Sakti3: The Battery That’s Transforming the World

Launched from the University of Michigan in 2009, Sakti3 is a promising startup behind an extremely significant breakthrough in battery technology. Its remarkable success in doubling the density life of current lithium ion batteries on the market has attracted the attention of heavyweight funders ranging from GM Ventures and Khosla Ventures to the Japanese conglomerate Itochu. With over $30 million in funding and a tremendous amount of support from many in the auto industry and beyond, investors are hopeful that Sakti3’s technological innovations will soon revolutionize the world of electric vehicles and consumer electronics.

What is it about Sakti3’s new battery that is capturing the attention of such an influential range of investors?

First and foremost, it’s important to take note of the achievements that the Michigan startup has already achieved to date. Under the leadership of Ann Marie Sastry, a professor of materials science at the University of Michigan renowned for her intense entrepreneurial and executive qualities, Sakti3 used advanced numerical models and empirical data from laboratories to develop vacuum deposition technology. In layman’s terms, this technological innovation allows the startup to produce solid-state batteries with outstanding longevity at an affordable price.

Perhaps the most important application of this technology will be increasing the longevity and lowering the cost of electric vehicles, which investors anticipate will transform how consumers relate to electric cars. With this technological breakthrough, the auto industry will finally be able to overcome the hurdle of producing electric vehicles that have an adequate range and low enough price to keep consumers happy. For the very first time in the industry’s history, electric vehicles will be able to compete with the gas mileage of conventional cars.

When it comes to pinpointing exactly where Sakti3’s breakthrough has occurred, it’s important to take note of several points. Firstly, the startup has solved a strictly materials problem by producing batteries that can store a tremendous amount of energy. The cutting edge researchers at the firm were able to create batteries without the liquid component that exists in today’s car batteries, which solved numerous issues regarding efficiency, safety, and expense. This innovation in materials would be noteworthy even independent of other factors, but another aspect which has investors lined up behind Sakti3 is its scalability into extraordinarily diverse areas.

As expected, when a startup doubles the energy density of its competition—an exceptional feat that sets it apart from any other existing technology—others begin to take notice. In addition to tens of millions of dollars in funding, Sakti3 has been awarded numerous prizes from prestigious organizations, including being named as one of the most 50 innovative companies by the MIT Technology Review. With a combined 100 years of specialized experience on the senior team, the feeling both inside and outside of Sakti3 is that the best has yet to come. It’s becoming clear that a high performing, low cost, reliable battery has nearly unlimited potential, and Sakti3 is at the very core of the battery revolution.

Executive Interview: Graphenics

This month we interviewed Rachel Frazier of Graphenics. This University of Alabama spinout has a proprietary method to create pristine graphene in a breakthrough way. Their process is highly tunable and allows them to incorporate graphene into a wide variety of products.

Q:  In laymen’s terms, what does your company do?

A:  We help companies get graphene into their products. Graphene is a revolutionary new material. It has the highest strength on demand, highest electrical conductivity, and highest thermal conductivity. When people put it into plastics, they don’t see in their final products the results they expect. And that is because of the problems in mixing. We literally take on that burden. And help develop the mixing process that goes directly into their existing process. The goal of passing it off to them to make their own graphene in their own product line.

Q:  What is the first major application you would be in and why would that be advantageous?

A:  I don’t know about the first, but one we see is under the hood parts in the automotive industry. I know it is a long time to market in that particular application. But I think graphene has a potential to impact. That will be the biggest impact. You will be able to get a thermally stable plastic that is strong and light weight.

Q:  How long has the company been around? Have you been in research mode?

A:  The company has been operating for two years. The invention was developed in 2007.

Q:  When do you expect your first sellable products? Or have product revenue?

A:  We have already started. In the first year of operation, we did some consulting and got a little bit. Second year got a little bit more with services.

Q:  Can you say anything about funding, capital raised or plans for raising more capital in the next year?

A:  We participated in the auto accelerator out of the State of Tennessee. And that was a fantastic way for us to get connections in the auto industry. And that gave us a little bit of seed funding. That is all we have taken so far. We are really trying to work with customers to develop a customer base.

Q:  Graphene has been talked about for years and was part of the nano tech craze for a while. Where do you see the future of graphene going? Will this be a major component and what type of time frame do you think?

I think it will ultimately replace carbon fiber for very specific applications where you need a cost performance ratio that is a little bit more consumer friendly. Graphene has that advantage. It will be less expensive in the long run than carbon fiber. You will be able to see it in the use of intermediate priced vehicles as opposed to the higher end vehicles. I think that we will see it in automobiles in 5-10 years. It is already in sporting goods, in tennis rackets and bicycle wheels.

Coming in May: Expanded Startup Watch Newsletter!

Subscriptions to our free newsletter “Tech Startup Watch” are growing rapidly and feedback from readers show they would like even more content. So we have decided to launch an expanded version of Tech Startup Watch in May. Don’t worry – it’s still free! The expanded version will be a PDF download and contain lots more information including:

  • Expanded information on new startups
  • Expanded updates on our database startups – funding, acquisitions, management changes
  • Startup company highlight articles
  • CEO interviews

Check out the new format in May and let us know what you think. As always we love to get your feedback. And be sure to tell you colleagues to subscribe.

Gerard Eldering

Editor, Startup.Directory