By Jodi Ackerman Frank
James Pater ’12 and Shane McMahon ’12 didn’t consider starting their own company when they were students here. Yet, their journey into entrepreneurship between their undergraduate and graduate studies was a seamless transition.
In April, they established Eonic, a company that has developed an ionic liquid electrolyte to increase energy storage in ultracapacitors. Pater and McMahon, who both majored in physics at Siena, are now graduate students at SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE). They cofounded Eonic with two CNSE Ph.D. candidates.
“I never thought I’d do anything in business, but seeing the cross-pollination between technology and entrepreneurship at CNSE sparked our interest,” said Pater.
Pater and McMahon said the seed began to germinate at Siena, largely under the guidance of Allan Weatherwax, Ph.D., dean of the School of Science.
“His collaborations with many colleges and universities, including CNSE, are what really brought us to where we are now,” McMahon said.
Eonic’s four founders took first place in the Energy & Sustainability category at the 2013 New York Business Plan Competition, held at CNSE, winning more than $13,000 in cash and prizes. Eonic is working with a global ultracapacitor company to test the new Online Pokies electrolyte on a commercial scale.
Ultracaps can be used to support batteries in many electronics. Increasing their energy storage capacity results in a more efficient and higher-powered device. The company is betting that its product will expand the ultracap market for a variety of sustainable-energy technologies, from photovoltaics and wind power to electric cars.
Although immersed in his graduate studies and the challenges of running a business, Pater said he often thinks about his education at Siena.
“I don’t think I ever respected my Siena education as much as I do now,” he said. “It has prepared me for the business interactions I have on a regular basis in a way that I don’t think a strictly high-tech school could have done.”
“We really encourage all our students to look beyond the classroom. When you’re 18 to 20 years old, the whole world is in front of you,” said Weatherwax, who still keeps in touch with both students. “That’s why the foundation of a liberal arts education that Siena offers is so important. It provides a diverse set of skills and opens a student’s eyes to lots of possibilities.”
For more information on the start-up company visit www.eonicllc.com.