When Michael Brookman, founder and CEO of BRASH Engines, entered his company, into the 76West Clean Energy Competition last spring, he wasn’t familiar with the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator (KSTI) in downtown Binghamton. The entrepreneur, whose start-up uses combined heat and power to generate alternative energy sources for homeowners, was based in Connecticut and hadn’t considered relocating.
That changed when he finished as a semifinalist in 76West, a NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) program that rewards companies promising to bring clean energy services and jobs specifically to the Southern Tier region of New York. Brookman said his experience with the competition led to his choice of the KSTI as the new headquarters of his company.
“The 76West competition was remarkable; everyone, including the companies we were competing against, were friendly, helpful and encouraging,” Brookman said. “And I was blown away by the wet lab space at Koffman. I can really work on our product refinement in a controlled space.”
For other entrepreneurs with clean energy ideas, applications for the third round of 76West are open until Monday, April 16. Applicant companies must be open to growing part or all of their business in the Southern Tier.
Alex Hagen, director of the Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator (SCI), said any clean energy company that can can demonstrate its innovation, have some proof points on a business model, and is willing to learn more about the Southern Tier should apply.
“They should be sure to explain their value proposition and their technology in simple, straightforward terms and follow all competition rules,” Hagen said. “Past winners have represented many different industries and all have enjoyed the significant benefits of the program.”
Those benefits include a $1 million in prize money (for the top company), one for $500,000 and four awards of $250,000. Winners also receive long-term support with business development, which some have used to secure office or lab space in one of the seven regional incubators, including the KSTI.
Brookman and Brash Engines are members of the Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator (SCI) program, which aims to increase the the use of renewable energy in the region by assisting member companies. This assistance includes mentoring in both entrepreneurship and the growing field of clean energy, or any energy source that increases energy efficiency while reducing non-renewable forms of energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
Four of the 10 companies in the program have received 76West funding: Charge CCCV (C4V), ChromaNanoTech, EthosGen and SunTegra.
“76West prizes are the best money available to early stage start-up companies in the clean energy space,” Hagen said. “New York has a vast support network of incubators and mentors to help these companies succeed.”
Finalists will be notified in May after judges review each application. Companies selected will receive two months of mentorship from industry experts to refine pitches and increase their knowledge of the Southern Tier’s energy needs. Over three days in August 2018, finalists will pitch their companies to a panel of judges, who will announce the winners in the fall.
By Orla McCaffrey