Even something as fundamental as an electric motor can still be improved, and that suits Russ Marvin just fine.
He's the CEO of LC Drives, a company that designs and manufactures ultra-efficient electric motors and generators for a variety of markets that include wind energy companies, oil and gas drilling businesses, and underwater use. His company is among those in Clarkson University's Peyton Hall business incubator.
“This is the next generation of electric power, and we're making it right here in Potsdam, New York,” Marvin says.
Marvin, who “grew up all over the place as a kid,” went to high school in Schoharie, N.Y. He's a serial entrepreneur -- one who continuously comes up with new ideas and starts new businesses.
In what seems to be a perfect match for him, he's pursuing his Ph.D. at Clarkson, a world-class leader in technology, engineering, business and science.
Typically, just one in 10 business startups makes it, says Matthew Draper, executive director of the Shipley Center for Innovation at Clarkson, but he's aiming for two or three success stories.
The Shipley Center guides innovators through the complex process of commercialization, providing them with the necessary tools to transform ideas into reality. Draper says 25 to 30 new startup companies are created through the Center every year, and another 75 to 100 projects could be startups.
Students at the University's Reh Center for Entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs working through Peyton Hall, and area innovators (including high school students across Northern New York) all have the opportunity to conceive, design, create and bring their products to market.
Some of the many businesses started through Clarkson range from a system to track lost items within a household and a fire safety technology for commercial and residential uses, to an innovative method to produce and deliver popcorn, and a closed-environment high-rise farm using aeroponic technology to create an energy-efficient and self-sustaining farm of the future.
“The startups are stars,” Draper adds. “They're the ones who say 'I can do that.' Entrepreneurs benefit all of us.”
Marvin's passion is energy. He's worked in the field for 15 years, making fuel cells, energy-efficient fans and blowers, wind turbines, and now LC Drives – lightweight commutated drives – that will provide power for a new generation.
“We have an energy problem in this country and I want to help make it better,” he notes. “Our key advantage is that we can make smaller, lighter, more-efficient motors. That means industries can use less electricity.”
The 1890 induction motor by Nikola Tesla is still in use today. It has stood the test of time, but it leaves the opportunity for innovation, and that's Marvin's expertise.
LC Drives is poised for great success with key industries. As Marvin says, his company's smaller and lighter motors mean less mass for wind turbines, which is essential. His products will enable oil and gas drilling companies to go deeper, so this is for them. Marine-related operators care about weight and inertia, so this also works for them.
“Our products are lighter weight, cheaper to make, use less material and cost less to operate. The number of applications is endless,” he notes.
LC Drives was incorporated in 2012, and has been through formative phases and prototypes, funded by a number of different government grants. Marvin and company co-founder David Leach, a Yale-educated scientist, are ready to launch the firm to the next stage and grow it significantly.
“We're excited and will recruit on the Clarkson campus at the career fair,” Marvin says. “We would potentially hire earlier if possible.”
His advice to entrepreneurs is that it takes persistence to build a business.
“You have to want it,” he emphasizes. “You must work hard, but it can all be done. This is my second startup from scratch. I found it is tougher to raise money than it was five years ago, but I did it. We've been very successful with grant money from NYSERDA and others. We're applying for larger and larger grants to see how we can make this company really take off.”
He also offers a heart-felt insight: “I won't work for a big company again. When you work around interesting people, those who naturally would not work together, you can produce 10 times as much as a big company does with the same number of people.”
To learn more about LC Drives, go to www.lcdrives.com.
For more information on the Shipley Center for Innovation at Clarkson University, go to www.clarkson.edu/shipley.