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.

Innovation Crossroads Showcase spotlights new entrepreneurs, recent graduates

(Cross-posted from Teknovation.biz)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Five of the seven new start-ups that comprise Cohort 3 of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” (IC) program and two of the alumni of Cohort 1 that recently graduated were spotlighted during a showcase Thursday as part of “Innov865 Week.”

Held in collaboration with the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC), the event underscored one of the entrepreneurial strengths of the region – advanced energy and the 15 start-ups that have been or are still participating in the IC initiative. It also marked the graduation for the two alumni of Cohort 1 that recently completed the “Energy Mentor Network” program offered by TAEBC with financial support from Launch Tennessee.

During the event, I had the opportunity to have a fireside chat with the two Cohort 1 graduates – Anna Douglas of SkyNano Technologies and Mitchell Ishmael of Active Energy Systems. Both have ties to Tennessee, but both have also decided to remain here and grow their companies.

Read more here.

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.

SBA Awards LaunchTN Grant to Support Small Business Innovation and R&D Commercialization

The U.S. Small Business Administration recently granted 24 awards up to $125,000 in the Fiscal Year 2019 through its Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program. TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network partner, Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN), was named the grant recipient for Tennessee.

The program’s goal is to improve outcomes for underrepresented entrepreneurs in its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. FAST also aims to increase participation for rural-based, women-owned and economically disadvantaged firms.

In addition to receiving one-year of funding beginning September 30, the FAST program offers mentorship, technical assistance, specialized training and outreach opportunities for R&D focused small businesses. Organizations use the funding to help enact state and regional programs that support SBIR applicants and awardees.

“FAST partners support an important role in attempting to fill various gaps that R&D-focused small businesses may have to help them win SBIR/STTR awards,” said Acting Administrator Christopher Pilkerton in a prepared statement. “They focus on the needs of next-generation high-tech firms and support them through the entire cycle from ideation to commercialization. SBIR funding is one way to do that. Additionally, a number of these awards are going to partners that are located in Opportunity Zones where job creation and investments are moving forward to revitalize communities.”

To learn more about FAST, follow this link.

Stone Mountain Technologies’ whirlwind year: from kicking off series A funding, exploring European expansion, to preparing for production and commercial launch

The Energy Mentor Network’s second graduate, Stone Mountain Technologies (SMTI), has been busy since its December 2018 graduation. Headquartered in Johnson City, SMTI is a leading developer of cost-effective, next-generation heating technologies that lead to lower energy costs, higher comfort and lower CO2 emissions. 

In the past few months, SMTI has closed its seed-round with nearly $3 million from two strategic investors, kicked off its Series A Round, launched several prototypes and sought market expansion to Europe. Later this month, the company will release details for a new grant that will demonstrate an exciting new feature for the base gas heat pump product.   

“It will provide heating, cooling, and water heating for homes at the lowest carbon footprint that we believe anybody has ever done. It is a huge deal for us to be able to demonstrate that technology over the next year or so,” remarked SMTI President Michael Garrabrant. “The buzz in the industry and the market is the highest it’s ever been and continues to grow as everybody sees that we are getting close to production and commercial launch.”

With product development, SMTI is starting to “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” Garrabrant spoke about implementing field test units in Los Angeles on two full-service restaurants, another in Chicago for a multi-unit apartment building, two in Wisconsin for residential spaces and in Montreal for testing at National Resources Canada.

“We may be building 200 more prototypes over the next twelve months, which will finish out product development and get us ready to launch commercial products,” outlined Garrabrant.

“Our focus is on one thing: getting into production and transitioning to a manufacturing company from a product development company,” he continued. “Once we launch, we’ll start out with 50 to 100 employees. But if we hit our targets over the next 10 years, there could be as many as 1,000 or 1,500 employees.”

SMTI is also interested in introducing its technology to the European market. After introducing its technology and company to major European heating and equipment manufacturers at a “dog and pony show” in Paris, SMTI continued the conversations at ISH, the world’s leading trade fair focusing on the responsible management of water and energy in buildings, in Frankfurt, Germany, this past March.

“We’ve got a lot of things going in North America, but we’re trying to get our foot in the door in Europe,” explained Garrabrant. “It’s been pretty successful so far since we graduated.” 

While enrolled in the Energy Mentor Network program, SMTI closed a multi-million dollar investment with a strategic investor and was awarded a $2.7 million U.S. Department of Energy grant in August 2017 to accelerate, with an OEM partner, the commercialization of its residential furnace replacement. SMTI was recently awarded a smaller follow-on grant from the DOE, which kicked off in July.

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network and its mission to foster advanced energy technologies and startups throughout the state, visit this page.