Bing Energy is a research-based Hydrogen fuel startup in Tallahassee, the Florida State Capital, which is where Florida State University is located. Currently there are about 10 employees in the new company including a few PhDs. The firm was covered in Florida Trend magazine last week.
The company was founded by immigrant academic entrepreneurs who brought in a surrogate entrepreneur to lead and grow the company. The core nanotechnology was based on the work of immigrant Florida State University (FSU) researchers Jim Zheng and Ben Wang, and post-doctoral student Wei Zhu, who now heads the R & D activity at Bing Energy. Surrogate entrepreneur Harry Chen is now the CTO, Yung Chen is the CEO, and Dean Minardi the CFO. Dr. Zheng now plays a “non-managerial technical advisory role”, much like Dr. Jeffrey Ullman and Dr. Rajeev Motwani played in Google for about the first ten years of its life. Dr. Wang is now at Georgia Tech and plays no role currently in the startup.
An investment in hydrogen research made some 10 years ago by the State of Florida is now bearing fruit. Its generally understood at that primary research takes about 10- 15 years to make it out to the market (if it does at all) in some form or another of its original self. The fuel cell game is still in the very early stages here and who knows how this could turn out?
The firm’s first product was launched a year ago. Its a fuel cell designed as a backup generator for communications towers. The company is a true “born global”, not only for its founding team but its supply chain establishment as well. It was able to leverage resources from the Chinese government itself, according to the article in Florida Trend:
“Most of Bing’s manufacturing activity is in China, which gave the company a major incentive deal to locate a manufacturing plant in Rugao, a city of 1.4 million people 125 miles northwest of Shanghai. In exchange for a 40% stake in Bing’s Chinese subsidiary, the Chinese government gave Bing a 110,000-sq.-ft. three-story manufacturing facility, a 30,000-sq.-ft. dorm for employees and an investment of $7.5 million over five years. The money was earmarked to pay for equipment and other capital investments”
Not only is a Chinese presence about production and supply. Bing is also attracted to China’s large latent demand for fuel cells. Indeed it seems as if China will let the way in fuel cell consumption:
Minardi says a big telecommunications company in the U.S. is testing Bing Energy’s fuel cells as backup power generators, but the Chinese market remains more promising than the American market for the moment. “China is growing fast,” he says. “They need cell phones. They need power, but they can’t run diesel generators. They need cleaner power. In the U.S., it’s less mission-critical because we have a very stable power grid, and we don’t have the pollution.”
Bing Energy is exemplary as a born global academic startup. Immigration policy enabled Chinese researchers to explore their interests and passions in the USA at one of its State’s universities. This lead to the founding of an innovative firm based on cutting edge technology. This firm’s founding team was made of of members from different countries of the world, and based in the USA. Its benefits China through a manufacturing facility and the creation of jobs, and may just sell its innovative fuel cells to the large market in China that needs this technology. This in turn benefits the USA and State of Florida through the creation of jobs and wealth as the R & D base remains in the hometown of the university that birthed the venture. The market for the fuel cells in the USA may well benefit from the technology as well as they both ripen. Time will tell.