March 31, 2012
Startup company targets business energy use
SCOTT— A local startup is developing an energy conservation system that will allow a business to control every aspect of energy use.
For the past 16 months, Cortland Research, owned by Steve McMahon, has been developing a product that monitors and controls energy use at the point of use, the electrical outlet.
Most people have no idea how much energy they’re using or what it costs, McMahon said.
“It’s like buying groceries, paying for the delivery and not getting the bill for a month,” he said. “This system allows you to see the power you’re consuming as you consume it.”
McMahon, his son John and two other employees, Jeremy Belge and Mike Borden, started Cortland Research back in 2010.
It is still a small operation. McMahon and the rest of the team work out of a pool-house on McMahon’s property in Scott.
The company’s product is called POUNCE, or point of use network controlled electrical systems.
Essentially what the company does is install a three-part energy conservation system into an existing electrical infrastructure.
Using an intelligent wiring device with a series of radio and infrared sensors, the system can measure power use, temperature and detect motion.
McMahon emphasized that Cortland Research’s product is not just a plug-in adapter.
“This isn’t some widget,” he said. “It’s wired into the building, it controls every aspect of the system, which is something you don’t have in other energy conservation systems.”
This allows a user to customize and control energy use and flow, depending on individual needs.
For example, a business could direct certain areas or individual cubicles to stay powered after-hours for people working late while the rest of the building powers off.
Since the system is web-based, users can even access and control it from smart phones and tablets, said Borden, the systems engineer.
“You can see down to the dollar how much energy you’re using and how much it costs you,” Borden said.
Cortland Research is a portfolio company of the Clean Tech Center, which is based at the Syracuse Tech Garden. The Clean Tech Center focuses on developing clean and renewable energy technologies.
The center is funded by a $1.5 million grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Right now the company is focusing its marketing on commercial and industrial customers, rather than residential customers, McMahon said.
According to the company’s projections it would cost $11,600 to retrofit an office building with 90 outlets and 10 ceiling fans. The energy saved by installing POUNCE would be about $4,280 a year, making it only a three-year payback.
“That’s pretty good if you ask me,” McMahon said.
The company was one of 10 semifinalists in the Creative Core Emerging Business Competition.
The competition for a $200,000 grant is sponsored by the Central Upstate Regional Alliance and seeks to award the most innovative, growth-oriented company in the region.
Seth Mulligan, the director of venture development for CenterState CEO, said McMahon’s business is remarkable for its focus and growth in such a short period of time.
“He’s going up against companies that have been running for up to five years,” he said. “It’s a stamp of quality and shows what a good job he’s done.”
The semi-finalists were chosen from a field of 96 based on their ability to identify growing markets, have a solid business plan and have an impact on Central New York, Mulligan said.
On Monday, the finalists made their final pitch to a panel of judges. Cortland Research did not make the final round, McMahon said, but the company did receive high praise from the panel.
“They gave our business plan the second highest score in the seven-year history of the competition,” he said.
The winner will be announced on April 4 at the annual CenterState CEO meeting.
The other entries are based out of Syracuse or Ithaca.
Cortland Research is demonstrating its product today at the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Showcase at the J.M. McDonald Complex.
The next step is to find some additional funding, as well as manufacturers who can build a quality product at the right cost, McMahon said.
“We’re trying to use local manufacturers but the problem is most of this type of work is done in China,” he said.
McMahon may be able to find some sort of help through the next round of economic development funding from the state, said Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and the Industrial Development Agency.
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