In 1978, Cliff Ensley ’69, ’70, G’71 had an idea to start his own business and just $2,500 to do it. He was used to taking on challenges—there was no stopping him. Growing up, he struggled with a learning disability—at…
SparkCharge Raises Capital and Joins Techstars
SparkCharge has officially “launched” from the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University to acceleration stage with Techstars in Boston. The startup has achieved a significant milestone, growing from a college student’s idea to an award-winning company that has won several awards and raised institutional funding, and is now part of an accelerator program internationally known for rapidly scaling great companies. The latest investment round closed in February and the clean tech hardware startup expects to raise another round later this year.
Joshua Aviv, founder and CEO of SparkCharge, developed a portable, ultrafast charging unit for electric vehicles that fits in the trunk of a car and charges at level 3 speed, giving users one mile every 60 seconds.
Winning a spot in the Techstars Boston startup accelerator gives a competitive boost for the growing company. In the last 10 years, more than 1,000 Techstars portfolio companies have collectively raised over $4.4 billion in total funding, and are now valued at $11.4 billion. Fewer than 1 percent of all companies that apply to a Techstars program are accepted into the worldwide network that inspires, educates and connects entrepreneurs, accelerating innovation and startup activity.
Aviv, a graduate of Syracuse University, conceived his idea as an undergraduate student, working with the campuswide innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
“The Techstars accelerator program builds on the solid startup foundation we received through Syracuse University’s amazing innovation ecosystem,” says Aviv. “Having a well-connected and collaborative support network at SU helped us move from idea to venture, and positioned us to now scale to the next stage. We intend to stay engaged with SU as we grow.”
His connection to Techstars was catalyzed by his participation in the Blackstone/Techstars global venture pitch competition where he won grand prize last fall. The competition came at the conclusion of a two-day Blackstone LaunchPad/Techstars Training Camp, an innovative new program for collegiate entrepreneurs by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. The program leverages the resources and intellectual capital of Blackstone, empowering entrepreneurs, generating job growth and supporting local communities.
“SparkCharge is joining a vibrant group of entrepreneurs,” says Clement Cazalot, managing director for the Techstars Boston Accelerator. “Our Boston program has helped launch and fund 144 startups, with north of $750 million in total funding. Josh is now part of the most connected and successful entrepreneurial network in the world, as well as Boston’s very active angel network and VC industry that is focusing more on earlier stage tech innovation, enabling access to funds at all stages of development.”
“Each year we select the most promising companies to join our three-month mentorship-driven accelerator,” says David Cohen, founder and CEO of Techstars. “SparkCharge will now be part of the Techstars community for life, with access to over 1,500,000 founders, investors, mentors and industry leaders. Leveraging the combined power of Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars resources and connections, SparkCharge and other high-growth startups are surrounded and supported by a team of experts who can help them quickly start and scale.”
“We’re in Techstars to learn, grow and network,” Aviv says. “We’re excited to bring this product to market, and working with this network will help us get to commercialize our technology faster and better.”
Through Techstars, Aviv and his team of four engineers are getting hands-on help and mentorship from experts in multiple fields, while working out of spaces such as Mass Robotics. A first-time CEO, Aviv says access to an international pool of knowledgeable and experienced mentors is already advancing SparkCharge to a new level. “We want to keep a presence in Boston. We’ve fallen in love with the city,” Aviv says. “The startup ecosystem here is awesome.”
However, Aviv says the startup is not leaving its home in Syracuse. Personal connections and the manufacturing industry in Syracuse have strong pulls on the startup. “Our roots are in Syracuse and we want to tap into the manufacturing and industrial base there,” Aviv says. He expects to keep his research, engineering, testing and manufacturing based in the region, while focusing sales and finance operations in the Boston area where there is a cluster of supportive investors. He particularly values his research collaboration with the SyracuseCoE, which is home base for his engineering team, research fellows and interns. His goal is to create regional impact. “To me, entrepreneurship means having a great social impact on every layer of our society. As entrepreneurs, we have the ability to create change in our communities faster and on a deeper level than many other people.”
In the meantime, SparkCharge is signing up electric vehicle owners to participate in testing their beta product. Answering questions and collecting feedback from users with various electric car models, the engineers are refining the product leading up to a manufacturing run later this year.
Supporting this growth is an investment by PJC, a Boston-based venture capital firm that focuses on consumer and enterprise technology investments. PJC takes an active approach to investing, striving to build collaborative relationships with portfolio company management. They have constructed the firm and their team around the strategy of building market-leading companies with innovative founders and serial entrepreneurs. The firm and its partners have backed market-leading companies across multiple industries such as Nest Labs, Yandex, Expensify and GetWellNetwork.
“We are excited to partner with Josh and the entire SparkCharge team,” says Mike Cunningham, a principal at PJC. “They have the drive, conviction and vision necessary to solve the problems faced in this rapidly expanding market. We look forward to working with the SparkCharge team and Techstars to help bring their idea to the electric vehicle community.”
“Josh and SparkCharge is a perfect example of the transformational impact that Blackstone envisions Techstars will have on our LaunchPad program,” says Alisha Slye, global director of Blackstone LaunchPad. “Their content, mentorship and network will provide expanded access for more LaunchPad ventures to grow and scale. Blackstone applauds Syracuse University’s leadership and commitment to entrepreneurship in our growing global LaunchPad network which we will now be able to scale to over one million student with Techstars support.”
SparkCharge’s success follows 2017 accomplishments that included: Blackstone LaunchPad/Techstars Demo Day, First Place; FuzeHub Commercialization Competition, First Place; Innovation Fund Award, SyracuseCoE; New York State Business Plan Competition, Grand Prize; New York State Business Plan Competition, Clean Tech Winner; Raymond Von Dran iPrize, First Place Winner Clean Tech; and Panasci Business Plan Competition 2017, Winner of Product Innovation Prize and Sustainability Award.
Aviv’s plans for 2018 include final design and testing of the beta unit, manufacturing and unit sales. SparkCharge is currently taking beta test orders: https://spcev.com/forms/betatest/
Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars announced this week at SXSW EDU that they are teaming up to supercharge Blackstone LaunchPad, the pre-eminent campus-based entrepreneurship program. Read details.
About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private, international research university with distinctive academics, diversely unique offerings and an undeniable spirit. Located in the geographic heart of New York State, with a global footprint, and nearly 150 years of history, Syracuse University offers a quintessential college experience. The scope of Syracuse University is a testament to its strengths: a pioneering history dating back to 1870; a choice of more than 200 majors and 100 minors offered through 13 schools and colleges; nearly 15,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students; more than a quarter of a million alumni in 160 countries; and a student population from all 50 U.S. states and 123 countries. For more information, please visit www.syracuse.edu.