Author: bzdesign1

A Grand Unified Theory of Tech Startups…

The association between searching for a grand unified theory of the universe and searching for one’s first customer might not seem obvious, but there are some clear connections. That’s why NEXUS-NY has invited Dr. Brian Greene, an expert on superstring theory, to give the keynote speech at an event promoting some of the region’s most promising clean energy startups.

The primary job of any technology startup is to avoid death by acquiring resources as quickly as possible. Startups have many advantages as compared to large companies; most notably they can operate very nimbly. What they lack are resources: financial, human and strategic (customers, partners, suppliers, etc.). Entrepreneurs are most likely to attract required resources when they are able to precisely hone their message for multiple intended audiences.

Anyone who has read Dr. Greene’s books will agree; he is a master of explaining the complex in simple terms. The Washington Post described him as “the single best explainer of abstruse concepts in the world today.” After listening to his talk, no tech entrepreneur will be able to claim their invention cannot be explained clearly and concisely to a wide range of audiences.

The field of astrophysics has produced some of the greatest and most stunning discoveries and has attracted some of brightest minds of all time. From Cavendish measuring the earth’s gravitational constant in the 18th century, to Young determining the wave properties of light, to Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity, to Hubble determining our universe is expanding, and so on.

Dr. Greene’s talk will focus on innovation, exploration, and discovery and how they are deeply ingrained in human nature, and how the keys to their success transcend disciplines. Professor Greene’s presentation explores how we can unleash our innate drive to innovate. It is clear that innovation is desperately needed in most scientific fields. Even despite the work of all prior physicists, the composition of 95% of the matter in the universe is still unknown. Similarly, access to cheap, abundant, and clean energy remains elusive.

I hope you’ll join us on 10/27 to hear Dr. Greene’s speech and from our startups. For those with school age children, I encourage you to bring them along. There is one thing we know for certain… we need our best and brightest minds trained on tackling the big challenges which remain. We also need entrepreneurs to translate scientific discoveries into products and services which will benefit society.

Doug Buerkle joins High Tech Rochester as Executive Director of the NEXUS-NY

Doug Buerkle, a senior business executive who has guided the growth of multiple technology companies, has joined High Tech Rochester as Executive Director of New Energy Xcelerator in UpState NY (NEXUS-NY), one of three clean-energy Proof-of-Concept Centers designated and funded by The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).  

In May 2012, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo first announced funding to create three proof-of-concept centers around the state. In January, a total of $15 million was awarded to HTR, Columbia University and New York University for the creation of the centers.

NEXUS-NY is a new initiative aimed at identifying and commercializing clean energy technologies in the Upstate New York region. The new center is meant to increase the number of scalable clean energy startup companies within the region by specifically addressing the critical phase that occurs between research and commercialization. The goal of the program is to provide early stage support to enable the validation and subsequent commercialization of promising clean energy technologies.

NEXUS-NY will assist start-up teams by helping fund proof-of-concept devices and company formation and by guiding them through an experiential educational process that  includes linking teams with experienced start-up mentors and seed-stage investors and employing lean start-up techniques. NEXUS-NY will work to accelerate the commercialization of new innovations in the fields of solar, wind, fuel cell, energy storage, building technology, biomass, transportation, smart grid and other technologies.

As part of these efforts, Buerkle will work closely with a number of academic partners including Alfred University, Clarkson University, Cornell University, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Research Foundation, the University of Buffalo and the University of Rochester as well as multiple industry and investor partners.

“With the hiring of Doug Buerkle, HTR’s new Proof of Concept Center is poised to link business experts and early-stage investors with scientists and start-ups making new discoveries,” says HTR president James Senall.  “We predict this new NYSERDA-funded service will make a big impact on the development and commercialization of clean energy in New York.”

Prior to joining HTR, Buerkle lead efforts to commercialize novel energy storage materials developed in the research labs at Corning, Inc. He previously served as president and co-founder of Lumella, Inc., a high-technology startup that designed and manufactured novel diffractive optical components for telecommunications switching, laser tuning and spectroscopic applications.  For the Newport Corporation, he held multiple roles, including general manager of its diffraction grating business.  

Buerkle graduated from Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. He later earned a master of business administration degree, with an emphasis on marketing and operations management, at the Simon School at the University of Rochester.

Background on PoCC

In January of 2013, The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded a total of $15 million to Columbia University, the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and High Tech Rochester to create three Proof-of-Concept Centers dedicated to helping inventors and scientists turn their high-tech, clean-energy ideas into successful businesses. NYSERDA will invest $5 million in seed money at each center over a five-year period, with cost-sharing required. The centers are expected to operate on their own after NYSERDA funding ends.

NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation, offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise, and funding to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. NYSERDA professionals work to protect our environment and create clean-energy jobs. NYSERDA has been developing partnerships to advance innovative energy solutions in New York since 1975.

NEXUS-NY opens clean energy accelerator program to researchers and innovators throughout upstate NY

Seeks applications to a program that offers a lean startup approach and the early testing of clean energy technologies for commercial potential

NEXUS-NY (New Energy Xcelerator in UpState NY),  a clean energy accelerator, is a new initiative aimed at identifying and validating new clean energy technologies developed in upstate New York, including the Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and Binghamton/Ithaca regions.

The goal of the program – via more than $500,000 annually in financial support and various education and training sequences – is to provide support to early-stage technologies for the validation of their commercial potential. NEXUS-NY will specifically address the critical phase that occurs between research and commercialization.

Researchers and innovators in clean energy working at university-based laboratories or who are completely independent can now apply to the program at

Broadly defined, clean energy encompasses technologies, processes, models, tools, etc. that will generate clean energy or assist the final consumer to reduce the use of electricity.

As part of the process to qualify for an average of $50,000 of financial support, qualifying teams of researchers and innovators will participate in NEXUS-NY’s year-long program, starting with a 12-week immersive learning course where they’ll learn and use lean startup techniques modelled after the National Science Foundation iCorps.

In addition, the NEXUS-NY program links clean energy technology teams with mentors and advisors with experience in both technology and business development.

Plus, subject to availability of funds, Excell Partners, a regional economic development partnership between the University of Rochester and the State of New York for financing high-tech startup companies in the Upstate New York region, may make a commitment of $150,000 to one or more teams emerging from NEXUS-NY.

“Applicants are encouraged to think broadly when considering the definition of clean energy,” says NEXUS-NY executive director Doug Buerkle. “While much of the clean energy research in New York is conducted in university-based settings, not all of it is, which is why we’re hoping to hear from both university-based and independent researchers and innovators.

Acceptance into the NEXUS-NY program is based on a submitted on-line application that will be evaluated by an independent team of energy and commercialization leaders from throughout upstate New York.

Four clean energy teams from Cornell to compete in NEXUS-NY accelerator

Four Cornell project teams are working with “New Energy Xcelerator in UpState NY,” a program that focuses on commercializing clean energy innovations, according to Doug Buerkle, executive director of NEXUS-NY.

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