A Q&A with Samir Mayekar ’13 on SiNode System’s new partnership deal and $1M funding grant
7/11/2014 - Like its battery technology, SiNode Systems
is charging ahead.
Since winning nearly $1 million in business plan competitions last year, the Chicago-based startup — founded by a team of Kellogg and McCormick students brought together through NUvention
— has quadrupled its staff, opened a new lab facility, closed a round of private financing and signed a partnership deal with a multibillion-dollar chemical company. And on June 16, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded SiNode a $1 million follow-on grant
to develop its technology for electric cars.
What’s driving the attention? SiNode’s revolutionary battery material, a silicon-graphene composite that provides increased battery capacity and faster charging rates. A smartphone powered by this technology, for example, could last for days and charge in minutes.
Samir Mayekar ’13, co-founder and CEO of SiNode, talks to Kellogg about SiNode’s progress over the last year, and where the company is headed next.
K: Tell us about the prototypes you’re working on.
We’re initially focusing on making prototypes for the wearable devices market — smart watches and fitness trackers. The wearable market and the consumer electronics market are our pathways to commercialize our technology for electric vehicles. So the grant money [from the U.S. Department of Energy] is very synergistic with our current development path.
K: What implications does this technology have for electric vehicles?
Our technology could really help increase electric vehicle adoption down the road. [Right now], there are two big problems with electric vehicles: Number one, they cost too much. Number two, they don’t drive far enough on a single charge. That’s why you hear the term “range anxiety.” If we can alleviate range anxiety, it will incentivize people to adopt zero-emission vehicles. And that will significantly move the needle on our carbon emissions as a country and as a world.
K: Besides consumer electronics and cars, where else would you like to see this technology used?
On the industrial end, this technology can be applicable to unmanned vehicles, to spacecraft, to satellites. One of the benefits of what we’re working on is it has such a broad range of applicability. The important thing is that we focus on the right market at the right time.
K: How will your new partnership deal accelerate this progress?
Our new partner has a global network of manufacturing facilities, and their core business is manufacturing chemicals. So we can leverage their expertise, their knowledge and their facilities to help scale up our own production.
K: Are you concerned about competition moving forward?
There are several companies out there working on building a better battery. But in many ways we don’t view ourselves as competing against them. We view ourselves against the incumbent technology, which is basically graphite-based materials. In our opinion, as many startups as there are in this space, we want other startups to be successful because the market is huge. It’s not going to be just one company that wins the market. The important thing is that all of us are developing new technology to displace incumbent graphite technology.
Read about past SiNode accomplishments: