It started in a UB chemistry lab with a professor and his student assistants. After pivoting during the R&D phase, this now engaging enterprise – Dimien - is working on an infrared switchable coating that creates “smart windows.” When applied to glass, the product improves energy efficiency by letting sunlight into a building when the weather is cold and reflecting heat when it’s warm. 3M thinks it might be a strategic fit with its technology platforms.
UB graduate students Ann Brozek, Peter Marley and Brian Schultz recognized commercial potential and entered the 2013 Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition with a business plan. Their first-place finish earned them $25,000 in seed funding along with in-kind awards such as legal and accounting services. In the NYS Business Plan Competition, Dimien took second place in the Energy and Sustainability track and won $5,000.
Brozek and Marley moved on to other opportunities and Schultz remained with the start-up. He joined a UB sponsored team that attended the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps training, which stressed customer discovery and validation, having the participants interview potential customers. Armed with this additional customer insight and wanting a supportive facility, Schultz moved the company into the UB Technology Incubator at Baird Research Park.
Dimien stayed focused. The company received a highly competitive $150,000 grant from the NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 for use in market-driven commercialization and was able to match funds for a supplemental SBIR Phase 1B grant. It was a semifinalist in the 2014 43 North Business Plan Competition and placed third out of eight teams in the New York State Cleantech Challenge supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
This online challenge was designed to connect start-ups and investors from around the world and seemed to work for Dimien. After “meeting” at the event, a Germany-based, 3M New Ventures investment manager contacted Schultz because he liked the product’s simplicity and its potential strategic fit. The event organizer said online you can bridge the geographic gaps and connect whereas the chances of crossing paths at an in-person event would be minimal.
Dimien CEO and Managing Member Schultz would agree as he noted in a Business First interview, “Like anything, it’s been an interesting path to becoming an entrepreneur. We’ve been able to see the larger goal and we’ve never lost sight of it.”
Note: Dimien is currently a semi-finalist in the 2015 43 North competition.