October 1, 2019

Two Tennessee energy startups – SkyNano Technologies and Active Energy Systems – are graduating from the Energy Mentor Network, a rigorous mentorship program that cultivates energy entrepreneurship across the state.

Run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) in partnership with Launch Tennessee, the Energy Mentor Network equips promising young companies with the tools and connections to raise capital and scale their businesses to market success. Active Energy and SkyNano were paired with expert entrepreneurs to guide the companies through the multi-tiered program of panel presentations and mentorship sessions. To reach graduation, the startups built investable pitch decks, finance models, and structured business plans and defended those plans before panels of established entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Active Energy Systems was founded by Mitchell Ishmael and Levon Atoyan in 2017. The cofounders invented the world’s first “icephobic coating,” which creates a surface impervious to freezing water. The patent-pending coating is the technology behind Active Energy’s revolutionary air conditioning system that greatly improves cooling performance by eliminating ice build-up. The ultra-efficient, low-cost thermal energy storage system is environmentally superior to standard cooling systems and enables electricity to be accessed overnight for later use when cost is less expensive.

SkyNano Technologies was cofounded by Anna Douglas in 2017. She and co-founder Cary Pint developed a novel technique that makes the production of highly sought-after carbon nanotubes much more efficient, affordable, and scalable. SkyNano’s patent-pending technology relies on electrochemistry, rather than solely chemical catalysis as is currently used, and more efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide into functional nanomaterials. The new manufacturing technique produces low-cost, high-value nanotubes, solving cost and scalability limitations associated with existing carbon nanotube manufacturing techniques while also enabling commercial viability to carbon conversion technologies through high-value secondary material.

During their time in the Energy Mentor Network, Active Energy and SkyNano made significant gains in financing and market-readiness.

SkyNano secured close to $1,000,000 in funding grants and fellowships from the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation SBIR program matched by LaunchTN. Anna was named a 2019 Forbes Magazine “30 Under 30” Disrupter in Energy. The company is expanding its work force and this fall, SkyNano plans to scale its patent-pending technology and deliver product samples to early customers.

Active Energy secured more than $500,000 in funding grants and fellowships from the Department of Energy, TennesSeed Fund, and National Science Foundation SBIR program matched by LaunchTN. The company was also named a finalist in the 2018 76West Clean Energy Competition. Active Energy is currently building a much larger cooling system for a 6,000 sq ft facility and constructing a “show and tell” system for onsite demonstrations.

Both graduating energy startups were members of the inaugural cohort of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Innovation Crossroads program, a two-year fellowship that supports energy entrepreneurs take their inventions from R&D to commercialization. Innovation Crossroads is a business mentor partner of the Energy Mentor Network. SkyNano and Active Energy are the third and fourth startups to graduate from the Energy Mentor Network.