Trip to West Coast will promote ‘Voltage Valley’

As president and CEO of BRITE Energy Innovators, I consider myself lucky every day. I see our organization as a movement of small movements, and my hopes lie in the fact that each one of those movements lead to a more prosperous Warren, Trumbull County, Mahoning Valley, Ohio and nation in that order. We find ourselves at the intersection of extremely future-facing technologies and a community that has the grit and determination to dream, build and execute on those technologies not only to change the fabric of our community but our nation. No one has ever accused me of having small dreams.

This week, I find myself at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which I will follow with a trip to Los Angeles to visit a few counterparts at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and our friends at Hyperion Motors in Orange, Calif. When making decisions on these types of trips, you always have to consider your budget and potential outcomes. I consistently ask my team when a new idea is brought to me, “What is the idea? What is the cost? What is the expected outcome? How are we going to measure its success?” I hold myself to these standards as well.

1. What is the idea? I was asked by the CEO of GM Ventures, the director of LG Chem’s battery technologies, the director of Collegiate Operations at TechStars and three other high-profile organizations to set meetings at CES to discuss how BRITE and our companies could partner with them. As we look at branding this area as the “Voltage Valley,” I wanted to see what is on the forefront of electrification. Whether it’s energy storage or the future of mobility, the technology is present at CES.

2. Thanks to a lot of partnerships and goodwill, and with my usual startup mentality of keeping costs down, I’m keeping the cost of the entire trip under $1,500, including air fare, hotels and food. As a kid growing up in the Mahoning Valley, I learned how to get the most for my dollar, and that’s a practice I still use when I’m exploring new opportunities for BRITE.

3. The expected outcome of this event is multilayered. There is the less-tangible brand recognition. As many of you know, I almost exclusively wear Warren swag while I’m at these events partnered with some good old-fashioned orange to make sure BRITE’s brand is visible. Beyond that, I am making connections for accelerator programming, potential lab sales and looking at a lot of new startups at the Eureka area in the CES that I could draw to Warren so they can grow their companies alongside our community. In Los Angeles, I hope to continue building our partnership with Hyperion Motors and close a partnership on some federal legislation with Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. I intend to get a return on investment of at least 10 times the money we invested on this incredible opportunity.

4. We will measure the outcome in direct funds to our programming, enhancing our ability to help energy companies in our community innovate and grow. This includes sales for innovation and services in the BRITE Energy Lab, as well as donations matching funds to our entrepreneurial services program that is backed by the Ohio Third Frontier Program. We will also look at general name recognition and increase of digital traffic to our website, social media channel growth and interest in our services. All of this is intended to improve our place among the top energy incubator programs in the country (admittedly, a softer and harder metric to measure).

So, at CES, I’ll be recording some live video, I’ll be updating you on what I saw and did, and why it’s important to the Voltage Valley. I hope you’ll follow me on this trip. I am extremely hopeful that you’ll ask questions including the hard ones to make sure that we are looking at these new technologies from every angle, and that we make sure that every dollar we bring back comes to making our Mahoning Valley the best place in the country to start a new energy company. And in six months’ time, I’ll let you know just how much this trip gave back to the Valley.


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