Hardware Accelerator Team, Hillside Hydro, Keeps the Energy Flowing After Demo Day
Managing and growing a startup during their first year of college is the last thing Jasper White and Hunter Hartshorne — two Ithaca High School graduates — had in mind when they started the project that became Hillside Hydro. In addition to juggling classes and new experiences as college students, Jasper and Hunter collaborate from different universities with one another and their Rev mentors . With what little free time they have, they commit to speaking with investors, visiting entrepreneurship and pitch competitions across the East Coast, and continued prototyping on their first product: a compact, lightweight, portable, stream-driven generator.
The team has had an exciting freshman year. “We competed in several business pitch competitions, we made it to the live semifinal round of both the McGinnis Venture Competition and the Allegheny Region Cleantech competition. We had videos go somewhat viral on Facebook getting 3.5 million views on one, and over a million on another.”
Inspiration for Hillside Hydro came from humble roots, the prospect of harnessing power from a nearby stream to speed up a manual labor project on the White family farm near Ithaca, NY, in the beautiful Finger Lakes region. What started as an idea turned into a fun project for their Ithaca High School Project Lead the Way (PLTW) capstone class, the challenging Engineering Design & Developing course, taught by Scott Breigle and Ian Krywe. After a successful Pitch Night, receiving the top prize of full funding, White and Hartshorne were encouraged by class mentor and Rev Entrepreneur-in-Residence Brian Bauer to continue development at Rev’s summer Hardware Accelerator program.
The team rapidly made connections and saw big successes throughout the summer. Access to tools like 3D printers at Rev and the specialized equipment at the DeFrees Hydraulics Lab at Cornell allowed the duo to develop their product quickly. Thanks to the close proximity of Rev and the Defrees Hydaulics Lab, as well as Rev mentors who helped connect them to lab staff, White and Hartshorne were able to design and print a part in the morning and test it in that same afternoon.
Business connections and networks also grew for the team; thanks to the heavy traffic of regional startups and innovators at Rev, the two high-schoolers were able to get advice and feedback from entrepreneurs. One lucky meeting for them was with Fernando Gòmez-Baquero, chief executive officer of BessTech, who specializes in high-performing battery technologies. Gòmez-Baquero was coming to the incubator for mentoring during his participation in the 76West clean energy business competition, and he was excited to hear about the prototype that Hillside Hydro envisioned.
“I was impressed by their product vision and by the innovative approach to a real problem. Within minutes of meeting them we were discussing technical ideas to improve their energy storage design,” said Gomez-Baquero. “It was a very natural collaboration, an impromptu brainstorming session that can only be possible in an ecosystem such as the one Rev is creating.”
The team of two has just completed their first year of college. White attends Hobart and William Smith and Columbia University for a five-year dual degree program in science and engineering. Hartshorne studies engineering and business at Carnegie Melon. The team presented at the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Melon in the fall, going on to receive a CMU Small Undergraduate Research Grant (SURG).
“We are currently working on raising 15-20 thousand dollars for a small batch production run of around 20-25 units come this summer,” wrote the team in an email. “For this summer, we have applied to several business incubators, focusing on prototyping and beta testing… hoping to launch via a crowdfunding platform in the spring of 2018.”
While White and Hartshorne are focused on initially launching the project in the camping and backpacking market, it’s exciting to imagine Hillside Hydro in five to ten years. Both members say that they can envision returning to Ithaca after college; perhaps we will even see them right here at Rev mentoring other students with big ideas and promising products just like their own.
Even though the team didn’t originally set out to be student-entrepreneurs, they’re doing a pretty good job at it.
“Rev has been such a tremendous positive influence on our project and ourselves as entrepreneurs”
To see what this year’s members of the Hardware Accelerator created, come to the August’s Networking@Rev event, the Hardware Accelerator Demo Day on August 10th. This event is free and open to the public.