Published June 19, 2014
Three UB students took first place in the University at Buffalo’s Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (Panasci TEC) for their plan to manufacture a material coating that can regulate heat from the sun in any building creating “smart” windows or surfaces.
Ann Brozek, Master of Architecture/MBA ’14, of St. Petersburg, Fla.; Peter Marley, PhD chemistry ’14, of Warsaw; and Brian Schultz, PhD chemistry ’13, of Greece, will receive $25,000 in start-up funding for their business, diMien LLC.
“The Panasci TEC experience was priceless. We knew our competition was fierce, and each team had great startup ventures and ideas. The guidance, know-how and resources made available to us during the competition brought our business plan and elevator pitch to a level worthy of investors,” said Schultz.
The Department of Energy estimates that more than 114 million households and 4.7 million commercial buildings use more energy than transportation or industrial sectors, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S.
Development of the innovative coating was led by Sarbajit Banerjee, UB assistant professor of chemistry. Schultz and Marley are two of his graduate assistants and have partnered with Brozek to commercialize the technology through their company, diMien.
The coating is a vanadium oxide material that senses temperature changes and adapts to either reflect heat or transmit heat, all while remaining invisible to the human eye. During cold weather, the coating allows the sun’s natural heat to warm the interior of a building, cutting heating costs. But when temperatures rise, the coating switches to reflect heat keeping the interior cool and comfortable, saving on cooling costs. This reduces energy consumption in buildings by making them more efficient.
According to the Department of Energy, as much as $10 billion in savings can be achieved annually if energy consumption is reduced by just 1 percent.
In addition to the $25,000 in start-up funding, the winning team will receive in-kind awards valued at more than $27,000 for legal services from Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel LLP; accounting services from Kopin & Co. P.C.; business development services from the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach; human resource start-up services from the People Plan by HR Foundations Inc.; and office space from North Forest Office Space, bringing the total package to more than $52,000.
The second-place award of $10,000 went to Michael Sparks of Albany for his business, Sticker Lights (StickerLights.com), which produces customizable, USB-powered illuminated stickers for laptop branding. Sparks will graduate from UB in May with a BS in electrical engineering and an MBA from the School of Management.
Now in its 13th year, Panasci TEC awards seed money and business services to the team that presents the best plan for launch of a viable new business. Twelve local ventures have been launched with first-place prize money since the UB competition began, and most are still in business.
The competition was created by the University at Buffalo School of Management and the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach, and is funded with a $1 million endowment from the late Henry A. Panasci Jr. to facilitate and promote the commercialization of UB-generated technologies.
Forty-two teams entered this year’s competition, and 27 made first-round pitches to the preliminary judges. Nine teams of semifinalists were selected from that group to submit business plans, and five teams were chosen, based on the content of their written business proposals, to present their business plans publicly in the competition’s final round on April 19 at UB’s Center for the Arts Screening Room.
Each team delivered a 10-minute presentation and was evaluated on how well they described the feasibility and marketability of their venture, proved the need for their product or service and presented potential sources of capital.
Other new venture ideas included a virtual keyboard, number pad, mouse and key logger that enhances computer training by displaying the instructor’s physical inputs and projects them onto a screen; an application for smartphones and tablets that connects to restaurant point-of-sale systems for easy payment; and a free-standing automated system for clients to drop off and pick up laundry using swipe card technology.
Serving as judges for the competition were Marnie LaVigne, associate vice president for economic development, University at Buffalo; Mel E. Passarelli, vice president of North American operations, Attunity Inc.; Brian Pearson, president, Valuation Advisors LLC; Daniel Penberthy, executive vice president, Rand Capital Corp.; and Alan Zdon, owner, iCraveit.com LLC and 2005 Panasci TEC winner.