Tag Archives: business

CleanTech Innovation Center’s Start-ups and Culture

Three Start-ups in the early stages of development

Today we spent our afternoon at the Clean Tech Innovation Center. Although it may have been hard to find, it was a very interesting space with a lot of early stage startups. While here, we were able to check out three very different startups that all share the same space.

Nuventura:

Nuventura is looking to find a way to make a cleaner grid by producing an IP based technology that converts synthetic CO2 into naturally decomposable substances. The founder took some time to speak with us about his motivations and his struggles being an early stage start up. Formally an electrical engineer, the founder quit his day job to work on a technology he believed would solve the world’s future problem regarding CO2 emissions. He focuses his work on the technology and not on creating a marketable product since his background his not in advertising or manufacturing.

He also shared his thoughts about working in a shared workspace. Something he said that was intriguing was that he liked that he was able to bounce his ideas off of people, but also that they all had a connection because of the fact that they were all trying to become something from nothing. They all face struggles with funding. Yet, he told us that he doesn’t feel competitive against the other workers because they are all working on such different ideas.

A representative of Shoutr Labs explaining the innovative technology to our group

Shoutr Labs:

Shoutr Labs is creating a beacon Wi-Fi network for museums. These beacons offer an interactive audio guide for patrons of the museum, which allows people to use their existing technology without taking up any storage or using any data. This auto-syncing technology even allows people to view 360-degree photos, by simply scanning a QR code upon entering an exhibit. One interesting feature that this technology offers is a type of virtual experience. Shoutr Labs created a system for the natural history museum that makes it seems like there are dinosaurs in the room via your phone screen. With this function, people can take selfies and feel close to live dinosaurs!

A QR code for Shoutr Labs’ beacon network. It allows museum goers to enter a world of virtual reality when walking through exhibits.

Skypoint:

Skypoint is working on producing storm resistant fix drones equipped radar, camera, and surveying systems. These drones are tethered to the ground and produce energy through wind collection using the small turbines on the product’s shell. The product’s founder and CEO has a lot of visions as to where this technology can go. For example, it could be used for property protection, open pit mining, delivering goods after a natural disaster, filed management, control of an unmanned vehicle, herd management, and border control. Border control, specifically for the US-Mexico border, seemed to be the main target for this product as he was marketing to private security companies.

All the functions and uses that Skypoint technology was looking to solve. Although still in the early stages of design, this product seems to be a very versatile option for the future.

-Megan Gwynn

IKA and the German Middelstadt: A Model for Economic Stability

We explored a Mittelstand company and what makes similar companies Germany’s economic backbone

Our day surrounded the idea of the German “Mittelstand.” These are small to medium sized companies that are family owned for multiple generations and their annual profits do not exceed €5 billion. Some other characteristics of Mittelstand companies include being incredibly innovative, leaders in their respective industries, keeping out of the public eye, and focusing on the long term stability of the company rather than enjoying short term profits.

As the professor from Innovation Academy and Dr. Gangi informed us, Mittelstand companies make up around 60% of jobs in Germany. What is even more incredible concerning the Mittelstand is it’s sustainability. By most metrics Germany is not an innovative country. In a list of entrepreneurial countries Germany is rarely at the top among the likes of Israel and the United States, countries that have many start ups and are celebrated for their numerous entrepreneurs. However, in an age of constant innovation and globalization Mittelstand companies remain at the top of their industries globally. Dr. Gangi told us Mittelstand companies are incredibly innovative and reinvent themselves to ensure their place in an always changing global market.

The Mittelstand is a business culture that is studied by many economists and businesses worldwide but is difficult to reproduce anywhere but Germany. They have allowed Germany to remain a top global economic player. In fact, Dr. Gangi joked that recessions should be German companies’ business strategy because numerous studies have shown German companies expand their market share shortly after an economic downturn. Their stability, focus on long term goals, and strategy of scaling back hours not firing workers allow them to hit the ground running before other companies following a recession.

In the afternoon after our visit to the market we visited a Mittelstand company called IKA. It was originally a drug store when it started in 1910 before developing and reinventing into the laboratory equipment and technology manufacturer it is today. It is now owned by the fourth generation of the family that founded IKA. The company employs 800 people on four continents and leads the world market for most of its product groups.

IKA was the Middelstadt company we toured today. They showed us many of their laboratory equipment and we learned some of the company’s history.

IKA officials gave us a tour of their different products in their experimentation room. Unfortunately, they did not allow us to take pictures inside their facility. They walked us through their many product groups including shakers, centrifuges, grinders, magnetic spinners, heating baths, photo bioreactors, calorimeters, and many other instruments. It displayed their innovation and impressive product field that keeps IKA at the top of its field. Like many Mittelstand companies IKA enjoys incredible notoriety in its chosen niche but is not well known to the general public.

Our visit lasted for a few hours and ended with banana milkshakes made using IKA equipment. The German Mittelstand is a model for economic sustainability and will hopefully inspire other US companies to adopt similar values and goals.

-Duncan Richey