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Business Incubator Series: Interview With Ken Kousky, CEO, MidMichigan Innovation Center, Midland, Michigan (Part 6)

Posted on Friday, Mar 18th 2011

By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold

Ken: So, our client, Advanced Battery Concepts, created a revolutionary technology, lead acid batteries that have a longer life cycle, weigh half as much, and cost less to produce.

We have lead acid batteries all over the world. China would like to have lots of electric scooters. Much of our new alternative energy has problem in that it generates energy in real time, a wind mill or solar collection. This real-time collection might not correspond well with usage time. Batteries are fundamental to green energies.

We think there’s a huge opportunity there. We started working with them about four years ago. We have had lots of mentoring with the company. We helped them raise successive rounds of capital. We believe they are going to be a home run.

Irina: At what stage of development are they now?

Ken: They are building production facilities in northern Ohio with a large existing battery manufacturer that has licensed the technology and setting up a joint venture for production.

They continue to operate research and development facilities to expand and enhance their technologies here. They have raised over $2.5 million. When they started, the venture funds told them they needed $10 million.

Our mentors and angel members said, No, let’s start with $250,000, and get proof of concept and grow the valuation before we start to raise a lot of money.? We also helped them target grants.

What’s wrong with economic support groups is they find the victories, and they run behind them and say, I was there to help. We were in the right place. The company itself and the entrepreneur deserve the most credit.

Irina: What are their revenue sources? Do they have revenues?

Ken: Through licensing the technology and through the joint venture production, which is just coming online this year. Licensing is their only immediate revenue.

Irina: What is the business model of your innovation center?

Ken: That’s a great question. We believe we are running an innovation center that is a support network. So, we have a network where every node adds value. The network is like a Web 2.0 technology. It’s a container. It’s a content management system, where its value grows as content grows, as members subscribe. We want incubators across mid-Michigan or innovators across mid-Michigan, to subscribe and provide their unique services, whether it’s FDA kitchen production or ag[ricultural] technology.

I was just out at the Beet and Bean Research Center, which is for sugar beets and soy and dry growers who are looking at how to improve that business. This is a multi-million dollar business in mid-Michigan.

Up until three months ago, the state, pre-seed money, would not match our investments in ag technology. It wasn’t one of the targeted sectors.

Economic gardening is great. We like to describe ourselves as the fertilizer. You pick the flowers you want to grow. We’ll help them grow. But we’re not going to try to pick what flowers to plant in your field.

Irina: Thank you, Ken. Great insights.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Business Incubator Series: Interview With Ken Kousky, CEO, MidMichigan Innovation Center, Midland, Michigan
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