DURHAM — For entrepreneur Mike Behrmann of Revolution Energy in Dover, the potential of a new program designed to help small alternative energy companies make it in the marketplace is bearing fruit.
“Things are going great,” said Behrmann about the crash course his young business has taken since it was chosen in May as one of the five original companies taking part in the University of New Hampshire-based Green Launching Pad. “We have received a number of different resources from the GLP, and the mentoring has played a big role in helping us develop.”
The Green Launching Pad, a partnership between the state of New Hampshire and the University of New Hampshire, was unveiled earlier this year with much fanfare and bolstered by $750,000 in federal stimulus funding.
The goal of the initiative was to help innovative clean energy companies succeed in the marketplace and jump start the creation of green economy jobs while lessening the economic dependence and environmental harm of fossil fuels. The template was to give established and start-up companies extensive financial, operational, technical, and managerial support to launch and commercialize green energy products and services to enhance energy efficiency and renewable energy.
“The ideas and the products that will be nurtured by the Green Launching Pad will help create good jobs, strengthen New Hampshire’s economy for the future, and reduce harmful pollution,” said Gov. John Lynch in May during the announcement of the first five companies to receive GLP grant funding and support.
The depth and breadth of mentoring support that companies such as Revolution Energy has received over the summer has been one of the emerging stories of the GLP, said one of the program’s co-principals, A.R. “Venky” Venkatachalam, chair of the Department of Decision Sciences and professor of information systems.
“There are well-established findings that early-stage financing for businesses like these,” Venkatachalam said. “But there is also a critical need for early-stage mentoring in business planning and development, market research and branding and getting the word out.”
Revolution Energy, which began in idea form about three years ago, was awarded $60,000 for staff salary and professional services, and Behrmann said the company has used GLP support to fine tune their model of developing alternative energy projects in New Hampshire using third-party financing and creative incentive leveraging. The company is seeking to advance their successful pilot project — one of the state’s largest solar arrays at Exeter High School — into a larger, sustainable business model.
“We are asked ‘who are you?’ and ‘how long have you been around?’ and we haven’t really dealt with many angel investors or venture capitalists,” Behrmann said. “The mentoring provides us a great deal of insight, and it would be hard to navigate without this support.” He believes that Revolution Energy is far better equipped to take the company to its next level than it has ever been.
The other original companies chosen for GLP funding and support — out of 71 who submitted proposals — are Green Clean Heat LLC of Newton Junction, EnerTrac, Inc. of Hudson, Compressor Energy Solution, Inc.and Innovacene of Durham. The companies have received funding, academic support and student intern assistance, mentoring from industry experts along with taking part in intensive business development seminars at UNH during the summer that covered all aspects of taking a business to the next level.
Lynch was scheduled to take part in a roundtable meeting with GLP partners and stakeholders on Aug. 26. “We know the ideas are out there to leverage the emerging green economy to New Hampshire advantage,” said UNH President Mark W. Huddleston. “This program will help find and fund those ideas, creating opportunities for new jobs and economic growth.”
The Green Launching Pad came from the combined academic and private sector collaboration that included UNH professor Ross Gittell, the James R. Carter Professor and professor of management; Jesse Devitte, the founder and CEO of Portsmouth-based Borealis Ventures; and Richard Ober of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Venkatachalam, who was also one of the original founders, said that a venture summit later this fall will be the culmination of the GLP’s first year and that the next batch of GLP businesses will be named early next year.
What is fast developing through the GLP, he said, is a release of entrepreneurial talent, an academic focus renewal and the development of a community. He said the business development seminar series has drawn large numbers — not only from the GLP five but from among the 71 companies that weren’t chosen.
“You read about this when you have academia and industry working well together. This has been a huge positive experience that could be a powerful force for economic development in the state,” he said.