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Courtney Gras of Design Flux Technologies, LLC

Courtney Gras is co-founder and president of Design Flux Technologies LLC, a pre-seed alternative energy company that was spun out of the University of Akron in 2011.

What is Design Flux Technolgies?

We are a pre-seed company that has made the first all-in-one energy management system for batteries. All of the cofounders are University of Akron students.  We built a hardware system around the existing software we were already working with at the university.  Our hardware provides an advance modeling algorithm that allows real time management and remote access to manage ongoing issues that could impact the life of the battery. The product can extend battery life up to four times longer.
Why did you start your business?

As electrical engineering students we were always involved with extracurricular research projects and working with the university’s software, but a business application was not on our radar.  First we received encouragement from the university that helped us recognize the potential. Positive feedback from contacts within the industry fueled us further.   
How did you come up with the idea?
The research we were doing on campus demonstrated a need for a product like ours and we set out to create one.  Industry insiders that we worked with on campus encouraged us to create an actual product.  
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of, and how did they help? Have your received state or federal money? 
We have taken advantage of Nortech’s speed to market accelerator program which helps obtain funding, find eventual employees and manufacturers for our product.  Jumpstart provides us with an entrepreneur in residence to mentor and help with business planning.  The University of Akron Research Foundation provided mentoring even before we were thinking of a business. We have access to their technology transfer office to manage the licensing of intellectual property.  
We also won in the  Clean Energy Challenge supported by the Department of Energy.  This is the first year student run companies could compete. Our company was one of 19 finalist winning the $10,000 prize in the State of Ohio category. 
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business? 

Our biggest surprise was actually starting a business and how quickly we have moved forward. Also how our skill sets are so perfectly aligned with my handling the business image, communication and planning, Tom  being more tech oriented, and even Terrance becoming involved just as the business gained funds to be managed.

Where did you find your first employee?

We are a pre-seed company, so we have no paid employees as of yet.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Akron?

For us, it is really great because we are coming from the University of Akron. We have access to facilities and faculty on campus. The Akron Global Business Accelerator provided mentoring and facilitated our participation in the Heads Launch Town business competition, where we were finalist two years ago and are again in 2012.

What inspires you?

The excitement and challenge of starting a new company.
What companies or founders do you admire and why?

We met serial entrepreneur Jesse Itzler at a competition and admired his  dynamic personality.  He was down to earth, while enthusiastic and energetic. His persistence, passion and ability to go after things are admirable qualities.

What’s next for you and your company?

In the next six months we will be raising capital to get into the market by early 2014. We will continue building relationships with companies in the industry and start getting the prototypes tested and ready to go to market. 

Writer: Mona Bronson-Fuqua

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