By Jacob Babcock, CEO, NuCurrent
Jacob Babcock is CEO of NuCurrent, a leading developer of high-efficiency antennas for wireless power applications. Compliant across Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), Wireless Power Consortium (Qi) and Power Matters Alliance (PMA) standards, NuCurrent works closely with electronic device OEMs and integrators to custom-design, rapid-prototype and integrate the optimal antenna for a broad range of applications. You can connect with Jacob on Twitter and LinkedIn.
The Illinois Corporate-Startup Challenge creates a bridge between major corporations and high-tech startups that are looking for mentorship, technical assistance, customer validation and investment. NuCurrent, founded in 2009 out of Northwestern’s NUVention program and offering innovative, custom antenna solutions for wireless power, became aware of the Corporate-Startup Challenge when the program launched in 2013. While corporate-startup connectivity is an ever-more common topic of conversation in the entrepreneurial community – and something nearly every startup is looking for – the Corporate Startup Challenge appeared to be an opportunity to make connections that would bring real traction.
From a startup’s perspective, the Challenge brought efficiency to what can often be an inefficient process of trying to identify priorities and make contact with the key decision-makers within a corporation. After being referred to the program by several community partners – including coworking space Catapult and training program Junto Institute – came an invitation to complete a profile survey and sit for a brief interview. Subsequently, NuCurrent was submitted to two corporate portfolios for review: Molex and Motorola Mobility. A few weeks later, NuCurrent was selected by both corporations to pitch alongside around 10 others at a private demo day. The Challenge team helped all presenting startups to prepare for each demo day, explaining the particular interests and issues each corporate partner brought to the initiative.
On the demo days, which took place in December 2013, NuCurrent was able to present its compelling use case for each of these different industries: NuCurrent works closely with electronic device OEMs and integrators to custom-design, rapid-prototype and integrate the optimal antenna for a broad range of wireless power applications. NuCurrent’s patented designs, structures and manufacturing techniques mitigate typical high frequency effects, offering higher efficiency, smaller sizes, higher durability and lower cost with wireless power application development. In both cases, the corporate audience consisted of the engineers who could understand how NuCurrent’s technology might be employed within their products or processes, in addition to the business development leaders who understood how to move a potential deal along.
The engagements with each corporate partner have taken different paths in the subsequent year. NuCurrent made its way – albeit sometimes slowly – through the proper channels within Molex. A corporation as large and established as Molex – whose business depends on connectors – would have to take a leap of faith in order to understand how or why it might want to do business with a startup that intends to disrupt that business through wireless power. But with the right contacts within the enterprise, NuCurrent was able to present a business case sufficiently compelling to convince Molex to prioritize making wireless power an integral part of their business. NuCurrent’s breakthrough in novel structures for low resistance antennae provides novel solutions for this market that is ripe for innovation. In return, NuCurrent is now able to tap into Molex’s global manufacturing and sales reach.
NuCurrent believes that wireless device charging has the potential to dramatically change how the world powers its phones and other portable devices, and has chosen to build its industry-disrupting business in Illinois. From Northwestern’s NUVention program to the Corporate-Startup Challenge, the Illinois innovation ecosystem is directly responsible for supporting NuCurrent’s creation and ongoing success.
Watch and Listen
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- NUvention: the flagship interdisciplinary course at Northwestern’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
- The Junto Insitute for Entrepreneurial Leadership: b-school for founding teams
- Catapult Chicago: where startups come to scale
- NuCurrent, Molex announce deal on wireless charging technology
- How NuCurrent’s plugging into the promising wireless-charging market
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- An unexpected source of innovation: Chicago tech center 1871 expands
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Illinois Innovation Network Featured Resource: Each month, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition features a service or resource available to innovators and entrepreneurs in the state of Illinois on the Illinois Innovation Network. To learn more and add your resource to the Network, click here.
Catapult Chicago is the uniquely collaborative start-up community located in the heart of Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Catapult adheres to the values that are essential to early stage companies – creativity, ambition, collaboration and camaraderie – and adds to that seasoned business expertise in a world class location. Catapult’s mission is to take resident companies’ ideas to the next level by providing peer proximity, a professional network with execution experience, regular topical programming, education, and social events, and unparalleled physical space on the 25th floor of 321 N. Clark with open collaborative areas + private offices for each company. We only reach our full potential through the collective participation of Chicago’s best and brightest entrepreneurs. Continue reading at Illinois Innovation Network