Thursday, March 13, 2014

Power for Solar Energy Grids

Metal batteries
Renewable energy is big business. No one wants to wait to see what will happen if we deplete all the earth’s available resources, so making use of energy sources that can renew themselves is a no-brainer. However, there are drawbacks. Take solar energy, for example. It depends on a certain number of hours per day of sunlight. Or wind energy, which takes advantage of powerful winds. Since those sources are intermittent, the race is on to develop energy storage systems, so that whether the weather conditions are calm and cool or sunny with high winds, we will still have power that has been created by renewable sources.

Liquid Metal Batteries

Researchers at MIT founded a startup to create a method of using liquid metal batteries for storing power. If the cost is right, it is a promising solution to storing power at an attractive price. Its developers are hopeful they will get the price down to $500 per kilowatt-hour, which comes out as less than one third of the price of other battery technologies. The company, Ambri, is working on the first sample battery, and plans are underway to install two prototypes early next year. If all goes well, liquid metal storage technology will reshape the present day battery industry. Its founders believe that since the materials used to make the batteries are naturally abundant, they will be cost-effective.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

More expensive but more common are lithium-ion batteries, which are used for powering laptops and electric cars. However, they are beginning to break into the grid storage market as well. One company, AES Corp, is marketing them to renewable energy developers and utility companies for around $1,000 per kilowatt-hour. Plans are underway to develop a $5 billion “gigafactory” that will produce lithium-ion batteries for electric cars and additional solar projects. 

Renewable Energy Storage

Today, it takes about $1,500 for each kilowatt-hour to collect and store the energy from the grid. By the year 2020, it is hoped that improved designs and technology will reduce the price to $575. As the price goes down, alternative energy options will become more attractive.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Capitalizing on the Masses

Capitalizing on the MassesThe technology sector continues to grow at a more rapid pace than ever before, blossoming with new ideas and game-changing products that simplify our lives. New designs or services can help streamline our pathways to success while making improvements in our dynamic world. Outstanding start-ups begin with great ideas to develop products that positively affect how we live, such as solar energy items to help save the earth’s resources. But the majority of all start-ups face the same struggles in getting good ideas off the ground and to market. That is, money.

Early Stage Funding for New Technology

Many a good idea has begun with a group of colleagues or school mates meeting for coffee or a beer at the end of the day. Putting their heads together, they come up with ingenious plans and then get to work trying to turn it into a viable product. Whether it’s an idea to reduce energy consumption, green products that help promote environment awareness or hi-tech components, there comes a stage in development where the idea cannot continue without an influx of cash.

New Equity Investment

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new way of raising funds by trading specialty gifts, rewards or bonuses for cash deposits. One company, betaworks, is taking that idea one step further by offering equity in the company to crowd-sourced backers through its platform, Alphaworks. The plan can work for products that are community based, such as local shops, as well as technology. When company goals are met, a certain percentage of those funds are put aside to reward its investors with equity. In this way, backers can support ideas they are passionate about while being rewarded with equity in a growing business. Qualified investors can put varying amounts of money into startups that mirror their own personal goals, and stay involved with the company as it grows.
Brilliant ideas are being developed every day, and this is one way of not only gaining financial backing, but taking advantage of the power of the masses to create product.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Marketing a Startup with Social Media

Marketing a Startup with Social Media
A new start up in any field needs to work hard to make its presence known. In today’s rapidly changing world, the best place to spread the message about an innovative product or technology is through social media sites. With social media networks you can create brand recognition, increase sales and attract investors to take a startup to the next level of success. Taking advantage of social media campaigns helps save startup funding for the important tasks of growing the product and new development rather than expensive marketing campaigns created by large PR companies.

Preparing a Roadmap

As with every marketing campaign, social media advertising begins with a plan, or a roadmap. The new company must decide on a set of goals and pinpoint those groups that would be most interested in supporting the new product or service. Speaking one-on-one to those specific groups through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can generate immediate interest while creating market buzz.

Social media marketing is a dream come true for new businesses, because everything can be traced and tracked. With available online algorithms and analytics, it is simple to test the marketing plan’s effectiveness. Based on historical stats, instant revisions can be made to increase marketing reach.

Social Media for Musicians

One analytics program is specifically designed for tracking social media in the music world. The program, called, helps its users publish to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and then follows up with daily updates and stats. The site offers its users free tools to manage social media and track its online audience. The subscriptions range from free to a monthly fee that includes more advanced services through its comprehensive dashboard showing up to date stats. Clients can measure success with daily audits of fan data across multiple sites, including SoundCloud, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Using the built-in analytics, they can keep their online fan base engaged while growing their popularity.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Early Marketing Goes Hand in Hand with Technology Startups

Attract Investment
One thing that high tech startups have in common is the need for seed funding to take innovative ideas from the pencil and paper planning stage into development, which is then followed by growth funding, where necessary funds are raised to continue to the production stage. As the sheer numbers of new startups out looking for backing grows, the difficulty in obtaining adequate capital becomes more difficult. Failure to find money at the right stage has buried many a good idea.

Ways to Grow a Startup

Besides meeting with angels, financial institutions, private investors and even taking the project to the public with crowdfunding, there’s another step that is often overlooked. Instead of leaving marketing to the end of the development process, it can actually make important waves that will catch the attention of investors before the production line is ready. According to Amir Hirsch, “Technology is not a prerequisite for business success, but marketing is.” Hirsch, an MIT grad, recently penned a post illustrating the advantages of strategic marketing early on, before the idea is has reached production. Similar to crowd funding, taking the product in progress to the general public can raise interest that will cause investors to be falling all over themselves trying to be the ones to back that project. 

Validating a Customer Model to Attract Investment

A study that was done at Stanford showed that early marketing to the public can create traction in the market that would help in raising funding needed to get through the production stage. What is the best way to get your idea to the general public? Keep it simple. Don’t go into technical details describing why the product is so fantastic, but use simple tactics to tell your potential market what you are making and how it will help them. Compared to development dollars, marketing does not require huge sums but can build strong customer interest that can be perceived as lowering risk to potential investors.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

On the Horizon—Solar Panels That Are More Efficient

Solar Panels That Are More Efficient
If we want to save this planet for the next generation, we must continue finding cheaper and more efficient sources of energy. Installing solar panels that take advantage of the power of sunlight is one way of creating electricity without stripping the land of vital minerals and resources. As a totally renewable source of energy, it has the potential to supply vast quantities of electricity without damaging the environment. So why are we still using fossil fuels, building hydroelectric structures and installing nuclear power plants? Well, power from those sources is cheaper, that’s why. As much as solar power is vital to our future, it is still too expensive to use on a mass scale.

Bringing Down the Cost
There are many hi-tech start-ups out there racing to find the best (and cheapest) solution to lower the costs of producing solar energy, as well as inventing new ways that the existing technology can be employed. Most of the solar cells are silicon based, but one innovative company is producing special coatings that will make the solar cells more efficient. Other solutions might be to use concentrators or mirrors that will focus more sunlight on a panel. Nanotechnology is one of the newest possibilities, because it can trap and convert a larger amount of energy than the cells that are silicon-based, but trials are still being run on nano flakes, and there is no guarantee that this technology will make its way onto the open market.

Additional Emerging Technologies
There are a myriad of new technologies being developed by hi-tech startups, including more efficient storage methods, such as converting liquids into steam with heat. There are companies working on producing solar cells more cheaply through inkjet printing. Other possibilities being developed would provide cheaper and thinner solar films as an alternative to silicon.
The list of techniques and products in the development stage is endless, but the end result will be solar energy that is inexpensive, clean and plentiful.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Getting Your Share of the Investment Pool

angel investor
Last year, there were some 15,000 start-ups looking for money in London, which was a record number for that city. Most of them found the money to get started and begin making their dreams come true. However, whether they got their money from family members, trustworthy friends or angel investors, at some point the money will be used up and the hi-tech entrepreneur will need to consider moving on to the next step. According to a report published by Deloitte, London’s tech industry is worth £125bn, but many investors prefer to put their money into technology companies based in the Silicon Valley. The market for money is very competitive, making it very difficult to find Series A investment, which can range from £500,000 to £4m. 

Building Connections

There are many established companies that are in need of digital solutions to streamline their particular industries. Those businesses are desperate for new technologies to help them meet today’s demands. By partnering with hi-tech entrepreneurs who are trying to get their products or services off the ground, both parties can benefit. When suitable candidates partner with established businesses, it is a win-win situation. Business owners receive value through supporting and working to perfect an idea or service that will benefit their own specific industry. By becoming partners, a good idea can be developed into an excellent product with a good potential for viability. And what does the entrepreneur get? Besides the knowledge and experience gained from working hand in hand with an established business, the hi-tech start-up can actually gain credibility in the market, which will make it easier to attract investors. It also provides an opportunity for the new product or service to be used and perfected in a real time scenario. Prototypes can be created to prove the proof of concept and its relevance in the marketplace. 

Finding Supportive Partners

There is a limited amount of funding out there, and new companies are springing up everyday that want their cut of the investment pie. Finding a partner is one way of building business experience, making important connections and increasing chances for further investment. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

How Investors Choose Early Stage Startups

Freddie Achome
Investing in high tech start-ups is not something for the weak at heart. No matter how great the product or service might be, the company does not have a lengthy track record or proven sales to promise high profits to the potential investor. But investors who choose well are apt to be heartily rewarded when, or rather if, the start-up makes the big time. 

So what is the methodology behind the selection? Investing in high tech start-ups has become a specialized industry of its own, attracting investment managers and funding opportunities. A study analyzes the factors that venture capitalists employ when investing in early stage high tech companies in Europe.

Three Types of Ventures Capitalists

The venture capital industry began gaining strength in the 1990s. Studies on how investors decide whether to invest in a start-up have shown that investors can be divided into three types: investors focused on financial data, investors focused on technological ideas and investors focused on the quality of the human capital. Each type of investor measures a company’s worth or potential using different criteria. 

For instance, the company’s team and its leadership are vital to human capital investors. While the financial situation is important, market size and expected growth are not as critical. Investment managers who look at human capital are usually very well experienced themselves in start-ups. Their investments tend to lean towards industrial automation. 

Investors focused on financial data, on the other hand, base 25% of their decisions on ROI expectations. The investment managers for this group tend to be those with the least amount of experience. 

The third group, or technologically-focused investors, is mainly interested in forming a tight relationship with the start-up’s founder and in the ability to protect the company’s technology. Since they also look closely at market prospects, ROI and the leadership characteristics, their choices are possibly the most well balanced.

Knowing Your Investor

Being familiar with the three types of investors helps venture capital companies build solid investment teams. Likewise, high tech entrepreneurs can more easily find appropriate funding by matching their companies with the most suitable type of venture capital firm.