Former 43North winner nets Forbes ’30 Under 30′ award as product development continues

Buffalo Business First | Dan Miner

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Forbes Magazine has ranked a Buffalo-based entrepreneur as one of its ’30 Under 30′ in the energy industry, a ranking meant to identify young innovators and disruptors in various industries.

Daniel Shani, 29, came to Buffalo with his company, Energy Intelligence, after winning a $500,000 award from the 43North business competition in 2014. Shani was later one of two companies funded during the Rise of the Rest pitch competition in September 2015, pulling in $50,000 from that Steve Case initiative and another $50,000 from Z80 Labs, a Buffalo-based technology incubator.

At the core of the Forbes honor is Energy Intelligence’s technology, a road-mounted mat that generates electricity from braking vehicles. Shani first came up with the idea while sitting in traffic on a Massachusetts highway and has spent years with a team of technical experts gearing the product toward potential commercialization in brake-centric locations such as parking ramps and bridges.

The company was also recently named one of Business First’s five startups to watch in 2016.

Shani’s legal obligation to operate in Buffalo ended in 2015 but he has kept his company’s administrative functions here, while the company’s machine and engineering shop is located in the Hudson Valley. Energy Intelligence has run a few pilot tests near that shop while it plans larger pilot tests in the Buffalo region in 2016, including at the Peace Bridge and the Michigan Avenue parking ramp owned by Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc.

Those larger pilots are a crucial step toward commercial agreements with customers while the company executes its plans for large-scale manufacturing, Shani said.

“There’s still an iterative process through the pilots for the rest of the year,” Shani said. “We’ll refine the designs of various components and materials. The installations this year will be a step toward commercial contracts and next year we’ll be pursuing full-scale customer installations.”

Energy Intelligence was among the cohort of 11 companies who won prizes in the debut year of 43North, which is funded by the New York Power Authority and offers $5 million in venture capital-style awardss to winners. The second cohort just moved into Buffalo this month while the competition ramps up for its third year.

Organizers expect the state to support 43North for two subsequent years after this one, but are aware of the need to garner private and philanthropic support to secure its long-term future. The new 43North board chair, Bill Maggio, said that support could be dependent upon a few significant success stories out of the various competition winners.

“If we can say we brought in several companies that are established, that are creating jobs, that are using Western New York resources to grow their businesses then it will be very easy for us to find people who support sustaining that activity,” he said.

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