Energy Mentor Network graduates secure funding to advance technologies

Active Energy Systems receives an SBIR Phase II Award, while Nth Cycle secures $3.2 million in seed funding

The Energy Mentor Network is run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council in partnership with Launch Tennessee. Its goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Two of our graduates have recently secured funding to advance their technologies.

Active Energy Systems received an NSF SBIR Phase II Award

Active Energy Systems graduated from the Energy Mentor Network in 2019. The startup invented the world’s first “icephobic coating,” which creates a surface impervious to freezing water. It recently received an NSF SBIR Phase II Award to unleash the potential of water as a thermal energy storage medium for building air conditioning.

This funding will allow Active Energy Systems to create Icephobic Heat Exchange (IHEX) technology eliminating the adhesion of freezing water to cold surfaces, preventing ice buildup on the coil and realizing the power of water for low-cost, high efficiency, resilient building cooling.

Nth Cycle secured $3.2 million in seed funding

Nth Cycle graduated from the Energy Mentor Network in 2020. The startup is developing a system to cost effectively recycle lithium-ion batteries to recover the high-value metals. It secured $3.2 million in seed funding to scale its technology for battery recycling for sustainable mining. This funding will allow Nth Cycle to execute their technology roadmap and deploy several pilot projects with recyclers and mine operators early next year.

Nth Cycle was also featured in Waste360 where CEO Megan O’Connor stated, “We can process in a cost- and environmentally effective way compared to standard, existing methods. We can reduce operating costs by 75 percent and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent [determined using a Department of Energy battery recycling model].”

Learn more about the Energy Mentor Network, its companies, and mentors here

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Innovation Crossroads Showcase webinar emphasizes value of East Tennessee entrepreneurship

This year’s Innovation Crossroads Showcase emphasized the value of statewide partnerships and entrepreneurship in the East Tennessee region. Presented by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and LaunchTN, the virtual event took place during Innov865 Week 2020.  

Kicking off the event, TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper spoke about TAEBC’s partnership with LaunchTN and creation of the Energy Mentor Network. The Energy Mentor Network program’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Piper highlighted the accomplishments of program graduates, including Solar Site Design, SkyNano Technologies, Stone Mountain Technologies, and Active Energy Systems.  

Afterward, Piper moderated a fireside chat with Van Tucker, LaunchTN’s Interim Chief Executive Officer, where they discussed Tucker’s background, LaunchTN’s work in the state, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem of East Tennessee.  

“I’m really proud of the work that is being done in East Tennessee,” Tucker remarked. 

Speaking about what gives her hope for the future, Tucker said that while there are plenty of challenges and problems that have arisen due to COVID-19, she believes “this is the moment for innovators and entrepreneurs” to rise up.

“Entrepreneurs are, I believe, the best chance we have of rapid economic recovery in our nation at the moment,” she said. “And they need to be given the resources they need to grow and thrive and help contribute to that economic recovery.”

Later, Dan Miller, Director, Innovation Crossroads, spoke about the Innovation Crossroads program and upcoming Cohort Five application deadline. Based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Innovation Crossroads program leverages ORNL’s scientific resources and capabilities and connects the nation’s top innovators with experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take world-changing ideas from research and development to the marketplace. 

Miller then introduced Innovation Crossroads Cohort Four startups for their pitches. Attendees heard pitches from Actinic, AquaQuant Laboratories, Becq, PixelEXX Systems, and Quantum Lock Technologies.

Mitchell Ishmael, Cohort One alumni and co-founder of Active Energy Systems, moderated a panel discussion with Cohort Two alumni as they provided updates on their businesses and reflected on their time in the Innovation Crossroad and Energy Mentor Network programs. Panelists included Don DeRosa of Eonix, Shane McMahon of Lux Semiconductors, Justin Nussbaum of Ascend Manufacturing, and Megan O’Connor of Nth Cycle.

“The Knoxville area in general is extremely supportive,” Nussbaum said. “Everyone that I have worked with around here is always willing to help and provide feedback. It’s just been a great area to build a company in because of that assistance.” 

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network or become a mentor, click here. To learn more about Innovation Crossroads or apply for Cohort Five before the October 31 deadline, follow this link.

Remembering TAEBC’s 2019 accomplishments, what to expect in the new year

As the new year looms upon us and we welcome a new decade, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) is celebrating its 2019 achievements.

By championing advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy, TAEBC is positioning the state and its members to increase our leadership role in the $1.4 trillion global advanced energy market.

TAEBC wants to reinforce our commitment to our members and stakeholders:

  • Inform the national energy agenda.
  • Help Tennessee become the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.
  • Foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups.
  • Support TVA and our local power companies’ efforts to become the energy companies of the future.

We look forward to our annual membership meeting in Franklin, but until then let’s reflect on our top accomplishments from 2019.

  1. SkyNano and Active Energy Systems became the third and fourth graduates from the Energy Mentor Network. The companies were part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads cohort one, where they are now recognized as honored alumni.
  2. TAEBC held its Annual Membership Meeting in Franklin, Tennessee at Schneider Electrics headquarters. TAEBC members, stakeholders and supporters heard from Schneider Electric’s Vice President of Utility & Microgrid Solutions Don Wingate, who touched on the new energy landscape emerging with more microgrid implementation happening across the United States. Attendees also heard from Chris Hansen, TVA’s Director of Pricing Strategy & Origination, who spotlighted the energy company’s efforts to meet renewable energy expectations of Google and Facebook for new data centers the companies were constructing in the Valley. Both global giants are known for their commitments to sustainability and clean energy.
  3. During the annual meeting, renowned Tennessee collaborator and partnerships builder Tom Ballard received the Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award named in his honor. The Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. TAEBC announced the Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award will be an annual award, accepting nominations every year and presenting the winner with the honor at future annual meetings.
  4. TAEBC had a full calendar year filled with events that engaged both members and stakeholders alike including:
    1. TAEBC Executive Director & Vice President Cortney Piper, Michael Garrabrant with Stone Mountain Technologies and Launch Tennessee executives were at Tennessee’s Capitol Hill earlier this year for Innovation Week on the Hill, connecting entrepreneurs and innovators with legislators to discuss key challenges facing small businesses.
    2. The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council hosted a new “Ask Me Anything” event that gave attendees the opportunity to “ask anything” from some of the most well-known energy CEOs in the state, including Matt Kisber of Silicon Ranch Corporation. The “Ask Me Anything” session provided intimate, candid discussions between attendees and energy CEOS where attendees could “ask anything” related to business, strategy, work-life balance and everything in between.
    3. TAEBC held a Lunch & Learn with TVA board member Jeff Smith and new TVA CEO Jeff Lyash to discuss what they envisioned in the future for the energy company and giving members the opportunity to have an open dialogue with TVA leadership.
    4. The Energy Mentor Network’s mentors had an opportunity to meet the Innovation Crossroads recently inducted third cohort, where they heard pitches from the energy startups. The event also featured a panel discussion with the Innovation Crossroads’ cohort one alumni as they gave updates on their businesses and what their experience was like in Innovation Crossroads.
    5. Launch Tennessee, in partnership with Life Science Tennessee and the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, invited our Energy Mentor Network mentors and companies to an evening of networking in appreciation for the mentors’ generous service to the Mentor Networks.
  5. TAEBC’s Utility Relations Committee met with TVPPA, TVIC, & AVI to present Tennessee’s advanced energy asset inventory.
  6. TAEBC Executive Director & Vice President Cortney Piper met with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s office staff in Washington, DC to present a briefing on Tennessee’s robust advanced energy economy which employs more than 358,000 Tennesseans, contributes $39.7B to the state’s GDP, and includes more than 18,000 businesses.
  7. TAEBC Executive Director & Vice President Cortney Piper also met with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development deputy commissioners and senior staff, new Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s staff, various TVA leaders, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation staff to educate them on Tennessee’s advanced energy economy and present an asset inventory briefing.
  8. Opportunities in Energy 2019, presented by Verizon, featured a presentation from Majid Khan, Managing Director of Strategy & Business Development from Verizon to talk about 5G and the future of energy in our region and the nation as a whole. A panel discussion moderated by Dr. Greg Peterson, Professor & Department Head at the University of Tennessee in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, with Khan, Greg Thompson, Senior Manager of Smart Grid Services and Digital Engagements at Schneider Electric, as well as with Gary Brinkworth, Director of Enterprise Research and Technology Innovation at TVA focused primarily on the opportunities and challenges of how 5G can impact the energy landscape here in Tennessee.
  9. Welcome New Members: AVI, East Tennessee Economic Council, Giridhar Iyer, Johnson Energy Solutions, Piper Communications, Smart Trips, Stone Mountain Technologies, Verizon and XMI.
  10. TAEBC submitted comments to TVA in April regarding, at the time, its draft 2019 IRP. TVA’s Board of Directors approved the 2019 Final Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) later in the year. TVA updated its previous IRP to allow for a more dependable and flexible power-generation system that effectively leverages more renewable energy sources and distributed energy resources. According to the 2019 IRP’s Executive Summary, TVA found:
    • There is a need for new capacity in all scenarios to replace expiring or retiring capacity.
    • Solar expansion plays a substantial role in all futures.
    • Gas, storage and demand response additions provide reliability and/or flexibility.
    • No baseload resources (designed to operate around the clock) are added, highlighting the need for operational flexibility in the resource portfolio.
    • Additional coal retirements occur in certain futures.
    • Energy efficiency (EE) levels depend on market depth and cost-competitiveness.
    • Wind could play a role if it becomes cost-competitive.
    • In all cases, TVA will continue to provide for economic growth in the Tennessee Valley

As an added bonus two TAEBC board members, Steve Seifried and Mary Beth Hudson, wrote op-eds on Tennessee’s thriving advanced energy economy.

Happy Holidays from the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council!

Active Energy Systems Secures Funding as One of Three Initial Investments from New, Local Venture Capital Fund

Energy Mentor Network graduate, Active Energy Systems, was selected as one of three initial investments made by the TennesSeed Fund, a new, evergreen, seed-stage, proof of concept venture capital fund that seeks regional investments in Tennessee companies. 

The Fund is managed by a collaboration of Three Roots Capital, Meritus Capital, and Innova Memphis, Inc. Grady Vanderhoofven, the founder, president and chief executive officer of Three Roots Capital, and Ken Woody, the president, partner and founder of Innova Memphis, serve as the Fund’s co-managers, directors, and investment team members.

The Fund does not have a specific industry or technology focus, allowing it to help companies, like Active Energy, achieve specific, well-defined milestones. Woody said the evergreen structure “allows for the permanent, ongoing cycle of fundraising, investments, and successful investment outcomes, which hopefully will have direct and lasting economic benefits throughout the state.”

“Our relationship with the TennesSeed Fund has been great timing for us,” said Active Energy Co-Founder Mitchell Ishmael. “They provided the right advice at the right time and funds just when we needed them to secure our intellectual property claims. This investment and relationship has been immensely valuable for us.”

In addition to the Fund’s investment, Active Energy has received funding from the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation SBIR program matched by LaunchTN. Combined, these investments amount to over $500,000.

In addition to funding momentum, Active Energy recently graduated the Energy Mentor Network, run by TAEBC in partnership with Launch Tennessee. To graduate, participating startups must build investable pitch decks, finance models, and structured business plans and defend those plans before panels of established entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Active Energy also completed its two-year fellowship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program in May. Speaking with Teknovation.biz earlier this year, Ishmael said “the Innovation Crossroads team helped us make the necessary industry and investor connections to complete our pivot.”

Currently, the company is building a larger cooling system for a 6,000 square foot facility and constructing a “show and tell” system for onsite demonstrations. 

Visit Active Energy Systems’ website to learn more about this innovative startup. If you are interested in becoming a mentor for startups like Active Energy Systems in the Energy Mentor Network, follow this link.

Tennessee startups Active Energy and SkyNano graduate from Energy Mentor Network

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.