Energy Mentor Network Company: Peroxygen Systems

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council is featuring the companies benefiting from the Energy Mentor Network program, which offers industry specific expertise from experienced mentors.

The Energy Mentor Network‘s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors. This gives Tennessee yet another advantage in grabbing its more than fair share of the $1.3 trillion global advanced energy market.

The Energy Mentor Network is run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council in partnership with Launch Tennessee.

In broad strokes, the Energy Mentor Network pairs mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs through a structured program involving panel presentations and mentoring sessions.

The purpose of the program is to develop quality startups. After completing the program, startups will have an investable pitch deck, a rock solid business model and a plan to establish more traction. These tools will position Tennessee’s entrepreneurs to raise capital, request other funds like SBIR grants, and scale their company.

This week TAEBC is highlighting EMN company Peroxygen Systems. Peroxygen Systems is a clean chemistry company developing breakthrough technology for on-site hydrogen peroxide production. The startup is working toward fundamentally disrupting the existing manufacturing and distribution model for hydrogen peroxide. Peroxygen Systems’ on-demand electrolyzer can reduce the cost of producing hydrogen peroxide by over 50%, while also completely eliminating the cost and safety issues associated with shipping and handling of high concentration hydrogen peroxide.

TAEBC is currently accepting applications from Tennessee advanced energy companies to apply for the Energy Mentor Network program. If you are interested in this opportunity, please visit the “For Startups” section of the Energy Mentor Network portion of TAEBC’s website.

Business Startup Spotlight: Stone Mountain Technologies

(NOTE: This blog was originally posted on FundingSage.com)

Name: Stone Mountain Technologies, Inc.

Location: Johnson City, TN

Website: www.stonemtntechnologies.com

Product / Service Offering: Thermally Driven Heat Pumps

Co-founder Interviewed: Michael Garrabrant, President

Other Key Management Team Members: Scott Reed, VP Strategy & MarketingChris Keinath PhD, Director Engineering

This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey. 

Pictured: Michael Garrabrant, President

Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.

I am the type that always has to be doing something worthwhile and meaningful in the long run. Endless meetings, red-tape, and indecision are very frustrating. To me, there is nothing like 45-minutes on a lawn mower to clear your mind and trigger a good idea.

When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?

I had the opportunity to learn and work with absorption heat pumps in the 1990’s. Initially as a graduate student at Ohio State University and then with a start-up that licensed the OSU technology. I found the technology fascinating and “addictive.” Although from a high level it appears simple, getting the details right to make it work well, be reliable and cost effective is very challenging. Also, there are a very select group of individuals globally that understand how to do this.

The start-up I joined in the 1990’s “ran out of gas” because it was targeting the wrong market and applications. I felt that the technology would eventually become a major player in the heating and cooling market when the time was right. In late 2008, circumstances in the market and for me personally aligned, and I decided to give it a go. I knew it would be a hard road, but I began Stone Mountain Technologies.

What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?

SMTI is a B2B business model, with our direct customers being gas/oil heating product manufacturers. Indirectly, our customer “base” includes gas utilities, HVAC and water heater contractors, and of course the end-user (building owner or occupant).

Due to steadily increasing DOE minimum efficiency regulations over the last 20 years and technology limitations, conventional gas and oil heating products (furnaces, boilers, water heaters) have very little differentiation left. The products are becoming a commodity, competing more and more on price alone, with market shares evening out among the players. At the same time, electric heat pump technology has advanced rapidly, and has begun to erode market share from gas.

Gas heat pump technology provides a leap in efficiency without sacrificing the comfort gas heating customers are used to. SMTI’s “Thermal Compressor” technology allows the current gas/oil heating equipment manufacturers to offer exciting, new very high efficiency products to their customers, at a much faster pace and with lower risk compared to trying to figure out how to do it themselves from “scratch.”

Gas utilities are mandated to spend a percentage of revenue on efficiency incentive programs. Due to the lack of efficiency differentiation between “good-better-best”, they are struggling to offer incentives that make sense for the consumer. Their core business is also under increasing pressure from climate change driven regulations, especially in California, parts of the Northeast, Canada and Europe; therefore, gas utilities are very excited about the prospect of cost-effective gas heat pumps entering the market and have provided a variety of support, including financially.

What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?

SMTI has a unique combination of specific market, technology and manufacturing know-how.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge was seed funding. Our space is not conventional Angel or VC friendly. Also HVAC/water heating is not “sexy,” is capital intensive, and the development time-frame is long. Fortunately, the Department of Energy, gas utilities (including European), and several OEMs agreed with our premise and business model. We were able to win non-equity funds to develop the core technology and prove it out in the “real world.” My knowledge of the market and reputation with key players was instrumental in raising the funds.

Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?

There is a litany of start-up information and business help available on the web. Much of it is very helpful, but it is often contradictory. To apply the knowledge heavily depends on what market your business is in. My advice is to spend evenings and weekends reading and when you think you have read it all start again.  Learn to filter out what makes sense for your specific business type and focus.

90% of start-up business advice out there is tailored to technology companies developing an application or SaaS. Good luck if you are a brick-and-mortar or manufacturing company.

What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?

We felt we needed to have prototypes in the field. Several OEM customers were “significantly interested” to reduce the amount of risk for a Series A investor. We are at that point, and have initially targeted industry strategic partners who know the market very well to lead our Round A, with Angel groups with a “green” focus (fortunately this is a growing segment) filling in the gaps.

Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?

There are a dizzying array of financial terms and investment vehicles out there. Unless you spend your entire career entrenched in this area, it’s next to impossible to wrap your mind around all of the variations and the impact on your company. Professional investors definitely have a large advantage over the typical entrepreneur.

What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?

The challenge is how we share ownership of the company with key employees without either causing them a horrible (and at-risk) tax penalty or running afoul of IRS and SEC rules. The current laws are not friendly to small privately-held companies with a decent valuation but are still at a high risk stage.

What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?

There is no substitute for being obsessive and working extremely hard. There are no short-cuts.

Solar Site Design announces 75th construction company to join Commercial Marketplace

Solar Site Design is surging towards more success as the Energy Mentor Network startup announced 75 construction companies are now subscribed to its Commercial Marketplace platform.

Solar Site Design is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. The company is a collaborative, cloud-based marketplace platform that connects sales-ready commercial and industrial solar projects to top solar construction companies to drive down customer acquisition costs.

“Our marketplace was launched last year during Solar Power International, so this demonstrates the tremendous growth we have acquired since then,” said Jason Loyet, Founder.

Loyet elaborated that his company has an even bigger milestone in mind.

“Our goal is to standardize ‘behind the meter’ commercial solar origination and sign 150 construction companies to join Solar Site Design’s marketplace by the end of this year,” said Loyet.

Solar Site Design will exhibit this year at Solar Power International in Las Vegas on September 10 and will announce a major partnership with a global Fortune 500 solar panel manufacturer that Loyet believes will help his company reach and exceed that goal.

“Our Commercial Marketplace Platform is experiencing tremendous traction, and is servicing commercial and industrial properties nationwide,” said Loyet. “Together with our trusted channel agents, we provide commercial property owners with preliminary engineering and financial modeling and educate them on the costs and benefits of installing solar.”

“As soon as the owners choose to install solar, we connect them with (up to) five competitive construction quotes. Our contractors have real-time access into the Marketplace, where they can see when the owner is ready to move forward. And, they don’t have to pay for the project up front; they only pay when the project is won. It’s a win-win for everyone: building owners lean on their trusted advisor to help them receive competitive pricing and the customer acquisition costs are driven down for the installer,” said Loyet.

Loyet went on to say some of the largest solar construction companies in the Southeast have already joined Solar Site Design’s commercial marketplace. Solar Site Design won the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst award for its innovation on driving down cost of solar through their innovative software platform.

Energy Mentor Network Spotlight: Mark Patterson

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council is continuing its series of feature stories highlighting the mentors behind the Energy Mentor Network program offering industry specific expertise.

The Energy Mentor Network‘s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors. This gives Tennessee yet another advantage in grabbing its more than fair share of the $1.3 trillion global advanced energy market.

The Energy Mentor Network is run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council in partnership with Launch Tennessee.

In broad strokes, the Energy Mentor Network pairs mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs through a structured program involving panel presentations and mentoring sessions.

The purpose of the program is to develop quality startups. After completing the program, startups will have an investable pitch deck, a rock solid business model and a plan to establish more traction. These tools will position Tennessee’s entrepreneurs to raise capital, request other funds like SBIR grants, and scale their company.

TAEBC is highlighting this week Mark Patterson of Patterson Intellectual Property Law. Mark has 35 years of experience counseling clients in the protection, management, and enforcement of intellectual property rights, including patent and trademark prosecution and licensing. As a former electronics design engineer, Mark works regularly with complex electronic, computer, and electro-mechanical technologies.

He manages patent and trademark portfolios for clients with significant domestic and global operations. Mark began his legal career as a litigator and for 30 years tried numerous cases and argued appeals in both state and federal courts. He was an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School and has provided expert witness services in a variety of intellectual property disputes.  He applies all of this experience in providing cost-effective, strategic IP advice to businesses throughout the U.S.

TAEBC is continuing to accept mentors for the Energy Mentor Program. If you are interested in this opportunity, please visit the “For Mentors” section of the Energy Mentor Network portion of TAEBC’s website.

Introduction to Innovation Crossroads Innovators

Introducing the Innovation Crossroads Innovators

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET

Oak Ridge National Lab

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and Launch Tennessee invite you to meet Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads innovators as we introduce them to the Energy Mentor Network and our mentors.

Lunch will be served.