Bold Ideas 2020: Rising stars of energy storage

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Six months ago, four disruptive energy storage startups were selected to participate in the Bold Ideas accelerator program with Schneider Electric and Greentown Labs  in Boston, MA. After six months of workshops and mentoring, we asked the founders to share their stories and what they have gained from the program. Read below their insights on entrepreneurship and register for the final showcase here.

Paul Hines, CEO of Packetized Energy. Based in Vermont, Packetized Energy develops a platform solution to transform existing energy devices in homes and businesses into smart, valuable, and flexible energy resources.

“My main drive to become an entrepreneur was the potential to help enable a clean energy future. I decided to transition from being a professor to help start Packetized Energy because we had a solution that could dramatically impact the future of energy. The biggest lesson so far for me is the importance of commercial experience. As a professor, I understand the technology, but I realized that commercializing, even the best tech, requires proper skills. Through the Bold Ideas Challenge, Schneider has helped us better articulate our value proposition and differentiation to other products/startups. My advice to others is to seek a lot of advice, and when you see commercial potential, take the leap.”

James Larsen and Scott Peever, respectively CEO and VP BD of e-Zinc. Based in Toronto, Canada, e-Zinc develops a low-cost, flexible, and long-duration electrochemical technology solution that stores energy in zinc metal.

James: “I have learned three lessons. 1) You need to be comfortable with being out of your comfort zone as you will be building the airplane as you fly it. 2) You need to expect the unexpected. 3) There is no more fun career path. Within Schneider, you have access to so many resources and expertise. Keep learning and when you see a gap in Schneider’s offer, go for it!”

Scott: “I was working at GE selling onsite power solutions with gas engines, and I started seeing more and more projects being won by energy storage. I wanted to grow something and be part of a field full of opportunities. I have learned that entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster. One week, you might expect to crash, but then you end up solving the problem in a matter of days. It is fun and makes the wins so much better. Schneider has been able to gather all the right people as our corporate mentors to give us invaluable guidance.”

Ryan Brown, CEO of Salient Energy. Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Salient Energy makes a unique zinc-ion battery with a water-based chemistry that is cheaper, safer, and longer-lasting than lithium-ion batteries. “I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to use technology to address climate change. I was working in a lab at university and realized that commercializing it was going to bring a bigger impact. It is not a career path; it is the best way to make the biggest impact. The most important lesson I have learned about entrepreneurship is how to handle uncertainty. There will always be unexpected failures and successes. I have found it very important to maintain faith in your long-term strategy while also having the humility to realize how much in the short term will be outside of your control. From Greentown Labs I have learned to focus on the most important problems and Schneider has helped me identify a path to market and my distinct value proposition.”

Ian Mathews, CEO of Sensai Analytics. Based in Massachusetts and Cork, Ireland, Sensai Analytics develops an analytics engine that rapidly produces forecasting models for prescriptive maintenance, demand forecasting, and operations management. “I am an engineer at heart but have always wanted to create solutions and innovative technologies that have a major impact on the problems we face. Entrepreneurship is all about relationships; you won’t get anywhere unless you build a network of customers, partners, mentors and investors. Our Schneider mentors have been instrumental in guiding us to adapt our messaging and strategy and help us get our technology adopted in the marketplace. For people looking to commercialize deep tech, I’d highly recommend applying to programs like Bold Ideas. The sooner you can get yourself talking to large enterprises, the quicker you will begin to see what problems your technology can solve across whole industries.”

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