Fort Collins Start-up Week event brings entrepreneurial advice, announcement of city energy innovation competition

The Energy Entrepreneurs Panel

On March 3, a group of local entrepreneurs, business leaders, and city representatives came to the Powerhouse campus of the Energy Institute to tell their stories and give advice on how to find success in the world of clean energy start-ups.

The event kicked off with a talk by Ed Van Dyne, a local entrepreneur who helped start four companies. Van Dyne sharpened his designing and fundraising skills at Woodward, where he worked on 28 projects and developed a super turbo engine that he developed and spun off into his own company, Van Dyne Super Turbo. Recently, Van Dyne started Wave Solar, which has an office on the fourth floor of the Powerhouse. The company is developing a solar-powered steam engine which can provide energy for homes.

Ed Van Dyne

The Energy Entrepreneurs Panel featured Bryan Willson, the executive director of the Energy Institute; Katie Hoffner, the senior vice president of strategy for Prieto Battery; Guy Babbit, the CEO of Czero; and Josh Birks, director of economic health and redevelopment at the City of Fort Collins.

The panel offered advice to prospective entrepreneurs in energy. Hoffner emphasized the importance of courage and intuition when developing an idea and pitching it to potential investors. Babbit spoke about how his own success depended on networking, while Willson noted that a collaborative atmosphere was key to the formation of the Energy Institute.

One frequently-repeated theme was that raising money for a startup is all about selling something that doesn’t exist yet. Future entrepreneurs should be nimble and flexible in their search for funding and recognize that they need to bring the right combination of people and resources to the table.

In addition to the scheduled events, a representative from the city of Fort Collins announced the Fort Collins Energy Competition. The city will fund innovative, scalable pilot projects that can produce tangible gas emission reductions and engage the community. Winners will receive between $5,000 and $250,000, depending on the scale of the project. The competition runs from early April to mid-May.

More information is available on the city website.