NuGen Systems, a manufacturer of rechargeable battery-based solutions, was started in 2016 by co-founder and CEO, Venus Desai, with the goal of designing a safer, more powerful lithium-ion battery solution (using lithium iron phosphate chemistry), to replace the lead acid batteries commonly used in industrial applications. Finding it difficult to break into well-established markets as a component of other products, NuGen began designing its own products made with its batteries, to market independently. The company found a fit for their battery solution in the mobile generator market.
Gas-powered generators are noisy, produce carbon monoxide (which is harmful for both people and the environment), and can be a fire hazard. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently released a report estimating that about 85 consumers die in the U.S. each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gasoline-powered portable generators and noting that one portable generator can produce the same amount of carbon monoxide as hundreds of cars. However, until recently, they were the only available option for many mobile businesses like food trucks and car maintenance services. NuGen set out to provide a safer, greener option.
To help make the transition, the company drew upon its network of resources at the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute. NuGen, a member of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) since the company was founded, worked with coach and manufacturing catalyst, Shane Matthews, to help build and test the idea, write a business plan, and access mentors and advisors in strategy, finance, and other areas of expertise.
Through ATDC, the company was invited to a webinar hosted by another Enterprise Innovation Institute program, the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center (MBDA Business Center). There, NuGen connected with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) and with Mike Stonecipher, group manager of strategy and leadership development. Stonecipher immediately saw the potential for the company to participate in the Innovation Test Track Competition®, an automotive-related pitch competition that he helps organize each year.
Stonecipher encouraged the company to participate in the competition, which is designed to bring new technology to the automotive industry while also giving entrepreneurs a chance to showcase their automotive-related products. Participating start-ups are provided with coaching and networking opportunities with representatives from major automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other business leaders.
Desai and his team worked with their Innovation Test Track® advisor to refine their pitch, including quantifying how much environmental impact their product could make if the gas generators in the U.S. (approximately 15 million) were replaced by battery-powered generators. They also participated in pitch practice sessions hosted by the Georgia MBDA Business Center program to help them prepare.
On Oct. 6, 2022, NuGen Systems competed in and won the competition, hosted at the Southern Automotive Conference in Duluth, Georgia. The prize awarded was $5,000 cash provided by SAE Atlanta, plus $5,000 in consulting services provided by Clarity Capital Advisors.
NuGen’s next step is to launch a subscription model to provide easier access to the product for small businesses. The model will allow businesses to essentially rent the equipment for a low monthly fee, approximately what it would cost to purchase the gas needed to run a traditional machine and complete regular maintenance.
NuGen plans to use the strategy services provided as part of the competition prize to develop this business model and then pursue the food truck market across the U.S., a booming industry that is estimated to include more than 35,000 operations currently and continues to grow.
To learn more about the Innovation Test Track® Competition or GaMEP’s automotive industry services, contact Mike Stonecipher at firstname.lastname@example.org