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accelerator NextFab Flux Marine Anduca
Beth Zonis, Cleantech Open Northeast and Todor Raykov, NextFab

Accelerator programs can help guide entrepreneurs through the many challenges and hurdles that startups face in their earliest days. These programs provide the expert mentorship, business education, and connections to investors and partners needed to help startups turn their fledgling ideas into thriving businesses. For many growing startups, participating in several accelerator programs can improve their chance for success. Andluca Technologies and Flux Marine, two startups from Princeton University, both participated in two of the best accelerator programs for cleantech startups - Cleantech Open (CTO) and NextFab. And in doing so, they gained a competitive edge that has helped them launch two exciting ventures focused on building a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Andluca develops easy-to-install smart windows that intelligently respond to sunlight to save energy, reduce glare, generate renewable power, and improve human wellness and security. Flux Marine creates high-performance, zero-maintenance electric propulsion systems. Both companies went through the Cleantech Open accelerator and NextFab's RAPID Hardware accelerator to fortify their business models, find mentors and investors, and improve their products, and both were Cleantech Open Northeast regional winners. Flux Marine was also selected as the Cleantech Open National Runner Up, People’s Choice Award Winner, and Best in Showcase.  

Now Cleantech Open Northeast and NextFab are teaming up to encourage more startups to participate in both of these world-class accelerators. Beth Zonis, Director of Cleantech Open Northeast, and Todor Raykov, who runs the RAPID Hardware Accelerator program, met with Andluca CEO Nick Davy and Flux Marine CEO Ben Sorkin to talk about their startup journeys and their next big milestones.

Todor: Great talking with you all and congrats on successfully navigating your way through a very rough year! Andluca joined RAPID's Spring 2020 cohort and Flux Marine just recently graduated from the Fall 2020 program. What led you to apply for acceleration at CTO and then at NextFab?

Nick: Our belief was that the RAPID program, which includes partnership with NextFab’s talented engineers and funding, would enable us to hit our first product development goals sooner and at the highest level of quality and reliability. As we built on our progress with the NextFab team, network, and mentors, we saw Cleantech Open as a great next step to do a deeper dive into climatetech stakeholders and public and private sector customers, and to refine our go-to-market plan. 

Ben: We were initially drawn to CTO because of its vast network of alumni, mentors, and investors that all shared a passion for clean technology companies. NextFab’s intense focus on hardware startups was a huge attraction for us and something that is difficult to find in the accelerator world.

Beth: Both of your companies have made great progress raising capital during the pandemic. To what do you attribute your success so far?

Ben: Persistence and passion. The pandemic certainly made raising capital more difficult, but we kept at it and eventually found investors that shared our passion and believed in our mission.

Nick: Relationship building. The last in-person meeting we had before the first COVID-19 lockdowns began was with the NextFab Venture team, pitching Andluca for the Spring 2020 cohort. The RAPID cohort ended up being virtual, and our team adapted to make progress on product design, partnership building, and fundraising. The camaraderie and brainstorming between the RAPID cohort founders was tremendously helpful in maintaining a full-steam ahead approach and taking advantage of opportunities in the new normal. With CTO, we had an excellent team of four mentors with diverse backgrounds that also provided a great support system virtually and a platform to connect with climatetech and angel investors. I believe our fundraising success during the pandemic was attributable in large part to these communities and our ability to adapt to build strong relationships with investors, even through Zoom.

Todor: Raising capital is one thing, but what about finding great talent in the time of COVID? What do you look for in a potential employee? What are the next positions that you are looking to fill?

Ben: Finding really great talent is always challenging. While COVID has created additional hurdles, it has also created opportunities. Many people have been stuck home working inside - we offer an opportunity to work safely in a physical office that is right on the water, with boats for employees to both work on and use. We’re currently looking for software, controls, and battery systems engineers to join our team.

Nick: We are always looking for talented and driven people to join our team - fit is just as important as role and skill set. Right now we are open to adding team members in the following areas: building design/energy simulations (Solemma, Ladybug Tools), data visualization and back-end data management, materials science and chemical engineering, and sales/account management. 

Beth: As we are vested in your success, what are your next big milestones?

Nick: Our top goal for 2021 is deploying our first product with a series of exciting partners - brands that are leading the push toward carbon neutrality and sustainable buildings and practices. These partnerships will allow us to demonstrate the energy efficiency, carbon emission reduction, and human wellness benefits of our smart glass tech in office and retail spaces. We’re also evaluating public partnerships in support of more sustainable cities. 

Ben: Our next big milestones are focused on getting our systems out in front of people and finding beta customers for this summer while collecting pre-orders for production versions. We’ll have demo boats at our dock in East Greenwich, RI, all summer and a few boats making the rounds at trade shows. I want to emphasize that Cleantech Open and NextFab have been very helpful to our progress so far. What changes have you made since Nick and I went through the programs, and where can people learn more about them?

Beth: Excellent question. Cleantech Open has several initiatives that are worth mentioning. In 2021, we are emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion as we recruit the next cohort of startups and the mentors who will work with them. We are developing curriculum content around greenhouse gas emissions reduction potential to assist our startups in impact measurement. And we’re offering a new prize for a carbon sequestration startup that completes the 2021 CTO accelerator. I encourage emerging cleantech startups to apply by April 18, 2021 at

Todor: Ben, both you and Nick were part of the virtual version of NextFab's RAPID Hardware Accelerator. It has been an interesting experience to adapt our program from it's traditional in-person format to what we do now. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the engagement level in our training sessions is actually higher than before. I attribute this to the fact that folks don't have to worry about commuting to our facility and can now easily have at least one of their team members participate in the sessions. Having said that, we plan to keep the program virtual for now. Startups will still have access to our physical locations and prototyping equipment during the course of the program. In addition to this, we'll invest up to $25,000 in seed capital in every company that joins and we'll provide them with hands-on technical and business consulting. The application deadline for the spring 2021 program is February 19, 2021 Hardware startups can apply at

Beth: It’s been great to be a part of your entrepreneurial journeys. We look forward to hearing more about your successes!