Based in Mount Pearl, NL, Solace Power specializes in wireless power – that is, delivering electrical energy to batteries or devices without any wires attached to them. It works on projects for specific customers and then licences the technology to them.
The Newfoundland and Labrador company entered and won the sixth annual Entrepreneurial Challenge organized by Sikorsky Innovations, whose ultimate parent is the aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. As the winner, Solace received US$25,000 and – more importantly – an opportunity to explore with Sikorsky the impact of Solace Power technology on Sikorsky's product line.
“It’s obviously great market validation in the aerospace market – a market we’ve been working on for a while,” said Solace SEO Kris McNeil in an interview on Tuesday.
Sikorsky said in a statement that its Entrepreneurial Challenge is a one-of-a-kind gateway in which disruptive ideas can quickly gain exposure and a customer base within one of the most exciting transportation verticals in the world.
"We look forward to exploring the applications of the exciting Solace Power technology,” Chris Van Buiten, Vice-President of Sikorsky Innovations, said in the statement. “The Sixth Entrepreneurial Challenge exceeded our expectations, and we're anticipating strong additions to the portfolio with competitors from the seventh competition."
A graduate of the Genesis Centre at Memorial University, Solace Power has been working with about 15 customers and gaining revenues through the licensing fees. A year ago, it announced a partnership with Boeing, under which the Solace technology is used to wirelessly recharge unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. The technology uses energy transmitters that send electricity to receivers on drones to keep them in the air for longer periods of time without landing or swapping batteries.
McNeil said the company has been focusing closely on UAVs, and is now branching out into new projects. It is working with an original equipment manufacturer in the U.S. on an automotive product, and is even helping an office furniture company develop new devices related to electrical outlets in boardroom tables.
Having previously raised money from the First Angel Network and a few other angel investors, McNeil said he is raising a Series A financing round in 2016. He declined to name a target for the round. Solace now employs 21 people, and McNeil expects to add about 12 in the next year. In the meantime, the company will continue to work with Sikorsky and its other partners.
"The Sikorsky Entrepreneurial challenge was a fantastic opportunity for Solace Power to showcase its unique wireless power technology and earn validation from one of the world's most innovative companies," said Neil Chaulk, Solace Power’s Vice President of Business Development. "We are looking forward to working with Sikorsky to develop leading edge technology in the aerospace and defense market."