Startups showcase energy innovation at Ameren Accelerator Demo Day

by | Nov 11, 2019

Six companies are bringing revolutionary ideas to the energy industry through a collaboration between Ameren, UMSL Accelerate and Capital Innovators.

HeXalayer CEO Harut Vandanyan, Ovon CEO Piotia Zarolkiewicz, Allumia CEO Aaron Block, ClearFlame CEO B.J. Johnson, Eden GeoTech co-founder Paris Smalls and SHYFT Power Solutions CEO Ugwen Eneyo soak in applause after presenting their companies’ innovative ideas at Ameren Accelerator Demo Day. (Photos by August Jennewein)

CEOs, mentors and interns packed The Pageant Nov. 4 to mark the success of this year’s Ameren Accelerator program.

“Let’s celebrate the many thought leaders we have in this community, the risk takers, the game changers,” said Dan Lauer, founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate, as he welcomed the large crowd to the event. “Things happen when thought leaders get together.”

The 2019 Ameren Accelerator program introduced revolutionary new ideas to the energy industry through its support of six startup companies – chosen out of more than 400 applications.

CEOs from each startup introduced their company and showcased how far they’d progressed throughout the 12-week Accelerator program.

Ugwem Eneyo

SHYFT Power Solutions CEO Ugwem Eneyo tells the audience about her company’s plans to help deliver affordable, reliable power to people in Nigeria.

SHYFT Power Solutions, which took the stage first, has been exploring strategies to combat brownouts, with a focus on Nigeria. Their efforts have resulted in a platform that connects and monitors the electrical grid, generators and solar power. CEO Ugwem Eneyo announced that the company has raised more than $1 million to fund their mission.

“We’re going to see a leapfrog over traditional, currently unreliable energy infrastructure to a more integrated, decentralized power system that is helping millions of people get affordable, reliable and clean power,” Eneyo said.

Ovon tackled the $4.5 million dollar problem of overheating due to radiators. The U.K-based company created a smart valve that boasts 30 percent energy savings through the use of room-by-room control and a mobile app. CEO Piotr Zarobkiewicz predicted Ovon would sell 570,000 units by 2022.

HeXalayer has been focused on developing more efficient lithium-ion batteries. Beyond solving the problem of quickly dying cellphones, CEO Harut Vardanyan said the company’s patent-pending graphene technology has far-reaching benefits for drones, defense systems, grid storage and electric vehicles. In one year, HeXalayer has produced the graphene needed to power 10,000 batteries.

Paris Smalls, co-founder of Eden GeoTech, said his company has been developing an alternative to the controversial process of fracking. Eden GeoTech obtains natural gas through the use of high-voltage electricity rather than water, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 85 percent and water consumption by 80 percent. A pilot program for the technology is scheduled in North Africa in May 2020.

“We’re presenting a new solution to open the rock,” Smalls said. “It is truly an incredible adventure.”

Ameren Accelerator Demo Day

A large crowd at The Pageant listens as Eden GeoTech co-founder Paris Smalls explains the alternative his company is developing to replace hydraulic fracturing.

ClearFlame, meanwhile, is building heavy-duty engines that provide power for semi-trucks while reducing emissions. CEO B.J. Johnson predicted that ClearFlame’s engines could reduce fuel costs by $4.5 billion in the U.S. while lowering smog production by 90 percent.

Seattle-based Allumia was the last company to share it vision, countering electrical energy waste. Through company partnerships, Allumia recommends and facilitates energy-efficient lighting upgrades, then monitors and reports savings to customers. CEO Aaron Block announced that Allumia currently has 300 customer sites in 17 states.

Ameren Accelerator brings together three types of innovation – entrepreneurial, corporate and university. The partnership between Ameren, UMSL Accelerate and Capital Innovators serves as a major force for energy efficiency, providing selected startups with $100,000 in funding and connections to industry-leading mentors.

UMSL pairs each company with a network of researchers and professors, as well as dedicated interns. The program has created opportunities for students in a variety of majors to explore careers in the energy industry.

“We have two degree programs,” Lauer said. “We have clubs. We have clinics. We have mentorship engagement.”

Judy Sindecuse, CEO of Capital Innovators, summed up Ameren Accelerator’s importance: “These people are really solving some of the world’s biggest challenges. It’s partnerships like this that are driving change in corporations.”

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Karen Holman

Karen Holman

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