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Accio Energy

3600 Green Court, Suite 300
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Jen Baird on finding a way to fund breakthrough technology

Jen Baird doesn't write business plans that include things like miracles, but her current company, Accio Energy, is better off today because of a minor one.

The Ann Arbor-based startup is working to create a breakthrough technology that generates energy from the wind without any moving parts. Simply said, Accio Energy's aerovoltaic technology would replace the wind turbine by harnessing the electrokinetic energy of the wind (think static electricity) through a screen-like piece of equipment

"This is for the breakthrough, transformational technology," says Jen Baird, CEO of Accio Energy.

That's code for expensive, really expensive. Accio Energy landed Series A, B and C rounds of venture capital funding totaling $5.3 million between 2010 and 2013. That was enough for the company to prove its technology in the lab. This year the company landed a $4.5 million award from the federal government  to field test its technology in the Penobscot Bay of Maine near the town of Castine.

"The fact that we have been able to keep going and working on this has been a small miracle," Baird says. "It has been a tough environment. It's not just an app. There is no app part to this."

It took three applications for Accio Energy to land the federal award from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy. The program is meant to fund the research and development of breakthrough technology in alternative energy like Accio Energy's principal product. However, the startup was always just a little shy of meeting the requirements to win the award.

"For us we always needed to be farther along," Baird says. "We needed more proof. Then the stars finally aligned."

The federal award requires a 10 percent match from private investors, a goal Baird expects to exceed. She and her team of eight people (she expects to hire more next year) plan to raise another round of venture funding in 2016.

"We will be spending that money plus money from our investors," Baird says. "We want to build on the momentum that we see in this program."

She doesn't think it will take a miracle to get there but she wouldn't say no to another one either.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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