Tompkins Weekly

IAED invests in Ithaca-based Dimensional Energy


Dimensional Energy staff members (from left to right) Aaron Breetwor, Brad Brennan, Bolaji Alonge, Adrienne Lee, CEO and founder Jason Salfi, Brian Bowman, Mihir Gada and Huck Milton at the Integrated Test Center in Gillette, Wyoming, late last year. Photo by Aaron Breetwor/Dimensional Energy.

Late last month, Ithaca Area Economic Development (IAED) approved a $50,000 convertible debt investment to Dimensional Energy, a company that extracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converts it into syngas, the precursor to jet fuel.

According to a recent press release, the investment was part of a $3 million bridge funding round led by Yellowdog, a South Korean venture fund that invests in startups that address environmental and social problems. The investment was made through the Opportunity Fund, part of IAED’s Revolving Loan Fund Program.

As previously covered by Tompkins Weekly in February of 2020 (t.ly/BYM4), Dimensional Energy’s proprietary technique — developed at Cornell University’s startup incubator, the McGovern Center — converts CO2 into syngas to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The company was one of two finalists in the $20M Carbon XPRIZE competition this spring and is currently working to scale the process to make the fuel marketable, according to the release. IAED reports that Dimensional Energy projects the creation of 57 new jobs on top of its current eight-member team over the next four years.

IAED’s Opportunity Fund opened last year, with Dimensional Energy’s loan being the third such loan since the fund’s inception.

Chuck Schwerin, managing director of business services for IAED, explained that the “impetus behind the fund was to enable IAED to participate in the support of early-stage, high-growth companies that are emanating from our community, from the incubators at Cornell, but not necessarily just from Cornell.”

“What we were not really serving was the early-stage, riskier company that is an important component in our local economy,” he said. “The companies that are spinning out of Cornell, for example, are in too early a stage with too short a runway on revenue projections for a bank to be interested in them. … And we felt that that was an important niche for us to participate in in some fashion, albeit a small one. So, we created this Opportunity Fund, which as it suggests, helps to support that segment of the economy that really has fewer options.”

Dimensional Energy was founded in 2016, and it was making significant progress just before the pandemic hit the county. Come spring of 2020, Dimensional Energy faced numerous challenges, especially with its supply chain, but that didn’t slow them down, as founder and CEO Jason Salfi explained.

“Some of the metal stock that we were seeking, whether for everyday fittings or specialty items, were suddenly given months longer lead times than expected,” he said in an email. “A lot was uncertain at that time. I decided that it would be best to go faster than slower. With a tremendous effort from the Dimensional Energy team, we figured out a lot of things ahead of schedule as per our previous technical roadmap. This put us on the accelerated path that we are on now.”

Dimensional Energy CEO and founder Jason Salfi stands in front of his company’s finished installation for the Carbon XPRIZE held last spring at the Integrated Test Center in Gillette, Wyoming. The installation includes a solar tracker, solar concentrating mirror and test reactor to convert carbon dioxide into syngas, the precursor to jet fuel. Photo by Aaron Breetwor/Dimensional Energy.

By August of 2020, Dimensional Energy staff had the pilot for the Carbon XPRIZE built and on a trailer.

“Our ability to convert carbon dioxide into fuels was suddenly far beyond where we were just six months prior,” Salfi said. “We transitioned from 100% lab experiments to field demo powered by direct concentrated solar. The system was automated and integrated and ready to set up. We towed our pilot to Gillette, [Wyoming], unloaded, set up over the course of four weeks, turned the system on, and it worked.”

Salfi later approached IAED regarding its Opportunity Fund, seeking bridge capital to help the company scale its Carbon XPRIZE pilot, file patents and hire more employees. Schwerin said that IAED was interested in investing in Dimensional Energy because of the company’s focus on climate change.

“The fact that they had gone far enough to demonstrate that the technology had promise and was demonstrating benefits was of interest,” he said. “Also, the fact that they were garnering the interest from some interesting investors around the country and the world also was validating for us, that they had something of promise.”

As far as what lies ahead for Dimensional Energy, Marketing Officer Aaron Breetwor explained that the company’s biggest goal is increasing diversity, equity and inclusion.

“There are not necessarily a large number of women, people of color, etc., working in green technology,” he said. “So, we want to be as welcoming a space [as possible] for people who, generally speaking, are more adversely affected by this, by the effects of climate change. We want to include all stakeholders in the solutions.”

Beyond that, Breetwor said Dimensional Energy will be focusing on market-driven solutions to climate change.

“The best way to solve climate change is not just to make it make sense, but to make it make money for the people who are already spending money doing this type of stuff,” he said. “We have to use what’s available in order to make changes because the changes need to happen now.”

As for the future of IAED’s Opportunity Fund, Schwerin encourages founders of early-stage, high-growth companies with roots in Tompkins County to reach out to IAED for consideration for funding.

“My goal is to let the players in the investment space know that we’re here, that we are interested in participating as long as the company is based in Tompkins County and is raising money led by a professional investment organization, and meets our goals of generating employment here, and hopefully providing a good or a service which is in keeping with our aims to make Tompkins County a healthy and vibrant place to build a company,” he said.

For more information about IAED’s Opportunity Fund, visit ithacaareaed.org. To learn more about Dimensional Energy, visit its website at dimensionalenergy.com.

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