Author Archives: Bret Simmons
By Sean Nichols:
Over the last year I have been working with a startup company here in Reno called Dragonfly Energy. It has been an exciting and interesting opportunity to apply my business skills on an entrepreneurial level. Last year my friend Dr. Denis Phares asked me to join him in launching a new li-ion battery technology. I gladly accepted his offer and became the Chief Operating Officer of Dragonfly Energy. On our team we have three very talented and experienced professionals. The team includes Justin Ferranto, current PhD student in the College of Engineering at UNR, myself (Sean Nichols) a current EMBA student in the College of Business at UNR and Dr. Denis Phares a Caltech PhD in Engineering and current EMBA student at UNR.
Dragonfly Energy is a Reno based Technology Company. We specialize in energy storage, specifically li-ion battery manufacturing. We have developed an innovative manufacturing process that significantly reduces to the cost of producing li-ion batteries. Cost of energy storage is the largest inhibitor to the widespread incorporation of renewable energy sources. We are addressing this problem head on.
As graduate students, we have been able to enter a few academic business competitions. Business plan competitions are an excellent way for a new company to raise capital. We have been finalists in three competitions to date. We have found major success at two of the competitions. In April of 2014 we placed 2nd in the Nevada Governors Cup and received $15,000. We then advanced to the next round of this completion the D.W.Reynolds Tristate hosted in Las Vegas. We went into this contest as the underdog, a Nevada team had never placed 1st in the Tristate. Our team found success in Las Vegas. We were awarded 1st place in both the business plan and the elevator pitch categories. The prize money we collected in Las Vegas was a whopping $32,000.
Today at Dragonfly we are actively seeking a seed investment to get started on developing our first scalable manufacturing cell. We are also getting a lot of media coverage and support from the Reno community. Currently, we are semifinalists in the Cleantech Open – Western Region. Our next business plan competition will be in October of 2014. We will be competing against many other cleantech startups in the Western United States. Our technology is currently going through third party validation to prove its potential. We are also partnering with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory via the CalCharge Program. This provides even further credibility for our technology. All of these activities are giving us better access to potential Bay Area investors.
The Donald W. Reynolds Nevada Governor’s Cup business plan competition encourages Nevada university students to act on their talents and ideas. Two EMBA students in the 2012 Cohort did just that. Denis Phares and Sean Nichols worked with team member Justin Ferranto (working toward a Ph.D. in Engineering, UNR ) and advisor, Matt Westfield to create Dragonfly Energy, a Reno-based lithium ion battery technology company. Their business plan earned them 2nd place in this prestigious event. For more information on the competition, visit the Nevada Governor’s Cup website at http://nvgovernorscup.org/. Pictured left to right: Sean Nichols (COO), Denis Phares (President and CEO), and teammate Justin Ferranto (VP of Engineering).
Dragonfly Energy began as an idea to reduce the manufacturing costs of Lithium ion batteries. The motivation was to break the cost barriers to greater incorporation of renewable energy sources, like solar and wind. Denis Phares, who also holds a Ph.D. from Caltech and originally developed the idea, recruited Justin Ferranto to help establish a laboratory in Reno and to prove the process. After a patent was filed, Denis and Justin recruited Sean Nichols (Denis’s EMBA classmate) to help launch the company with a focus on gaining the capital needed to establish a prototype manufacturing unit.
As the three began the market research phase and to explore a potential customer base, there appeared to be large underserved markets that could benefit significantly from Li-ion batteries now. As a result, Dragonfly Energy has already initiated sales of standard and custom Li-ion battery packs, and are building the brand, while simultaneously pursuing the groundbreaking technology. This model is unique for tech startups, but it garnered the attention of the competition judges.
Two of our recent MBA graduates, Kristin Stith and Paul Klein, gave an excellent talk at TEDxUniversityofNevada 2014 about being part of the Biggest Little City rebranding effort. This was a group of talented citizens that organized to volunteer time and effort to change the image of Reno, Nevada. The results of the rebranding and grassroots marketing campaign have been impressive.
This is also a great example of a well rehearsed TEDx talk. Kristin and Paul participated in all three of the rehearsals we organized for local speakers starting 3 months before the event. We watched as their talk went from an outline to a script and from nervous reading of lines to a confident performance. The audience loved their talk and if you take the time to watch it, I think you will too. After watch the video, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Elizabeth Smart is an amazing woman. She delivered an extremely compelling talk at TEDxUniversityofNevada 2014 about overcoming extreme trials and remaining healthy and positive. Please take the time to watch this very important talk and share it with your friends. After you watch the video, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
I use Barry Posner’s book The Truth About Leadership in my EMBA class on Organizational Behavior. In this talk he did for TEDxUniversityofNevada 2014, Barry talks about two truths from his book – you make a difference and you can’t do it alone. It’s an excellent talk. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below after you watch Barry’s talk.
The inaugural cohort of the Online Executive MBA program at The University of Nevada graduated on Saturday, August 24, 2013. We were pleased that nine of our thirteen graduates were able to attend the ceremony. The students were addressed by University of Nevada Provost Kevin Carman, College of Business Dean Greg Mosier and Associate Dean and Executive MBA Director Kambiz Raffiee. Each student also received a framed certificate of completion (the official diploma comes in the mail!) and College of Business Medal. The graduates then attended a reception in their honor.
Our second cohort of about twenty-four students will graduate next year at this time. Our third cohort of thirty-three students starts their first semester next week. Even though it is just getting started, the program is already being recognized as one of the Top 10 Best Online Executive Programs for 2013.
For more information about the program, please visit our website.
Here is the video of my recent talk for TEDxReno. I have to tell you honestly that they had some problems with audio that day, starting with my talk. They edited out the entire front end of my talk, so I share it with you again below so you can know how it really started:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” President John Kennedy gave us this mantra of citizenship in his 1961 inaugural address. Two hundred and seventeen words before this now famous call to action, he told us why it matters with these words: “In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.”
I’m glad I got the opportunity to do one of these. It is the most difficult talk I’ve ever given in my life. I bet I spent about 50 hours preparing – something I’ve never done before. The folks at TEDxReno did a very good job helping their speakers to prepare, something that I will try to copy when I help my team organize our next TEDxUniversityofNevada.
Ryan Dolan spoke at TEDxUniversityofNevada 2013 about the impact a business can have on a community through charitable giving. Ryan goes beyond simple giving to connecting with students personally through the projects his business developed to give money directly to local classrooms. Ryan personally visits each winning classroom to distribute a check and to talk to students about simple principles for success in both life and business. Ryan closed his talk with this quote: “A wise man once told me the more I give, the luckier I get. I like to change it to the more I give, the more successful I will be in life and business. And Dad, luck has nothing to do with it.”
After you watch the Ryan’s talk, please share your thoughts in the comment section below!