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Cleantech Startups Compete and Win in the New York Business Plan Competition Jodi Ackerman Frank | Market Intelligence | May 06, 2014

From left to right: Goodlight cofounder Jack Bulmer; Peter Wohl, SEFCU chief performance and innovation officer; Frank Poore, CommerceHub founder, president and CEO; Pradeep Haldar, CNSE vice president of entrepreneurship innovation and clean energy programs; Goodlight cofounder Puneet Suvarna; and Goodlight cofounder Jeff Leathersich.

This blog post highlights Goodlight, the student cleantech startup that won first place in energy and sustainability in this year’s New York Business Plan Competition. Click here to read an overview of the competition.

The final round of the 5th New York Business Plan Competition took place on Friday, April 25, at the State University of New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), with more than a dozen student cleantech startups competing.

Goodlight LLC, a company that has developed a method to make LEDs cheaper and more efficient, won the top prize in the Energy/Sustainability category. The startup, founded by three CNSE doctoral candidates, has developed a method to correct the defects that are so prevalent in LED semiconducting materials.

Goodlight is one of the newest members of the Incubators for Collaborating & Leveraging Energy And Nanotechnology (iCLEAN). The CNSE-operated incubator is one of six cleantech incubators funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

This year, more than 560 student-led startups competed in the event overall, with 92 teams from across New York State making it to the final round from their regional competitions. Finalist teams presented in front of a panel of more than 30 judges, who included venture capitalists, angel investors, investment bankers and seasoned entrepreneurs.

“To go from an idea in a lab to standing up and presenting a product in front of a packed audience has been an incredible experience,” said Jack Bulmer, the company’s chief technology officer.

Cleantech Startups as an Integral Part of the Competition

Cleantech startups have always been an integral part of this statewide business plan competition.

“The exciting research projects that begin in the lab, get developed, and are presented in the competition as viable clean-energy-based technologies by students from CNSE — and colleges and universities from around the State — are proof that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education pipeline is paying dividends for New York State,” said Dr. Pradeep Haldar, vice president of entrepreneurship innovation and clean-energy programs. Haldar, who specializes in alternative energy technologies, fuel cells and solar power, also is the head of the Nanoeconomics Constellation.

Past cleantech winners include Battery Energy Storage Systems Technologies (BessTech), which won the grand prize in 2010, the first year the business competition took place. The startup was founded in 2010 by five CNSE doctoral students.

BessTech, also an iCLEAN tenant company, has developed a “hyperbranched,” three-dimensional nanostructure from a metal-silicon composite to improve the performance of anodes in lithium-ion batteries for increased storage capacity, charging rate and lifetime. In spring 2012, the startup secured the first license agreement for a spin-off technology from CNSE.

“Before the 2010 New York Business Plan Competition, BessTech was no more than a group of smart students and a PowerPoint. Winning the competition was the precursor that transformed an idea into a company,” said Fernando Gómez-Baquero, cofounder and CEO of BessTech.

In 2011, Radiator Labs, a company client in the NYSERDA-funded New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy business incubator, won first place in the Nanotechnology/Advanced Technology category.

Radiator Labs invented a smart radiator cover called the Cozy, which allows tenants to control the temperature of their apartments via smartphones. Without the Cozy, people release excess radiator heat by opening the window, wasting huge amounts of energy.

The competition, which has grown to become the largest of its kind in New York State and one of the biggest in the nation, is organized by CNSE in partnership with the University at Albany School of Business and Syracuse University. The event is made possible through support by title sponsors SEFCU (State Employees Federal Credit Union) and SUNY, along with numerous other sponsors, including NYSERDA.

Startups have a chance to compete in one of six categories: Energy/Sustainability, Biotechnology/Healthcare, Information Technology/Software, Nanotechnology/Advanced Technology, Products/Services and Social/Nonprofit. Companies are awarded in their respective categories and from the teams that finish in first place, a grand prize winner is selected.

In his opening remarks that kicked off the final round this year, Haldar said that the competition wouldn’t be what it is today without statewide support and the overall entrepreneurial vision by Governor Cuomo.

“We would like to thank Governor Cuomo. All of this (competition) is related to his mission of developing and creating an entrepreneurial culture throughout the State,” he said.

Alain Kaloyeros, president and CEO of the newly merged SUNY Institute of Technology (SUNYIT)/ SUNY CNSE institution, ended the daylong event with this message: “It’s not just about entrepreneurship; it’s about doing entrepreneurship well.”

Updated on 06 May, 2014
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About the author: Jodi Ackerman Frank is a freelance writer in Upstate New York. She has written for various newspapers, magazines and organizations on subject matter ranging from science, technology and education to business, entrepreneurship and featured profiles of researchers who are leaders in their professions.

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