For the second year in a row, a regional winner for the DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition has thrived at the Rice Business Plan Competition. SiNode Systems, a technology developer of an advanced anode for battery systems, won the $100,000 DOE-sponsored prize at Rice and will represent the Western Southwest Region at the National Competition.  And what’s more, the team walked away with a total of more than $811,000 in prizes, including the grand prize worth $350,000 from the Goose Society of Texas, Inc; this total prize money accounted for more than two-thirds of all of the prizez available in the Rice Business Plan Competition.  In 2012, the Clean Energy Trust Clean Energy Challenge winner, NuMat Technologies, accumulated more than $850,000 in prizes. The DOE is thrilled that other sponsors and individuals also recognize the brilliant work being undertaken in clean energy by these student entrepreneurs.  

SiNode’s anode technology addresses two aspects of the main challenges for electrical energy storage: energy capacity and power density.  SiNode’s technology offers a 10X increase in battery capacity and a 10X decrease in charging time when compared with current lithium-ion batteries. Combined with basic LiCoO2 cathode, the energy capacity of a complete battery assembly can still be increased by 50% to 100%. In addition to the technology’s increased capacity and power density capabilities, SiNode’s technology has the ability to scale and be integrated easily into large-scale production, as the Si-graphene composite technology developed by SiNode can be used with existing industrial equipment.  

However, what might be the most compelling part of SiNode’s success is their road to the Rice Business Plan Competition. In 2012, SiNode participated in the student track of the Clean Energy Trust Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago. They didn’t walk away with prizes and did not advance to the National Competition.  The winner from the region was, as previously mentioned, NuMat Technologies. But rather than becoming discouraged, SiNode doubled down on their efforts, refined their pitch, gained new partners, and even secured a DOE SBIR grant of $150,000 to develop their first full-scale prototype. This seems to completely embody the spirit of entrepreneurship; in the face of a first failure, they pivoted and worked hard to launch their company undeterred.

And their work clearly paid off, which was evident from the bundles of oversized checks they hauled away from the RBPC only a year later. 

SiNode team with their oversized checks (Cary Hayner, Josh Lau, Samir Mayekar)