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Accio Energy

3600 Green Court, Suite 300
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Jen Baird

Jen Baird knows what she's looking for when she evaluating which startups to take part in.

The Ann Arbor-area executive did the heavy lifting when it came to building up Accuri Cytometers, a bio-tech startup that was acquired for $200 million. She is now growing Accio Energy, a clean-tech startup that is backed by seven figures worth of venture capital.

Baird has a track record of picking and choosing successful startups that is easy to envy. She got it by having a comprehensive criteria for recognizing and evaluating opportunity. First she has to know whether the idea is viable.

"Is there a real problem for the startup to solve?" Baird says. "You have to be able to find the real pain point in the customer."

She also looks for a wow factor. When she is talking about the product she is looking for people to say, 'I can't believe that could happen.'

With Accio Energy, which derives its name from a spell in the Harry Potter books, the wow factor is how its patented aerovoltaic technology harnesses the electrokinetic energy of the wind without any moving parts. No spinning. No wind turbine blades. Just a stationary technology that harvests static electricity from the atmosphere. People say, 'I can't believe that could happen' all the time when they see Baird demonstrate it.

"If I am getting that kind of response then I know I have something worth doing," Baird says.

Second, she looks at the team and asks herself if she is excited about working with these people for the next few years?

"I have high standards for the people I want to work with," Baird says. "I have walked away from opportunities because I wasn’t excited about the people I would be working with.

Expertise and confidence in ability aren’t the only part of that equation. Baird also needs to know if she can work with them? Can she trust them?

"If you can trust somebody everything you do is lubricated by that trust," Baird says. "That doesn’t mean they're not quirky. Most inventors are quirky and there is nothing wrong with quirky. I like quirky."

Third, is there a social entrepreneurial angle? With Accuri Cytometers the angle was the  developing a medical instrument that helped patients fight cancer. With Accio Energy its about developing new technology that can harness clean energy and make the world a cleaner, more sustainable place.

"I like things that are going to change the world for the better," Baird says.

And it can't be a baby step forward. She knows she has a winner when the technology is disruptive to the market but turns it on its head.

"I'm not interested in incremental impact," Baird says. "I'm looking for transformational improvements. It’s not easy but it’s what gets me excited."

- Written by Jon Zemke

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