Last December, the first cohort of mHUB's Climate & Energy Tech Accelerator graduated from the program.
mHUB recently reached out to the portfolio companies to see what they've been up to since completing the six-month accelerator. Read on to hear how blip energy, Hago Energetics, Icarus RT, infiniRel, Kazadi Enterprises, NexTC, and Sandbox Carbon are actively commercializing their disruptive solutions in renewable energy, hydrogen, carbon capture, energy storage, and energy management.
What has your startup been up to these last six months? Any exciting news or updates?
CEO and Founder of Icarus RT
Icarus has made several noteworthy achievements in the last six months. In March 2023, we won the Fourth Revolution Product Design of the Year Award. Following this success, we forged a strategic partnership with Upward labs Net Zero Programs in April 2023. We've also been engaging with key players such as UBS, Related, and Fairstead. In June 2023, Icarus secured a spot in the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator. Currently, we are finalists in the Pepperdine Most Fundable Companies program/competition. We are also diligently progressing towards UL Product Certification and 3rd Party Validation, as well as SRCC Product Certification.
CEO and Founder of infiniRel
CEO and Founder of Kazadi Enterprisesa key technical improvement to overcome corrosion in our system and a key engineering improvement by transitioning to coaxial amplifier geometry with insertable cartridges to enable easy repair in the case of a mishap. We also received first commitment for a pilot project from a vertical farming company, received a Phase 1 SBIR, and were chosen for funding and training by Village Capital.
Our last 6-months has been focused on initial scale-up and customer engagement. We are working with key stake holders to further test our materials as a part of their devices. Our first sale came right at the end of the mHUB program. Feedback so far has been great, and we are building on this initial traction.
CEO and Founder of Sandbox Carbon
We have added two awesome people to the team, David Griggs and Bjorn De Groote. If you are around the mHub space come say hi to them! The three of us have spent the last few months continuing to refine the technology and better understand the problems facing our customers.
What milestone(s) are you currently working towards? What obstacles, if any, stand in your way?
HAGO: We are currently raising our SEED round for $10M to install our mid-size unit which will have substantial revenues.
ANDERSON: Manufacturing of prototypes in progress. Commercial Launch/Sales: Creating marketing one-pager, sales deck and brochure for potential customers. Challenges: Lack of capital
WANK: Term sheet for a 3-year Joint Development Services Agreement with a major Renewable Energy developer, pivoting our market entry from solar to energy storage. Still searching for a seasoned part time power electronics engineer.
Milestones we're working towards include working with our distillers to process blow down water that was received from a cooling tower manufacturer, building the regenerator, V2, re-building and testing our heating / cooling core, securing four new pilot commitments, and gearing up for our SEED fundraise. An obstacle we're running into is people sending us “homework” (surveys, training, etc.) and eating up our time.
PERKINS: Our current milestones center on bringing our products to market. We are finalizing our first scale-up steps and we will begin pilot scale operations over the next six months.
ROSE: We are currently building our next prototype that incorporates all the learnings from our previous prototypes into one system at the benchtop scale. We are also working on raising our pre-seed round – get in touch if you’d like to learn more!
What was the most valuable resource you accessed through the mHUB Accelerator program?
WENNSTEDT: Access to LP Network and other mHUB connections (UL, Eaton, MPC, local manufacturing, WBC, IL PUC, and more!)
HAGO: Mentors, Thierry, and follow-on introductions to funders.
ANDERSON: There are several, in this order:
- Opportunity to work closely with Thierry Van Landegem is invaluable.
- Public Relations: Awarded the Fourth Revolution Award Product Design of the Year
- Pitch Development: Effective, extensive, and expert pitch coaching that altered view of pitching from chore to key opportunity
- UL Product assistance and negotiation: Negotiated substantial discount with UL allowing Icarus to do more for less
- Manufacturing capabilities & assistance: We were able to manufacture prototypes effectively.
- Connections with potential investors.
- Relationships with mHUB partners including Perkins Coie, Jeff Rogers, Sara Chamberlain, Corey Barnes-Covenant, Steven Case, others
WANK: Selected mentors, the financial modeling template, and hiring advice for startups.
KAZADI: We continue to value the network which has been our most valuable resource.
PERKINS: The mHUB network. The network that we have tapped into through the mHUB accelerator not only wants us to succeed but is willing to help.
ROSE: The mentorship and curriculum helped me flesh the business and technology from a mere idea into an actual company. The money was also nice.
Think back to the day you first launched your business and how you saw the journey ahead—How did your expectations back then compare to reality?
HAGO: It’s a roller coaster ride and you have to be there to experience it! One day you are on top of the world, the next day the earth is caving in on top of you.
ANDERSON: My board was hesitant to participate in another program. Icarus was over 5 years old. Program Director Thierry Van Landegem persuaded me to take a deeper look and connected me with several previous participants. One CEO that just completed the core mHUB program running a company of similar maturity to Icarus, stated “mHUB changed the trajectory of our company.” I convinced my board to give it a try. Working with the entire team at mHUB Chicago under the masterful expertise of Thierry proved invaluable at a critical time and changed the trajectory for Icarus. Without reservation, we rank it comparable to our experiences with the Shell Gamechanger by NREL, Halliburton Labs, Cleantech Open and others, yet with different emphasis than each of those.
WANK: It always takes a couple times longer and more money than you planned. Timing is everything.
KAZADI: It has been much harder and longer than I expected. This is because of the reality of the unknown aspects of the technology and the work needed to recruit partners.
PERKINS: We knew the potential of our innovation and the market need. However, a major surprise to us early was the interest level of glass companies, even companies that we initially envisioned as competitors. For us, this really highlighted the need to talk to people throughout the value chain.
ROSE: I did not anticipate how much rising interest rates would slow down venture capital allocation and make it challenging for early-stage companies to get the funding they need. I’ve also had to make some major changes to the technological approach as research and prototyping has shown my original ideas to be less than perfect.
Any lessons or advice you want to pass on to the next mHUB Accelerator Climate & EnergyTech cohort?
WENNSTEDT: "Do unscalable things" and get your minimum viable product in front of customers as soon as you can!
HAGO: Hang in there!
ANDERSON: Jump in hard and fast. Take advantage of the programs and sessions offered. Prepare ahead for each one. Talk to the presenters afterwards, always.
WANK: Keeping an open mind for the market beach head. It may not be what you thought of initially. Ask what you need, and when deciding in favor of change, implement without procrastination but not without sleeping over it. Another day brings a different perspective. Perseverance is clou!!!
KAZADI: Actually, many of the companies I’ve seen are further ahead than I. The best advice I can offer is to meet as many people as you can, identify the things that aren’t going well, describe to as many mHUB experts what you’re building and how, and listen, listen, listen.
PERKINS: Soak up as much knowledge from the invited speakers and the curriculum. Be engaged, ask questions, and make connections!
ROSE: Take advantage of all the resources at mHUB and be quick to ask for help. There are a lot of people here who are very good at lots of different things and are eager to help you solve your problems.
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