a complex version of the model. We see it as a portable device, something compact in order to overcome a couple important technical challenges, for example the effects on people and the energy savings,” said Matalucci.

In order to achieve this, the RPI team will take the insights gained from the Phase 1 customer discovery process and from the judges to couple energy efficiency with some other value, having learned that saving energy isn’t as important of a factor to customers as originally anticipated.

“We found that with our product, energy efficiency isn’t a necessity for the customer,” explained Matalucci. “Instead, it’s more important to provide thermal comfort to everyone with  a scalable product, especially one that engineers are interested in.”

Matalucci says this is not a simple task, and there are significant problems his team will have to overcome to deliver multiple benefits, including reducing the installation cost, while still providing high aesthetics.

“We’re close. We have already built something that offers a two-fold value proposition. By providing a system for localized heating and cooling we  can maximize the comfort of people, and on the other side condition a space where and when needed.” This allows our systems to avoid wasting energy, explained Matalucci. “And since our units are stand alone, meaning they don’t need to be plugged into ducts or pipes, which are unsightly, we also reduce installation costs and technical spaces like shafts and drop-ceilings. All of this combined caters to the customer and increases the real estate value of the building.”

Now the RPI team has to focus on being cost-competitive. This is an obstacle they must overcome by somehow containing the return on investment for their modular building systems to five years or less. For larger installations Matalucci says this could be pushed to 10 years, but after that it doesn’t hold the client’s interest any longer.

The team’s last big takeaway was from the judges, who stressed the importance of addressing product customization for manufacturing. For example, if your product is pink instead of gold, or in a circular shape, how customizable you want it to be impacts the costs related to manufacturing. This is a major concern that Matalucci says his team needs to consider – how to contain the cost of manufacturing while offering a product that is customizable.

To help them on their path to commercialization, the RPI team is in the process of hiring a couple of mechanical engineers to work on an advanced prototype. They are also in contact with some students from the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer to assist them in moving forward with patenting and funding applications.

NEXUS-NY Partnerships Help Catalyze Commercialization Process

Something that distinguishes NEXUS-NY from other accelerators is the program’s partnerships with business leaders to catalyze the commercialization of novel clean energy technologies.

As a NEXUS-NY Phase 2 activity, NEXUS contracts with Excell Partners to provide due-diligence support for each team. Excell is a Venture Capital Fund that invests in seed and early stage high-tech startups in New York state. Over the next several months, program participants will reveal more of their technology and business plans through a series of presentations to Excell.

“The first presentations will focus on getting to know the teams and technology; Excell will provide initial feedback, indicating where they see deficiencies in the business case,” explained Buerkle. “During subsequent presentations, Excell will have a chance to see how their advice has been implemented before assigning analysts who will work as part of the research team. This is certainly not the typical start-up/VC relationship. This is much more friendly.”

NEXUS-NY Midterm JudgesNEXUS-NY Phase 2 participants will also continue working with the teaching team which includes a few HTR employees plus several serial entrepreneurs who provide strategic and tactical guidance. New this year, NEXUS-NY advisors, are committing a few hours per week to provide additional support to participants. These advisors are all proven entrepreneurs who would typically not have the time to engage in full mentoring roles, yet they have all agreed to provide high level advice and connections. Advisors include: Christine Whitman, Chairman, CEO and President of Complemar Partners; Alex Zapesochny, President, CEO and Cofounder of iCardiac Technologies; David Dassault, Founder, President and CEO of P1 Industries; Mark Barberio, President of Markapital and board member of Buffalo Angels and Rochester Angel Network; John Frater, local entrepreneur and Adjunct Professor at RIT; and Don Golini, Founder of SANICA Ventures and QED TEchnologies International.

NEXUS-NY Provides Direct Financial Support to Program Participants

In partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), NEXUS-NY will continue to provide participants with funding in Phase 2. Each team has been charged with developing a statement of work that will define what they want to do with the funding. The statement includes what customers they would like to pursue for third party validation, and what they want to test.

“Most of the funding is allocated towards building and testing prototypes.” explained Buerkle. “In the past many teams also form legal entities before the end of Phase 2.”

NEXUS-NY offers additional support for its participants to evaluate their IP and that of potential competitors. NEXUS-NY contracts with the NYS Science + Technology Law Center at Syracuse University, which help participants develop custom IP landscape assessments which meet their individual needs.

Mark Your Calendars for NEXUS-NY Team Pitches

At the end of NEXUS-NY Phase 2, teams will present their technology and businesses to a wide audience of prospective collaborators and investors. These Demo Days will be held in western New York and New York City. They are tentatively scheduled for September and October, 2016.

Now it’s time for the teams to get back to the lab, while continuing to engage customers and develop their go-to-market plans!

Interested in applying for NEXUS-NY? The next phase of applications is available between October 18 – November 11, 2016.

NEXUS-NY Attracts Top Researchers from Across New York

72 Research Teams & Early-Stage Clean Energy Companies Apply for Next Round of NEXUS-NY Seed Accelerator

New York’s energy ideas are being watched around the globe, thanks in part to its vast number of top research universities, including Cornell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the SUNY system. As part of their mission to accelerate clean-energy technologies from New York’s research labs into the marketplace, High Tech Rochester sought to attract these potentially groundbreaking technologies to its next cohort of the NEXUS-NY program. Now in the final stages of reviewing applications, many of which were submitted by acclaimed university researchers, NEXUS-NY hopes to produce some of the most promising clean-energy companies of 2016.

NEXUS-NY Founding Executive Director Doug Buerkle“We made an effort to reach out to universities where we didn’t have a lot of applications historically,” said Doug Buerkle, NEXUS-NY Founding Executive Director. “This year we received applications from almost every major research university in the state.”

From Western New York to the Southern Tier, and even a handful of applications from NYC, 14 different universities from across New York applied to join Cohort 3 of the NEXUS-NY clean-energy accelerator.

NEXUS-NY is one of three NYSERDA-funded proof-of-concept centers. Participants in the NEXUS-NY program are provided educational, financial and business support to catalyze the commercialization of their technologies.

Six dozen research teams & early-stage clean energy companies applied for NEXUS-NY Cohort 3. Each application was first screened to assure compliance with program objectives and then forwarded on to an independent screening committee.  The committee is comprised of clean energy subject matter experts and those who specialize in analyzing new ventures and new technologies.

NEXUS-NY Clean-Energy Seed AcceleratorA specific set of criteria ultimately determines if a candidate is right for the NEXUS-NY program. The criteria include:

  • Technology state. Applicants will ideally propose technologies with TRL levels between 1 and 3. Extra consideration is given where significant research has been conducted and/or fundamental research has been funded by DOE or NSF, etc.
  • Business state. NEXUS-NY applicants will ideally be at the pre-venture state. Some early-stage ventures are considered if they are still searching for problem-solution fit and have not yet engaged in a significant way with customers.
  • Strength of IP. Intellectual property rights and patent law is an emphasized criteria for the NEXUS-NY program as IP strength commonly leads to increased innovation.
  • Potential energy benefit. If successful, how much energy would the applicant generate or save and/or how much CO2 might be reduced or mitigated?
  • Fit with the NEXUS-NY program. This criteria encompasses many things: There should be an obvious commercial objective; the applicant should hope to gain more than just seed capital; and the applicant needs to be willing to commit the necessary time and effort to the process of commercialization.
  • Commercialization potential. Is there reasonable technical merit and/or a belief that the applicant might be commercially successful or can disrupt their intended market. If the proof-of-concept is successful, they will ideally go on to obtain follow-on funding and/or grants, and advance to make a big difference.

This year, 24 finalists were selected for one-on-one interviews to join NEXUS-NY’s next cohort.

“We receive a lot of great applications that don’t always align well with the NEXUS-NY program,” said Buerkle. “Perhaps the entrepreneur is in the idea stage instead of the tech stage, or they have already made good progress developing prototypes or customer relationships.”

AMBIS | NEXUS-NY Cohort 2As NEXUS-NY is committed to commercialization, judges take great care to emphasize the responsibilities associated with their 12-month program, which includes a 2-phase process.

In Phase One of the NEXUS-NY program, the discovery teams develop and test numerous business hypotheses through interactions with industry participants. The desired outcome is to validate whether a viable and scalable business model exists, and to decide how best to pursue their commercialization objectives. Each team then competes for a spot in Phase Two.

In Phase Two, teams de-risk their technology by building prototypes, while continuing to engage customers and develop their go-to-market plans. Some teams will form companies during this period, and those companies will seek third party validation of their technologies and business models. As Phase Two concludes, teams prepare for Demo Day, a formal presentation of their technology and/or business to a wide audience of prospective collaborators and investors. These events are held in western NY and New York City.

NEXUS-NY New Energy Magazine 2015NEXUS-NY historically receives many applications around fundamental materials science technology, such as battery materials or materials for hydrogen generation. Interesting system level technology, people working on novel heat pumps, high-efficiency wind turbines, and systems that can improve the efficiency of wastewater facilities are also commonly seen from applicants. New this year, NEXUS-NY sought to identify a couple high potential technologies where significant research has been conducted within a university, but which lack a clear “commercialization champion.”

“Many of the most prolific researchers with the best technologies don’t raise their hands to get involved with the commercialization process. We decided to find a few high impact technologies and see if we can build teams around them.” said Buerkle. “This year’s finalists include two technologies which have already won prestigious ARPA-E grants. We’re excited to see how this pilot program evolves.”

NEXUS-NY is soon to announce the research teams participating in their clean-energy seed accelerator. The next program is scheduled to begin in January, 2016.