BRITE at the Consumer Electronics Show

Rick Stockburger Uncategorized 1 Comment

As President and CEO of BRITE Energy Innovators I consider myself lucky every day. I see our organization as a movement of small movements and my hopes lie in the fact that each one of those movements lead to a more prosperous City of Warren, Trumbull County, Mahoning Valley, State of Ohio and Nation in that order. We find ourselves at the intersection of extremely future facing technologies and a community that has the grit and determination to dream, build and execute on those technologies to not only change the fabric of our community but our nation. No one has ever accused me of having small dreams. 

This week, I find myself at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada which I will follow with a trip to Los Angeles to visit a few counter parts at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and our friends at Hyperion Motors in Orange. When making decisions on these types of trips you always have to consider your budget and potential outcomes. I consistently ask my team when a new idea is brought to me, “What is the idea? What is the cost? What is the expected outcome? How are we going to measure its success?” I hold myself to these standards as well. 

  1. What is the idea? I was asked by the CEO of GM Ventures, the Director of LG Chem’s battery technologies, the Director of Collegiate Operations at TechStars, and three other high profile organizations to set meetings at CES to discuss how BRITE and our companies could partner with them. As we look at branding this area as the Voltage Valley, I wanted to see what is on the forefront of electrification. Whether it’s energy storage or the future of mobility, the technology is present at CES.
  2. Thanks to a lot of partnerships & goodwill, and with my usual startup mentality of keeping costs down, I’m keeping the cost of the entire trip under $1500, including air fare, hotels and food. As a kid growing up in the Mahoning Valley, I learned how to get the most for my dollar and that’s a practice I still use when I’m exploring new opportunities for BRITE. 
  3. The expected outcome of this event is multi layered. There is the less tangible brand recognition. As many of you know, I almost exclusively wear Warren, Ohio swag while I’m at these events partnered with some good old-fashioned Orange to make sure BRITE’s brand is visible. Beyond that, I am making connections for accelerator programming, potential lab sales, and looking at a lot of new startups at the Eureka area at CES that I could draw to Warren, Ohio so they can grow their company alongside our community. In Los Angeles, I hope to continue building our partnership with Hyperion Motors, and close a partnership on some federal legislation with Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. I intend to get a return on investment of at least ten times the money we invested on this incredible opportunity. 
  4. We will measure the outcome in direct funds to our programming, enhancing our ability to help energy companies in our community innovate and grow. This includes sales for innovation and services in the BRITE Energy Lab, as well as donations matching funds to our entrepreneurial  services program which is backed by the Ohio Third Frontier Program. We will also look at general name recognition and increase of digital traffic to our website, social media channel growth and interest in our services. All of this is intended to improve our place among the top energy incubator programs in the country (admittedly, a softer and harder metric to measure). 

So, at CES, I’ll be recording some live video, I’ll be updating you on what I saw and did, and why it’s important to the Voltage Valley. I hope you’ll follow me on this trip. I am extremely hopeful that you’ll ask questions including the hard ones to make sure that we are looking at these new technologies from every angle, and that we make sure that every dollar we bring back, comes to making our Mahoning Valley the best place in the country to start a new energy company. And in six months’ time, I’ll let you know just how much this trip gave back to the Valley.

I’ll end these quick looks with a quote that is on the walls of BRITE. Today’s will be this:

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” George Bernard Shaw

Day 2 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

Daniel Sylak Uncategorized Leave a Comment

I always say we need to focus on curtailing the Mahoning Valley’s greatest export: talented young people. Well, today this topic was really brought home for me. I met no less than fifteen people who saw my Warren, Ohio shirt and said “Warren, that’s awesome! I’m from (insert town in the Mahoning Valley) but I live in (insert metro name) now.”

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is absolutely a convergence of people keyed into the most up and coming technologies in the world. These Valley natives developed a passion for technology while growing up along 422 but could not find challenging and rewarding careers at home. This exodus is something that needs to be dealt with. 

What am I learning at CES that can help us retain our young people? 

  1. Don’t be afraid to invest in making your workspace look good. A lot of people make decisions with gut reactions and not with quantifiable data. Our young people are no different. If you are not going to modernize your company’s floorplan, how is someone new not going to think that you won’t invest in them?
  2. Invest in early stage companies. We need to get this figured out in the Valley. There is plenty of capital that we are giving to our agents to make blind investments into the coasts. We need to focus on keeping a portion of it local. 
  3. Let young people lead and let them make mistakes. Whether it’s project ownership, civic leadership, or letting go of some of your responsibilities to someone with less experience but a different and diverse viewpoint, these actions can go a long way. We do not have the luxury of making young people “put in their time” anymore. We need to throw them in the water John Wayne style and get swimming together. 

BRITE will be taking these three recommendations to heart.

Our space on Courthouse Square is already fantastic but there are a few things we would like to do to make our coworking space better for freelancers and startups. We’ve got our wish list together and are chipping away at it monthly to improve the amenities talented young people need. 

For investing in early stage companies, we need to come together as a community to educate investors on what IMPACT investing can really mean for our Valley. We have made some progress in this space with Valley Growth Ventures, but we need to do more to informally engage with people that could be considered Angel Investors. I believe Youngstown Business Incubator and BRITE are in a perfect position to do this together, and there’s no better time than now. 

For leadership development, we have become quite aggressive with getting the best and brightest interns we can to spend time at BRITE. In fact, we have already turned one of those experiences into a full-time position. We couldn’t be happier with that outcome, but we need to do more at scale. I am also quite proud of our board. They took a chance on making a 35-year old the CEO of the organization and through that, have practiced what they preach on how to engage talented young people. 

The CES part of my trip is starting to wrap up. I have had some very good conversations with companies like Goodyear, Toyota, GM, LG Chem and others that want to be part of the Valley.  Today I’m headed to Los Angeles. There, I will meet with Warren’s own Angelo Kafantaris, CEO of Hyperion Motors, and Matt Peterson, CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator about some legislation that we proposed together to help bring federal dollars to energy incubators. I think we will be greatly exceeding our ROI for our organization and our community on this trip and I can’t wait to share the rest of it with you! 

Day 1 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

Daniel Sylak Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Day 1 of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was one for the books. I got to see a lot of cool & innovative products and make some great connections for our community.  

Day 1 Highlights  

Rivian’s truck featuring Amazon Alexa integration, the R1T, is very cool. It serves as an indicator that the electrification of trucks is extremely critical as a turning point of the auto market right now. Lordstown Motors has a great shot at being successful due to the interest in the electric-powered truck market segment being generated by companies like Rivian and Tesla with the Cybertruck. Nothing is better for a vehicle market than competition and I think we are not only going to see a great truck come out of Lordstown Motors in the near future, but I believe we are going to see it take advantage of some really cool technologies too.  

Almost every major car company unveiled or was promoting an electric vehicle at CES, even a few hydrogen fuel cell vehicles similar to, but nowhere near the level of, Hyperion Motors’ forthcoming hydrogen fuel cell car. Whether it was Ford’s Mach-E or BMW’s new concepts, Audi’s electric models or Jeep showing off an electrified version of its popular Wrangler: the future of transportation is coming ya’ll, and Voltage Valley is poised to be a key player.  

Honda also had some very interesting battery packs that could be charged and used for several different systems. They highlighted some of their work in Ohio on Smart Cities and specifically autonomous vehicle crosswalk detection. Basically, they’ve worked to reshape how the car sees and anticipates people entering the intersection and design appropriate reactions. They have a worldwide accelerator program, and I talked to them about ways that our companies could get involved. We have a few portfolio companies which fit really well into the sensor space for the technology Honda is working with, and our lab can test out battery systems for these sensors.  

I attended an invite-only Forbes event where I had fantastic conversations with a lot of former Forbes 30 under 30 recipients, and I got to learn a lot about their passion for the energy sector. A lot of folks asked me where Warren, Ohio was, my general response has become “an hour from downtown Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Akron, where a lot of folks are coming together to build the future of energy storage, efficiency and sensors”.  

Afterwards, I headed over to the TechStars community event hosted by John Hill where I had an amazing experience. I got to meet with CEO of Techstars, David Cohen, and their growth team. We talked about the potential collaboration on accelerator programs and how exciting the energy storage and e-mobility spaces are. Techstars recently launched an accelerator focused on Energy in Birmingham, Alabama and the first cohort will be this summer. There could be big things to come of this for our companies and the Valley in general as Techstars is the premier accelerator program in the world.  

That wraps up Day 1 at CES. I went to bed early that night, was up and at the gym working on my #75 Hard program at 5am and now I’m prepping for day 2. 

Day 2 Expectations

Hitting up the Eureka area that’s focused on startups today, visiting our friends at Case Western Reserve University as they always have a huge presence here. I’ll be judging a pitch competition with some counterparts at TechStars at 11:30. I have meetings set with GM Ventures, LG Chem, and am hopeful to run into our friends at Lordstown Motors at some point today, we’ve been just missing each other so far so we can catch up on all the great opportunities we’ve each encountered at CES. 

Excited to share this trip with all of you! If you have any questions please shoot them to me at @rickstockburger on Twitter or through the BRITE social media channels.  

Sharing thoughts from moderating the panel “Supporting Your Peers”

Sara Daugherty Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Written by Rick Stockburger

First off, it was a lot of fun, considering the amount of time that we as founders spend alone and depressed. I always make sure that when you do spend that 1% of your time building community (99% should be focused on your product and customers) that it’s fun.  

Guiding Premise: This community is for Founders. Our focus is helping Founders. Our success depends on the success of our Founders and our Founders will be more successful if the community supports them.  

Ryan Frederick is a rockstar. I don’t know how else to say it. He’s a guy who’s been successful, failed, but pours himself into his startup community in Columbus. He really is one of the biggest catalysts of that ecosystem, and the fact that he drove 4+ hours to spend 45 minutes chatting and laughing with us is a true testament to that. The more Ryan’s we can grow in Northeast Ohio the better off we will be, of that I’m sure.  

Anna Bucholz gets it done. She’s always looking for opportunities to help. She really is what we can rely on as the fabric of our community.  She epitomizes the qualities that we all should be aspiring to have in our little corner of the ecosystem. 

Courtney Gras is a true champion of Northeast Ohio. She now works remotely for TechStars. While she could literally choose to live anywhere in the world, she’s stayed right here because of you, for this community.  

When I think about what community is about, what it means to give without expectation, or to be willing to ask for help, I think a lot about the people and communities that have supported me. While sitting on this panel, I could see a lot of you that have poured into me and made me the man that I am today. It’s odd to think how much I really owe to my community; how many times I asked for help and was never turned down, how many times I needed to talk through something late at night and someone from the community was there for me. Ya’ll inspire me every day.  

When I think about supporting peers, I think about that cup of sugar I borrowed, and I always remember to share the cookies I make not just with the person that gave me the sugar, but with the rest of our neighbors too. Onward.  

Why should you attend ESBE?

Rick Stockburger Uncategorized Leave a Comment

ESBEArtboard 12Newsletter Insert

I’m very fortunate that I get to go to a lot of conferences around the country, but the chief complaint I always hear is being stuck in a hotel and not getting an  opportunity to experience the city. The Energy Storage Building Efficiency Conference could be held in a hotel but we wanted you to have some adventure and show off a city that you might have never thought of coming to before. We believe  that place is important. We’ve had companies relocate to Warren from across the country because the value the city offered them, not just our incubator.

Our conference is going to be held on Courthouse Square in Downtown Warren, our breakouts will be at cool local venues and you will get to walk, navigate, and adventure through our cool little city. We’re inviting you to learn and be a part of and share our city for two days and we believe this will make the conversations, and the connections even more powerful.

Also, if that wasn’t cool enough, the closing reception will be at the National Packard Museum, so you’ll close out your experience listening to gangster era jazz music surrounded by one of the most innovative cars to ever hit the market. The first Packard rolled off the line in Warren, Ohio in 1899. Innovation isn’t just about the people you surround yourself with, it’s about the inspiration a place can have on the experience.

If you’re a startup in the energy sector, you must be here. Did you want to meet first customers like AEP, Dominion, First Energy, Rockwell and Others? Join us. I promise your company will be better for it.

Manufacturer’s send your plant managers and Chief Technology Officers. Do you want to learn about cutting edge technology that can lower your bottom line significantly, and make your buildings run cheaper and more efficiently? This conference will give you more than something to think about it, it’ll give you the connections to act on those projects you’ve been dreaming about.

Investor’s, do you want to learn about Opportunity Zone investing? We have John Lettieri from the Economic Innovation Group, the guy who partnered with Sean Parker of Facebook fame, here to tell you how to make good deals better and how to invest in companies and projects in places that your money can not only earn a return for you, but make a real impact in communities you care about. Beyond that, meet a plethora of investable startups and learn what they are doing to get your attention. Listen to early stage investors on how they make decisions, and what opportunities are out there. We consistently talk about how important it is to get our companies more access to capital, we need to talk more about how important it is for you to make sound investments into companies and projects that have a real impact. We’re excited to have you.