Center for Automotive Research spin-out, Simple-Fill, receives funds and strategic support to develop primary stage prototype
Columbus, OH (February 4, 2014) Simple-Fill, a Columbus-based spinout of The Ohio State University, is the inaugural recipient of an investment from the new $1 million Technology Concept Fund, LLC. The Technology Concept Fund includes investments from Ohio State and Ohio Third Frontier and is managed by TechColumbus.
Simple-Fill, a TechColumbus Venture Acceleration client, is commercializing technology to reliably and affordably compress national gas. The technology was conceived at The Ohio State University's Center for Automotive Research (CAR). Through the center, Simple-Fill is receiving additional non-dilutive funding from Honda. Simple-Fill also received further investment from strategic partner Worthington Cylinders, a leader in compressed natural gas (CNG) cylinders.
"Simple-Fill is a stellar example of a concept stage investment that brings together both capital and the benefits of strategic relationships," said Tom Walker, TechColumbus CEO. "The combination of the money to develop a functional prototype, and the pro-active engagement of key industry participants to help shape that prototype to meet market requirements at a price point that the industry can accept, is very powerful. Add in a CEO who is a serial entrepreneur, and has invested his own money, and a management team with deep technical and sector experience, and Simple-Fill has the potential to become a firm that changes the way that America fuels vehicles through natural gas."
The Simple-Fill deal is a model in how the Central Ohio innovation community works together to launch a company with a breakthrough technology that can create jobs and wealth for the region.
"Ohio State has made great strides identifying technologies and business leaders to commercialize them," said Rob Underhill, Simple-Fill's president. "TechColumbus helps fledgling companies get off the ground with a variety of resources tailored to what start-ups like ours need. Attracting a company like Worthington Cylinders that has such tremendous horsepower and knowledge about the market and manufacturing is really ideal. All of these components coming together makes Simple-Fill a really exciting opportunity."
The Concept Fund investment will allow Simple-fill to manufacture the primary compression stage. "Compressed natural gas is recognized as a viable automotive fuel alternative to gasoline. Our technology will help bring it to market," Mr. Underhill said.
Natural gas is safer than gasoline. It burns about 30 percent cleaner, has a higher octane rating, and currently costs about $2 per gallon. Although bi-fuel vehicles, which have the capability to run on gasoline and compressed natural gas, are becoming available (there are about 20 models in Europe and several in the US) compressing the gas and making it pump-available has been far too expensive (millions for CNG versus hundreds of thousands per station for gasoline).
"Our system will break the log jam," said Mr. Underhill. "Our equipment will be small, cost effective, and will finally allow small to medium size fleets and consumers to realize the benefits of CNG." Simple-Fill envisions two primary markets, small- to medium-sized fleets with less than 20 vehicles-for example plumbers and electricians or companies that do carpet cleaning-and consumers.
"Concept Fund investments are likely to be among the first dollars these very early stage companies receive," Mr. Walker said. "As in the case of Simple-Fill, we like to see additional types of validation, such as strategic partners who stand to benefit if the company succeeds or Small Business Innovation Research or Third Frontier grants and an entrepreneur who commits both sweat equity and personal capital."
TechColumbus and Ohio State's Technology Commercialization Office are working proactively to identify additional investment opportunities from market-shifting companies like Simple-Fill.
The Concept Fund will be evergreen in nature, so that successful investments by the fund will replenish the capital available to be deployed. Investments will typically be in the form of convertible debt with a valuation cap.
Contact: John Sydnor
Contact: Rob Underhill
TechColumbus, Columbus, OH, helps build and accelerate great companies by providing expert advice, access to capital, and business growth connections. We help grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Central Ohio by connecting entrepreneurs, advisors, resource providers, public sector entities, academia, and corporations who share startup passion. TechColumbus manages a continuum of investment funds made possible by the participation of Ohio Third Frontier and other strategic partners. Hundreds of technology entrepreneurs and startup companies come to TechColumbus each year to receive the services and funding they need to grow into sustainable, profitable businesses. www.techcolumbus.org
Simple-Fill is changing the way America fuels its vehicles. Utilizing technology developed at The Ohio State University, the company plans to develop and market a natural gas compressor that does not utilize conventional reciprocating compressors. Rather, the company's compressors utilize a liquid to compress natural gas as well as novel geometries that yield a highly efficient and affordable compressor. Simple-Fill will target small to mid-size fleets as well as consumer markets. www.simple-fill.com
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