This blog records what I’ve learned…and continue to learn…from my experiences as an entrepreneur, engineer, manager, fundraiser, and advocate in the renewable energy industry. Thanks for reading my posts. Like most other bloggers, I’d rather engage in a dialog than just broadcasting into the ether. Please leave feedback — preferably dissenting viewpoints — and I’ll do my best to reply.
- Born and raised in Massachusetts by hard-working German immigrant parents. Boarded at Phillips Academy Andover for high school.
- I decided to go into engineering when my physicist father — a research scientist at Avco-Everett Research Lab — took me to “bring your kids to work day” and showed me his huge “toys” (high-power lasers for the Cold War SDI “Star Wars” program). He later went on to found three startup companies.
- Graduated from Princeton with a BSE in electrical engineering and a minor in finance.
- Founded Princeton Power Systems (PPS) in my senior-year dorm room before winning 1st place in the Princeton Business Plan Contest. PPS was voted the 2005 New Jersey Early Stage Company of the Year. Over the next 10 years, my team and I grew PPS to profitability and about 50 employees. I left the company in 2011.
- Have developed six field-deployed products: a line of commercial variable speed drives (20-100 hp), a 100kW solar inverter and battery charger, a 100kW 4-port smart grid inverter, a 10hp MIL-qualified variable speed drive installed on active-duty Navy ships.
- My team was awarded the 2011 R&D 100 Award for developing Princeton Power’s Demand Response Inverter. I was also closely involved with a second R&D 100 Award winner, GeneSiC’s 6kV silicon carbide thyristors.
- Won $20+ million in government R&D grants, OEM product development contracts, and angel funding. Have been principal investigator on 15 DOD, DOE, and NJ state research contracts for shipboard power distribution, utility high-voltage DC transmission, commercial and military microgrids, directed energy, solar, wind, wave, and satellite systems. The largest systems were 1 MW at 50kVDC. Author of 1 patent and 16 publications.
- Recently moved to the Boston area. Met my wife, the beautiful and supportive Sally-Ann, while volunteering as an EMT. Winner of 2007 NJ Most Romantic Wedding Proposal. Proud father to a baby boy.
- Hobbies: olympic-distance triathlons, flying Cessnas, playing the violin, reading about renewable energy and politics, and writing.
- Links to media coverage.
I graduated from Princeton University in 2001 with a B.S.E. degree (cum laude) in electrical engineering with a certificate in finance. At Princeton, I was an officer of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society (debate & politics), an EMT with the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, and was president of my fraternity.
In 1993, I filed my first patent application based on my junior high school science project…the patent office rejected it, but I learned a lot from the process. From 1996-1998 I worked as a summer research assistant in the Northwestern University and was the youngest member of a team building an infrared telescope in use at the South Pole. The following summer I worked at Los Alamos National Lab doing magnetospheric satellite data analysis.
During my sophomore year, my father and I co-authored the patent for the “AC-link”* power conditioning technology. In 1999 my father founded Varentec based on one application of the AC-link* technology.
Two years later I founded Princeton Power Systems in my college dorm room based on additional applications of AC-link*. I brought some of my classmates on board as co-founders. An hour after our college graduation ceremony ended, I received an email from a local angel investor agreeing to invest. A week later we had the term sheet signed. A month later our seed money was in the bank and were off to the races.
I spent the first five years in the engineering trenches turning the patent from a paper concept into a real product and paying for additional technology development through government R&D contracts. I spent the subsequent five years in various roles (Director of Operations, VP Government Sales, Director of R&D, and Chief Technology Officer) and was an occasional guest speaker and guest lecturer in various Princeton University electrical engineering classes and industry events.
In addition to running over a dozen research and product development projects and setting up our manufacturing operations and UL testing capabilities, I established key relationships with ABB, Siemens, SAIC, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Rolls Royce, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Office of Naval Research, Naval Sea Systems Command, Earl Industries, and other companies in the renewable energy and military industries. During the last several years, as CTO, I managed the rapid growth of the engineering team as the company repeatedly doubled and tripled of its revenues.
After almost 10 years of “riding the rollercoaster” at Princeton Power, my partners and I agreed that it was time to part ways. I’m now doing research at MIT.
You can also follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PowerErik
*”AC-link” is a trademark of Princeton Power Systems, Inc.