Micatu: Upstate New York’s Next Generation Optical Sensor Company
New York native, Michael Oshetski, is proud to be an entrepreneur. As the CEO of Micatu, Mike speaks with passion about his company and plans to not only revolutionize optical sensor technologies, but create high-paying jobs for the Southern Tier region.
A recent semifinalist in the 76West Clean Energy Business Competition, Micatu provides next generation optical sensor technologies that create more efficient and sustainable measurement capabilities in the areas of smart grid, wind, power, transmission and aerospace. Micatu combines these technologies with engineering, manufacturing and OEM professional services anchored on the team’s more than fifty-years of optics experience.
“I was born and raised in Chemung County and went to RIT. I’ve started this company out of my garage. It would be an honor to move forward in the 76West competition. If a company from the Southern Tier wins, we all win. There’s no better time than right now to do business in New York,” beamed Oshetski.
Micatu was founded in 2011. Oshetski and co-founder Atul Pradhan were sitting in an airport in Hong Kong. Mike turned to Atul and said, “You wanna start a company?” It was as simple as that and the duo hasn’t turned back since, stating they have incredible achievements over the last five years. Micatu now strives to do what the Internet did for communications.
“Some people said we were crazy. Others called us brilliant,” laughed Oshetski. “So in the true spirit of being entrepreneurs, we took a calculated risk that, so far, has paid off. Everyone starts somewhere, and I believe as long as you’re passionate and true to your values, you’ll be successful.”
Micatu Seeks to Create High Paying Tech Jobs for the Southern Tier
Over the course of five years the company has already surpassed major milestones moving from Mike’s garage, to IncubatorWorks in Painted Post, NY, and now occupying a 10,000 sq ft facility at the IST Center in Horseheads, NY.
Already employing 20 people, Oshetski said based on demand for the technology and the company’s sales forecast, Micatu is ready to expand once again. The Micatu team is projecting to hire at least one new employee each month for the next five years and expand operations to a 70,000 sq ft facility in Chemung County. Oshetski said recent company developments will help them achieve this growth.
“Micatu is on the frontline of smart grid and distribution grid technology, putting us in a great position to grow threefold in the coming years. With more orders at larger volumes coming in, we’re under the gun to scale production quickly. We’re also shipping internationally now,” explained Oshetski. “We’re ready to create more high-paying tech jobs in the Southern Tier, and proud to know for every one job we create, five additional jobs are created for the community based on the Jobs Multiplier Effect.”
The Need for Integrated Volt/VAR Optimization (IVVO)
When electricity is delivered to a customer’s home or a business, it must be delivered at a level between +,- 5% to remain within ANSI standard C84.1-2011 regulations. On a 120V system, this range is defined as 114 volts to 126 volts to ensure all electrical devices can operate properly. Most utilities address this challenge by over producing energy to ensure the high end of the voltage range is maintained.
“Utilities face both a legislative and operational challenge of ensuring they are delivering efficient voltage within this range when it arrives at the customer’s home or business,” said Oshetski.
Overproduction of energy increases distribution losses and increases requirements for peak demand production. This problem is further exacerbated by the introduction of renewable energy generation which further leads to grid instability.
What the Micatu team was able to discover is utilities are actively seeking deployment of Integrated Volt/VAR Optimization, which allows them to control the voltage on the distribution grid and produce what is actually needed for each feeder circuit.
Micatu is Revolutionizing Optical Sensor Technologies
Focused on making the power distribution grid smarter, Micatu’s technology hangs on the power grid and measures voltage and currents very precisely. This helps the distribution grid to become more efficient, and enables analytics and integration as renewable power sources.
“Deployment of Micatu’s sensors for Integrated Volt/VAR Optimization typically results in a 1% energy savings for each 1% in voltage reduction. Micatu provides a cost effective solution, which is also one of the most accurate solutions for measurement of voltage and current on the smart grid today,” said Oshetski.
He continued to explain how over time, more renewables and co-generated sources will cause the grid to be less stable. Micatu technology was created to provide greater stability, allowing operators to figure out how much energy the grid is making, as well as calculate the demand.
Oshetski is now preparing to share this insight with the high-tech optical ecosystem at the 2016 Annual NFOC Communications Conference. Invited by leaders of the telecom and communications industry, he said he looking forward to talking about next generation of optical applications that will fundamentally create a new industry for optical sensing solutions.
“It’s exciting to see how Micatu’s optical sensor technology can have a big impact on the efficiency of power transmission and generation on our power grid. We have the potential to reduce greenhouse emissions, lower operating costs for utilities and ultimately savings for the end users,” said Oshetski.
The NFOC Communications Conference will take place on September 21-22 at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort.
Micatu Graduates from NEXUS-NY with Go-to-Market Products, Services
Something that sets Micatu apart from other companies is the startup’s two-pronged business model. In addition to offering a product, Micatu’s experienced consulting team knows how to take their product and make it solve problems for other companies. Oshetski said these professional business services are inherent to their product.
“Not every customer is the same and some require a unique solution,” he said. “Micatu provides additional value add services by integrating our technology into the final solution. This process saves millions in kw of energy, which in addition to being efficient, is good for the environment. We’re very much linked to making the environment more green.”
This connection to sustainability made Micatu a perfect match for the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Seed Accelerator. As a proof-of-concept center in partnership with High Tech Rochester and partially funded by NYSERDA, NEXUS-NY helps catalyze the commercialization of early-stage technologies across New York state. During the NEXUS-NY program, Micatu was challenged to develop their idea into a technology for condition monitoring in wind turbines. To achieve this, Oshetski said the team focused on verifying their concept by talking to the end user.
“NEXUS-NY was a great learning experience and a huge value add to our company, said Oshetski. “We learned that just because we had developed a better widget, it didn’t mean that people were automatically going to buy it. The customer discovery process triggered a pivot, which required us to concentrate on the points that made sense in the industry.“
Now as a graduate of the NEXUS-NY accelerator, Micatu continues to use 3rd party testing to confirm the performance of their technology in partnership with NYSERDA and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
“We’re very proud of our progress. What takes big companies years to complete, we’ve managed to achieve in less than five as a small company with limited resources. Plus, Micatu hasn’t taken funding from any outside investors, and we’ve been cash flow positive since day one,” said Oshetski. “This didn’t come from having the best business plan in the world, because in our field business plans are outdated before they are complete. We’ve been able to do this by carefully forecasting our revenue and acquiring the employees needed to fulfill our orders. There’s nothing more to it. It’s a simple equation with a lot of points.”
Micatu Strives to Enhance New York’s High-Tech Ecosystem
Micatu also attributes this wave of success to support from the community at all levels. “Small business can’t do everything on their own, but when we work together, we can,” he said.
As our call came to a close I could hear Mike’s kids (5, 2) laughing in the background. Yes, in addition to building a successful startup, Mike has also been busy starting a family, But regardless of the challenges, Oshetski said he’s excited about the opportunity to bring more technology jobs to the area and build something bigger than himself.
“We can make the community better, and that starts with good paying jobs,” he insisted. “Right now Micatu pays more than the industry average and we’re proud of that. We inject a significant about salaries each month into the southern tier. We have a great team of dedicated employees and we’re achieving this success together, for our families and our community.”
For more details on this company, take a look back at NEXUS-NY New Energy Magazine.