Getting Back to Business: A CNBC Town Hall Event

Competitions Help Entrepreneurs Gain Funds, Attention

Seema Mody

Start ups have become quite resourceful when it comes to raising funds. Many are finding start-up competitions as a great source of capital.

Recently, Stanford University’s BASES group, along with San Francisco start-up YouNoodle, hosted a start-up competition where 100 entrepreneurs from around the world presented to a panel of judges and sponsors including Sequoia Capital, Perkins Cole, and Intel Foundation’s Desafio Intel. The winner of the competition was Ryan Marschang. His start up, Invisergy, uses a special technology to convert any transparent surface into an inexpensive electricity-generating device.

Marschang shared with CNBC where he got the idea for his company, and where he plans to take it.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

The concept occurred during a prototyping competition at MIT called MADMEC. Two of the co-founders, Rishabh Jain and Steven Shimizu, were brainstorming with lab mates about ideas that could help save energy, and the large windows in their office caught their attention. Both Jain and Shimizu realized that windows essentially functioned as a type of gateway to the inside of a building, allowing light to enter. They thought about whether they could capture the energy striking the window and turn the window into a solar module.

Where did the first funding come from?

All of the company's current funding has been won through competitions such as MADMEC, the Wharton Business Plan Competition, PennVention and the Innovation Fund on UPenn's campus. [Marschang is taking the next step in advancing his idea by attending an incubation program organized by Stanford and YouNoodle in the coming months. The company is looking to raise up to $1.5 million this year.]

Who was your first customer?

We have not sold any of our solar window units yet. The company has developed a working prototype and is taking the next step to perform testing in a commercial site. From the current pace of progress, we believe we will have our first customer in 2014 or 2015.

When did you know the company would be a success?

The company has been winning various competitions, which is nice to validate our idea, but now it is time to actually execute. I would say that we have developed a very strong proprietary technology, formed a cohesive team and are currently molding a solid business out of all of it. It probably won't be until a year or two down the road until we find out if things are going to be a success or not. That’s a risk we are willing to take.

What’s next?

Competition and e-bootcamps like the one lead by YouNoodle are great ways for our team to gain exposure and get instant feedback from seasoned entrepreneurs. Thus, we are going to be competing in a few more competitions this year including: MIT's Clean Energy Prize, the MassChallenge, the CleanTechOpen and the NOVA Innovation Competition. Most importantly, Invisergy is going to be starting the search for a seed funding round soon.

Join CNBC’s Brian Sullivan, small business owners, and some of America’s greatest entrepreneurs as they share their stories and strategies for success.  Getting Back To Business: A CNBC Town Hall Event premieres Wednesday, June 20 at 9 p.m. and will be rebroadcast at 12 a.m. ET on CNBC.

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