New Motor Under Development by UW-Madison Spin-off
Article Written by: David Tenenbaum
Published by: The University of Wisconsin News
Date: September 8, 2014
A tabletop motor using an entirely new driving principle is under development at the headquarters of C-Motive Technologies, a start-up business that is commercializing technology from the College of Engineering at UW-Madison.
“We have proven the concept of a new motor that uses electric fields rather than magnetic fields to transform electricity into a rotary force,” says company co-founder Dan Ludois, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UW. The distinction may sound minor, but it could solve a number of practical problems while saving money, he explains.
Actually, the concept is not entirely new: Benjamin Franklin and others described and built motors based on electrostatic forces back in the 18th and 19th centuries, but none achieved practical operation. Since the widespread adoption of electric motors a century ago, magnetism has been the only practical source of rotation. Magnetism is easier to exploit than electrostatic fields due to the properties of naturally occurring materials and simple engineering techniques. However, new advances in materials, mechanical engineering and advanced manufacturing may enable electrostatic motors.
In 2011, while Ludois was finishing a Ph.D. thesis at UW-Madison, he realized that instead of relying on magnetic fields, he could achieve a similar result by manipulating electric fields to create a motor based on electrostatic attraction. The new technique, he realized, could deliver major advantages in weight, material cost, operating efficiency and maintenance requirements.
In the motor on display, nested stationary and rotating plates are held hairs-width apart by a unique air-cushioning strategy. An electric voltage delivered to the fixed plates creates an electrostatic field that attracts the rotating plates in a way that forces them to spin.
“A charge builds up on the surfaces of the plates, and if you can manipulate the charge, you can convert electricity into rotary motion or transfer electric power from one set of plates to the other,” says Ludois.
This type of coupling can be used “to power things that move without touching,” Ludois adds.
The breakthrough relies on electronics that precisely control a high-voltage, high-frequency electric field and fluid mechanics to keep the surfaces close without touching. “Nothing is touching, because you are using electric fields to couple the stationary and rotating parts,” Ludois says. “There is no contact, and no maintenance.
“Rather than magnetism, we are using the force that hold your clothes together when you take them out of the drier — electrostatic force. This technique can power anything that needs to move, and that you don’t want to touch while it’s moving.”
Because motors and generators are essentially mirror images of each other, the invention may first meet the market in the form of a generator for wind turbines, an application for which C-Motive Technologies received a Small Business Innovation Research grant for development and research from the National Science Foundation in 2014.
By saving weight and materials, and boosting efficiency, the new design should give the company a bottom-line advantage. The new design avoids the use of precious “rare earth” metals and substitutes aluminum for the more expensive copper found in magnet windings of conventional motors and generators.
When C-Motive was founded, Ludois and co-founders Justin Reed and Micah Erickson were all Ph.D. students. “It’s really hard to beat the world, especially when you start out as three graduate students,” Ludois says.
C-Motive has had its share of help from UW-Madison. Two years ago, the idea won two awards in the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition, run through the Wisconsin School of Business. C-Motive has also received $100,000 in seed funding from the Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship course, another School of Business resource.
In 2011, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation supported Ludois and his colleagues for patent protection on the discovery, giving them the leverage to pursue additional funding. After six months in the Metro Innovation Center on East Washington Avenue, C-Motive is now housed in an office/lab space near Stoughton Road in Madison to house its five full-time employees, including two of the three founders.
Ludois devotes his evenings to C-Motive, but spends his days in the academic world at UW-Madison.
“I remember as a student, everybody talked about the Wisconsin Idea, that the bounds of the university extend beyond the bounds of the campus,” Ludois says. “Looking ahead, I hope to be part of that ideal by translating my research as a faculty member into society at large. For me, on a personal level, that would certainly bring my efforts full circle.”
Article Courtesy of David Tenenbaum at the University of Wisconsin Madison News
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Article by: Hunter Walk
Hey founders, want to hear something incredibly frustrating about seed financing? I don’t believe the forecast you show me. You know the one that inevitably has you at $100 million in revenue by Year Three? Yeah, that one. It’s a great discussion point to understand how you think of your business’ potential but as an operating plan? Throw it away post-funding. What??? Well, if you’re pre-product/market fit, over-optimizing for “hitting your numbers” can be a false positive if it creates an “up and to the right” graph that actually builds upon the wrong learnings, or masks leaky bucket of customer attrition.
Not everyone may agree – there’s a strong “growth solves all problems” camp – but in those formative days, you want to find the healthy, sustainable path forward. *Just* committing to grow customers or revenue or usage can still create a hollow company. Of course figuring out when you have product/market fit is an art as well, but here’s a great Marc Andreessen post.
Ok, so far I’ve told you the forecast I’m looking at during fundraising is a lie and the one you’re using during initial iteration is a trap. So when is the right time for a startup to build a forecast that actually starts measuring the health of the company?
The earliest a company should “manage by forecast” is post product/market fit and the absolute latest is at Series A fundraise.
Moving from managing via rearview mirror (“we’re up 10% over last week”) to prioritizing a roadmap and resources that will deliver against planned growth (“we’re up 11% week over week vs 10% forecast”) is a big maturation milestone. But how to set a forecast? A combination of Bottom Up and Top Down modeling.
Bottom Up Forecasting
Bottom Up Forecasting uses your trailing data and the “naive” assumption that tomorrow will be the same as today. So if you’ve been growing 25% month over month, just draw that out over the next year. Sanity check this by asking yourselves (and your team) what has to happen to maintain this pace. Do they believe it’s sustainable? What have been the main drivers of your growth to date and are they likely to continue into the future? If you’ve been spending to acquire customers (profitably hopefully!), what sort of budget will be required to support the ongoing acquisition? Are there areas of variable cost or support that need to be scaled alongside the growth? Important to make sure your forecast and your operating plan match up!
Top Down Forecasting
Top Down Forecasting sets a goal for a point in the future and works backwards to calculate what monthly growth is required to hit the target. What are some typical goals? Profitability. Revenue runrate that you believe is required to raise additional financing. A monthly manufacturing number that starts to see economies of scale take effect. Top down is interesting because it essentially ignores today’s reality and says “look, to be a viable company we need to get to X milestone by Y date. Let’s go!”
Since most of Homebrew’s investments are in early stage companies, we get to experience “first forecast” with almost all of them. In most cases we try to shift focus to a Top Down Forecasting model as it’s more milestone-based, which we think is appropriate for early stage start-ups. But even a Bottom Up Forecast is better than no forecast. Reviewing actual’s against plan is a great conversation starter for seed stage Board meetings as Series A investors increasingly expect to see mature, well-managed companies that will know how to productively spend the additional funding. Fear not the forecast for it will show the way!
Article Courtesy of: http://hunterwalk.com/2014/07/22/sunny-whether-two-types-of-forecasting-models-for-running-your-startup/
Please read below to learn how to Revitalize your Small Business. This informative and helpful article was written by a good friend of ours here at Fine Point: Scott Pfeil. Scott is an excellent resource for businesses and his words can help in more ways than one. So please read on, we are sure you won’t regret it.
Revitalize your Business
By Scott Pfeil on July 10, 2014
As a small business owner or manager you are the heart of the American economy. You face unique challenges/opportunities and risks while shouldering many varied responsibilities. Do you have improvement ideas that you don’t get to as fast as you’d like? Are you uncomfortable with an aspect of your business, but hope your strength in other areas will outrun the weakness? Do you have the right people, doing the right things, with the tools, training and proper management for your business to run optimally?
Twenty-five years analyzing companies and business models in the stock market has shown me that the best companies frequently rethink, reform, and refocus their business — that is how they stay on top. And yet when your business is ready to “take it to the next level” as an owner you might be “running on empty.” And this makes sense. Being a Chief Operating Officer running the day to day operations of a small business has given me insight as to how difficult this can be. As a business owner, you probably formed a company based around your particular strength and ideas, and then used your prowess, entrepreneurship, hard work, and ingenuity to put the other pieces in line. In the process of putting these pieces together, have you worked so hard in your weak areas that you aren’t having fun anymore? Are you working too much, delegating too little? Are there too many mistakes when you do delegate? Do you miss your niche, working at what you are best at? Here is one way to revitalize your business.
Treating Humans as a Valuable Resource
Before forging ahead with more objective improvements, the key here is to make sure you have created the type of culture that you want in your workplace. Learning and paying attention to what best motivates each individual and your team is an art. If it’s not there yet, a purposeful and consistent approach to culture change is necessary to keep in the back of your mind as you move ahead. This is best done as you tackle the more objective process improvements and together these two points of focus will allow you to optimize your business with staying power. Why is this true? Well, you can only do so much yourself. In short, a winning culture releases more of the talents of your employees which is good for you, for them and for the business.
Sound business practices in HR for hiring, transitioning, training, evaluations, wages and bonuses, benefit plan design and communication are critically important. Consistently giving employees the tools to succeed in each particular position, and making sure the right people are in the positions with the best fit may sound simple, but simply isn’t done well in many businesses.
Instead of cringing about the cost for training and updating practices, instead allow yourself to cringe about the cost of losing a valuable employee or not utilizing that person’s talents properly. Doing HR right means happier employees (and management), lower turnover, and a better return on the investment you make in your people.
Re-Finding Your Niche
You add the best value to those around you, whether family, employees, customers, or strangers, when you are working in your areas of strength and having fun. There is a reason that your business has achieved the level of success that it has, so focus on what you do best. Take a deep breath here and consider the benefits to your personal wellness of hiring a consultant who can listen with confidentiality and without pre-judgments, to give you professional help to troubleshoot areas of weakness and do some work for you in those areas. Hiring a consultant as a temporary employee is a low-risk way to complete some of your backed up or dreamed up projects and could be the key to you being able to spend time in your areas of strength, thereby revitalizing your energy for your business. This might be just what you need to take your company to the next level.
Need help in any of the following areas? The author, Scott Pfeil at 608-239-8773, is the owner of Revitalogic, a business consulting company that specializes in:
*Process innovation and improvement
*Negotiations with vendors, partners and customers
*Technology – More fully utilizing the resources you already paid for
*Finance Related – M&A, Banking, Accounting, QuickBooks as a management tool – working with Fine Point Consulting
*Other areas to be identified in our initial complimentary consultation
By: Scott Pfeil, July 10. 2014
If you’re still mailing custom invoices by hand when billing time comes around, your invoicing system is long overdue for an overhaul.
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Stabilizing your business’s cash flow during a period of downturn or other unfortunate circumstances that affect your finances is something entrepreneurs and small business owners deal with every day, so don’t panic, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Let’s take a look at some options geared specifically to startups and small businesses in search of a plan to get back on track: (more…)
Get in touch with a financial consultant at Fine Point Consulting today by clicking here.
Title Slide: Employees vs. Contractors | With Luella Schmidt
Luella Schmidt: We get asked this question a lot, what the difference is between employees and contractors. The deal is we get a lot of business owners where they think, well, I’ll just save on payroll taxes, I’ll just pay everybody as a contractor and they think that you can just do that. Unfortunately, the federal government has a set of rules that you have to follow, sort of guidelines on how to determine whether they are an employee or a contractor and the state government also has a slightly different set of rules. (more…)