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Beyond the Pitch

Nikola Labs’ Technology Extends Battery Life for Wireless World

Students Win Ohio State Competition with Business Plan Based on Nikola Labs, Place 7th in Rice Business Plan Competition

In a wireless world, longer battery life is the Holy Grail. In the world of technology transfer, the Holy Grail is spinning out novel research to create new companies, jobs, and wealth.

With Nikola Labs, a joint partnership between IKOVE Venture Capital and The Ohio State University, those two quests converge.

Nikola Labs is commercializing applications using antenna technology developed Ohio State Research Associate Professor Chi-Chih Chen, PhD. Dr. Chen and entrepreneur Will Zell are two of the co-founders of Nikola Labs.

“It is incredibly valuable to have the inventor of the technology as a partner and to have help from the university which understands what we are trying to accomplish and buys into the vision,” said Zell. “This relationship with OSU and Dr. Chen will allow us to continue to bring revolutionary products to market.”

Harvesting Unused RF Energy to Up Battery Life

In a world that is increasingly tuned in to the power of wireless power, Nikola’s antenna technology is small enough and efficient enough to integrate into devices that most people use and care about—starting with mobile phones.

“About 90 percent of the wireless energy concentrated around wireless phones from wireless transmissions is lost,” Zell said. “Dr. Chen’s antenna technology harvests some of that wasted energy, translates it back into DC power, and extends the battery life of the phone, without impacting usage or call quality.”

Nikola Labs plans to use energy transmitted during Wi-Fi connection and voice and data communications to charge wireless devices. The “secret sauce” of the antenna design is its efficiency in capturing and converting energy from radio frequency (RF) to DC power.

The company’s first product is a case for the iPhone 6 that is anticipated to extend battery life up to 25 percent.

“The case is awesome and the big picture is mind-blowing,” said Zell. “We are starting by launching a consumer product that people can buy and relate to,” Zell said. “The cover isn’t bulky and is about the size of a standard iPhone 6 case. We’re planning to kickoff a Kickstarter campaign in May.”

Zell says that every step of supply chain, from R&D prototyping, to the injection molding for the cases, to assembly, packaging, and distribution will all happen in Central Ohio.

“I believe that this technology can completely change the way we power things; I believe that in my gut and heart,” Zell said.

“Our big dream is to build a system ubiquitous enough to match the way people live their lives—a system that meets technology users in their cars, offices, and on the go and provides power at every step of way,” he said.

Fisher College Business Plan Competition Winner

Team Nikola Labs, placed first in The Ohio State University 2015 Business Plan Competition Open Class. The team also earned the Clean Energy Award, sponsored by the Ohio State Office of Energy and Environment.

Team Nikola Labs, one of just 42 teams chosen from hundreds from around the world, was invited to compete in the prestigious Rice Business Plan, the world’s richest and largest student startup competition. The competition concluded this weekend with the Nikola team achieving semi-finalist.

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