EnergySprint, the successful business accelerator hosted by Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University, recently primed participants to contribute to New Mexico’s emerging clean energy economy. The six-week venture builder allowed New Mexico innovators to focus on what made their technologies unique and what they could do to improve – by getting in front of real customers and hearing immediate feedback.
“Arrowhead Center is the only institution in the state to offer a program of this kind,” said Dana Catron, director of Strategic Operations at Arrowhead Center. EnergySprint is funded through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Innovation and Commercialization for a Regional Energy Workforce (i-CREW) initiative and Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Feynman Center.
“Participants were able to look more critically at where their technology is situated in the clean energy space, and what mechanisms are necessary to move it forward. We were able to help make connections with federal entities, funding opportunities, and potential customers that will move them closer to commercialization and economic growth,” Catron said.
With clean energy emerging as an economic opportunity to create and retain jobs, Arrowhead Center has focused on helping startups and established businesses that are leading the creation of innovative solutions in renewable energy, energy storage and applications of energy to cyber security.
“We want to position New Mexico businesses at the forefront of opportunities that will emerge as the renewable energy industry grows. The businesses that participated in EnergySprint are committed to making real change,” Catron said.
Arrowhead Center sprints focus on the early stages of technology, product or service development, before a business invests significant time, money and resources. Requirements for EnergySprint participants included that the entrepreneur and business must be based in New Mexico, must attend weekly sessions, and must conduct 15 interviews with potential customers for their product or service.
“The sprint was impactful, thought-provoking and caused us to challenge the fundamental assumptions of our business model, leading to new and interesting avenues to explore,” said Simon Woodruff, president of Compact Fusion Systems, which develops compact fusion systems for the utility market. “The material served up by experts in our New Mexican energy ecosystem was top notch, well researched and useful to our planning.”
EnergySprint allowed for customer discovery and narrowing the scope of a product or service fit while providing structure, guidance and access to resources that can move the business forward. Microgrants were also available to hire service providers and address some immediate needs, like marketing and social media.
“The sprint provided incredible resources from technology and intellectual property to social media and accounting,” said Sydney Lienemann, CEO of UpCycle Power, which refurbishes electrical vehicle batteries. “Over the course of a short few weeks, I did more to get my startup off the ground than I had in the previous five months.”
Kicked off with a session with NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu, industry experts were hosted on each week’s online session matching the pre-recorded curriculum that participants watched before joining in a weekly group discussion.
“Through our EnergySprint cohort, we were introduced to an incredible network with specialties ranging from energy infrastructure policy to brand building,” said April Jeffries, business development director at Osazda Energy, a solar energy company. “This network is a key resource for strengthening any part of your emerging business.”
For this cohort, there was a wide variety of experts including a representative from the U.S. Department of Energy to talk about their small business innovation research program; an expert in grid modernization systems and technologies; an NMSU faculty member with expertise in rulemaking proceedings on behalf of government agencies, regulatory commissions, utility companies and utility customers; and an intellectual property attorney and a venture capitalist focused on energy. Arrowhead Center advisers also worked one-on-one with participants on a weekly basis meeting to address current challenges.
Program graduates can also join Arrowhead Ventures, where they will benefit from continued business and technical advising, academic and industry connections, and up to $25,000 in Amazon Web Service credits.
“I strongly recommend the EnergySprint for any burgeoning clean energy company in New Mexico,” Woodruff said.
To find out more about growing a business within the Arrowhead Center network, visit https://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu