Home Health

National Rowing

Management Moves

Deaths

Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the November 28, 2001 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Life in the Fast Lane

In preparing for a power outage, should a business

spend a lot of money to prepare for the worst case scenario? Or, like

an ostrich, ignore the one-in-a-thousand risk? The four young partners

in Princeton Power Systems Inc., all June graduates of Princeton

University,

think they have a cost-effective middle ground: a less expensive way

to fend off power interruptions.

Princeton Power Systems (PPS) is licensing a patent for a power

conversion

technology that can be used for an uninterruptible power supply (UPS)

device, like a giant voltage regulator. The patent is for software

that controls the device and enables it to protect against brief power

flickers as well as uneven current. In the event of a prolonged

blackout

it will not help.

In the larger versions it is about the size of a refrigerator, and

it will sit outside a building and modulate power for a high tech

manufacturing

operation. PPS is designing and manufacturing this power conditioning

device, which costs significantly less — $100 to $300 per kilowatt

hour less — than its competition.

The four-person firm is tapping people power — friendships and

connections — for its startup. Good friends and roommates all,

they moved into a house on Wilton Street in Princeton when they

graduated

from the university’s engineering school last June. All four had taken

the entrepreneurship course taught by Ed Zschau, the university’s

guru on that topic. Zschau picked them to occupy his incubator space,

the New Enterprise Laboratory, located in the university’s former

power plant on the Forrestal Campus. Their current diet consists

mainly

of hot dogs, but they are getting the company up and going.

Zschau also introduced them to an angel funder, Greg Olsen. Olsen

knows a thing or two about startups, having started and sold one

(Epitaxx)

and flourished with another (Sensors Unlimited, at Princeton Service

Center). He took a liking to the four engineers and made a substantial

investment in time and money. "I invested in them because they

are four really bright guys with integrity and a great idea,"

says Olsen. "Electric power will be a very exciting industry

during

the next decade. These guys are on the ground floor of an industry

that is undergoing rapid change. What better place for a startup?"

The patent for their device is held by one of the

partners’

fathers, Dr. Rudy Limpaecher. "We have an exclusive license to

the patent, written by Dr. Limpaecher and Erik," says Darren

Hammell,

the young CEO. "We hope to research this, develop it, and have

a product out in less than a year. We hope to build up this product,

sell a bunch, and keep researching for more products."

Erik Limpaecher wrote the business plan in Zschau’s class; he is

director

of technical development. Limpaecher and John Lerch, the COO, were

electrical engineering majors. Lerch hails from Fair Lawn, and his

father runs a paper mill. Mark Holveck, director of engineering, was

a mechanical engineering major. He grew up in Mountain Lakes; his

mother works for Telemark and his father had been vice president of

Footlocker. Hammell, a computer science engineer, grew up in East

Lyme, Connecticut, where his mother taught high school and his father

has a human factors engineering consulting firm.

In spite of their age, the four have been received well by executives

in the power industry. "Being young so far has helped us out a

lot," says Hammell, "especially in the power industry, where

there are not many young people at all. Everybody is excited to try

to get us involved." It helps, he says, that they are working

with three mentors with wide experience.

"We are all completely equal," says Hammell. "But our

board of advisors — Ed, Rudy, Greg — told us we needed

somebody

to be president, and said `You guys know better than we do who should

do that.’ Since I had focused on the business aspects, we figured

I would play that role."

"Greg has been learning about the power industry and passing all

the information he gets to us. We see him at least weekly, and

sometimes

when we meet with people, he comes along."

The company has raised $550,000 from private funds, and most of this

is currently going for salary and R&D expenses. "I invested

alongside

Greg on the same basis that he did," says Zschau. A 1961 Princeton

graduate with a PhD from Stanford, he has founded a company and been

(successively), a Congressman, a venture capitalist, an IBM executive

and a Harvard Business School teacher. His facility, decidedly

downscale,

is rented space in an old power plant on the Forrestal Campus. The

other current tenant in Zschau’s incubator space is a dotcom, Onclave

(U.S. 1, April 25).

"This summer we were working out of a dorm room in Pyne Hall to

do the market research and talking about how hot it was," says

Hammell. "Ed said to check out his lab, that it had air

conditioning.

He told us a couple of times and we finally said it was a good

idea."

The four Princeton Power partners were able to scrounge excess

equipment

from a company where Limpaecher’s father had worked. Into a

dilapidated

area that used to be the kitchen, they put down a carpet and brought

in some almost free office furniture. Additional electricity had to

be brought in to run the prototype.

The firm’s corporate attorney is Tom Dalton at Drinker Biddle. To

market their product, they are talking to utilities and going to

conferences,

such as the IEEE convention in Atlanta in October. The four men plan

to do their own assembly for a while.

Through the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology they

applied

for a "springboard" loan worth from $250,000 to $300,000.

"We are also looking at Small Business Innovation Research

funding,"

he says.

The first prototype: a voltage regulator for an uninterrupted power

source (UPS) device. All the UPS devices now on the market require

the use of a powerful battery — in case the power goes out —

and this eats up an additional $300 per kilowatt upfront cost.

Hammell’s

company would start out making voltage regulators that can cover brief

outages of from 350 to 1,000 kilowatts.

"The UPS business is very big and established," says Hammell.

"We solve the problem at half the cost. But a lot of facilities

are averse to installing UPS, because the batteries can cost up to

$50,000 and have to be replaced every three years," he says.

Products

made by two competitors, SoftSwitching Technologies in Wisconsin and

S & C Electric in Chicago, are based on older technologies and cost

twice as much, he says.

Yet a manufacturer who ignores the problem will run an expensive risk.

"Losing power can knock out a lot of machines and interrupt a

continuous process," says Hammell. "If they are making

semiconductor

chips or cars, and the voltage sags, it will damage all the chips

and the machines will have to be stopped and cleaned and recalibrated,

resulting in as much as five hours of downtime." Nevertheless,

Hammell’s voltage regulator would not take care of extended outages.

For these, batteries are needed. But Hammell insists that his

battery-less

regulator will take care of outages amounting to just a fraction of

a second, and these comprise 95 percent of the problem. "We could

be the redundant system, so the battery-supplied system could be used

as little as possible, which would save money."

PPS would also use its patent to make variable speed

drives. Variable speed drives control the speed of the motors that

run in almost any mechanical device, from the fan in an air

conditioner

to the fan in an industrial pump. "It’s a $10 billion market,"

says Hammell. One major user would be makers of central air

conditioning

for an entire building. "The fan that pushes that around is

enormous,"

says Hammell. "You need a big drive to power that fan, and with

ours you can create energy savings of 30 percent."

"The old motor drives run at a constant speed. They are either

on or off," explains Hammell. "But since variable speed drives

save electricity and money, California has mandated that all new

drives

will have to be variable speed. Ours would be able to protect against

power fluctuations, whereas competitive devices would have to add

that feature as an extra." A third potential product for PPS’

power conversion technology will be new windmill technologies, which

convert the power from the blade and connect to the utility grid.

"Our box will do that much more efficiently than what is out there

right now," he says.

The fourth product might involve distributed generation. "Instead

of relying wholly on utility power, you can put a fuel cell next to

a facility. Our device would be used to take the fuel cell energy

and convert it into usable AC power," says Hammell.

"Our big decision is about which market is really right for the

taking right now," says Hammell. "We’re all pretty stubborn,

so we have a lot of debates on which direction the product should

go, but there is nothing we can’t work out. We’re such good

friends."

— Barbara Fox

Princeton Power Systems Inc., 100-C Forrestal Road,

Forrestal Campus, Princeton 08540. Darren Hammell, CEO. 609-258-5994;

fax, 609-258-7329. Home page: www.princetonpower.com

Top Of Page
Home Health

It doesn’t take much demographic knowledge to determine

that healthcare is a growth industry. So when Ian and Marie Griffiths

wanted to open a family business, that’s where they started. Marie

had been a home health aide in her student years, so she knew what

that entailed.

And they had first-hand experience with the need for home health care.

"My uncle was dying in the hospital and wanted to have care at

home. Unfortunately he didn’t get it," says Griffiths. "But

the need was definitely there."

Unlike many family businesses, this one did not need bookkeeping help,

because both the Griffiths are accountants by profession. They hope

to break even in the next three or four months.

After looking at buying a franchise they decided the margins were

too small. "We didn’t need another agency to tell us how it should

be done," he says. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days

a week. "We are the actual ones who are responding," says

Ian. "It is a dream we have always pursued, but nothing in life

is easy, whether you work in the corporate world or for yourself."

Ian Griffiths was born in Jamaica, where his father worked for Shell

Corp. and his mother did social work, government services for elderly

people and children. He met his future wife at Rutgers Newark, and

the pair graduated in 1996. Her post graduation jobs included

accounting

stints at Panasonic in Secaucus and RCN, and her current full-time

job is at the Federal Reserve Bank in Newark.

Meanwhile Ian worked long hours as fund accountant at OMR Systems

in the Bloomberg complex on Route 518. "It was a very demanding

schedule," he says, "because we maintained the same hours

as the stock market."

So when son Nathaniel was born in January, 2000, they started to do

some serious research. "We spoke to people in the industry. We

went to the libraries and visited websites and found that it was the

fastest growing field in the health care industry," says

Griffiths.

Months of paperwork later, the company had a license from the

Department

of Consumer Affairs.

Idam has some private clients but also has contracts to provide

services

for the state and county. "The typical care need is for homemakers

to do personal care — bathing, dressing, and grooming — and

some meal preparation and light household chores. The typical visit

varies from two to four hours," says Griffiths.

The Griffiths have a 10-person nursing staff. Suzette Gray handles

the health matters and training, and Dania Salerno, the nursing

supervisor,

handles some of the assessments. But they were surprised at the

shortage

of good care professionals. Home health aids must go through a

training

program and be licensed; unlicensed caregivers are restricted as to

the level of care they can provide.

"Because it is a family-oriented business, we understand the needs

of the client and the caregiver," says Marie. "They want to

know that the agency cares."

"We try to be positive about everything," says Ian. "We

try not to get too low. It is a part of my faith, that God wouldn’t

bring us this far to leave us."

Idam Home Care Services, 1607 South Olden Avenue,

Hamilton 08610. Ian Griffiths, manager. 609-888-4844; fax,

609-888-3443.

Top Of Page
National Rowing

Beginning next year the U.S. Rowing Association will

be able to use Mercer Lake and a new boathouse as a national training

center, and recreational rowers will also be able to use the improved

facilities there.

Improvements had been made to the lake, part of the Mercer County

Park system, for the 2001 Zurich Rowing Cup that was hosted by the

Princeton International Regatta Association. Now the regatta

association

is renovating and expanding the boathouse to provide a fully

functional

national and Olympic facility. The coaches’ office for the national

and Olympic rowing team is on Emmons Drive, but the team is

headquartered

in Indianapolis (317-237-5656)

The expanded boathouse will be used by teams from the Hun School,

Lawrenceville School, Peddie School and students from public schools

in Mercer County and also by PIRA sponsored rowing camps, clinics

and lessons.

The $1.5 million expansion includes three additional boat bays

(allowing

space for scholastic and recreational rowers in the county) and 2,000

square feet of office space. When completed, the boathouse will have

six boat bays, office space, training rooms and shower facilities,

says Finn M. W. Caspersen, former CEO of Beneficial, who chairs the

association. Construction is expected to be completed by summer, 2002.

Princeton International Regatta Association, Box

880, Princeton Junction 08550-9998. 609-915-1107. Home page:

regatta@princetonregatta.org

U.S. Rowing Association, 29 Emmons Drive, Suite

F-40, Princeton 08540. Mike Teti, head coach. 609-419-1936; fax,

609-419-1951.

Top Of Page
Management Moves

New Jersey Community Loan Fund, 16-18 West

Lafayette

Street, Trenton 08608-2088. David M. Scheck, executive director.

609-989-7766;

fax, 609-393-9401. Home page: njclf.com

David M. Scheck succeeds Anne Li as executive director of New Jersey’s

only private, statewide community development loan fund.

Scheck went to the University of Delaware and has an MBA from Fordham.

He has been a VISTA volunteer, helping affordable housing developers

and community development corporations in North Carolina. He also

worked at PNC Bank in an entrepreneurial unit focused on community

economic development, and as research analyst for a Wall Street

investment

bank. He came to NJCLF from the NJ Redevelopment Authority, where

he was in charge of loan pools for community development projects.

Opera Festival of New Jersey, 29 Emmons Drive,

Suite G-50, Princeton 08540. Douglas Rubin, executive director.

609-919-1003;

fax, 609-919-1008. Home page: www.operafest.org

Douglas Rubin and David Agler have replaced Karen Tiller at the helm

of the Opera Festival. Tiller was general director; Rubin is the new

executive director and Agler serves as artistic director.

Rubin has an engineering degree from Princeton and a Wharton MBA and

most recently worked at ALK Associates Inc. on Herrontown Road. Agler

had been resident conductor of San Francisco Opera and music director

of Vancouver Opera.

Top Of Page
Deaths

Bernard Miller, 74, on November 16. Until 1996 he was

vice president of research at the Textile Institute in Princeton.

A memorial service for Janice B. Stonaker, will be

Saturday,

December 1, at 3 p.m. at Montgomery Cultural Center’s 1860 House,

124 Montgomery Road, Skillman. A municipal and land use law attorney,

she died on November 19.

Jacob Landau, 83, on November 24. He was an

internationally

known illustrator, printmaker, and painter whose work is currently

on view at the Princeton Theological Seminary’s Erdman Hall Gallery.

(U.S. 1, November 14).


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