Category Archives: entrepreneurship
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.