Engineering is the Easy part
Marshall Cox '03 MS, M.Eng. '04 knows that launching a successful start-up takes more than technical savvy. "It's fun building something that works," says the two-time entrepreneur. "The challenge is making sure that what you're building has a large market—and convincing people to buy it."
Cox is co-founder and acting CEO of Radiator Labs, developers of a low-cost, easily installed radiator retrofit that can equalize temperatures across apartments in a building, saving fuel and improving personal comfort. A wireless connection allows radiators in individual apartments to communicate with the boiler room.
Cox is also co-founder, acting CEO, and VP of Customer and Business Development for Chromation Inc. The company uses new, low-cost nanotechnology to measure the color content of light. It's photonic crystal arrays can produce a spectrometer at a fraction of the size and cost of current diffraction technologies.
Cox transferred to Cornell in his junior year and "found Cornell amazing," he says. Material science was a very small department, he explained, with only 17 students and some 12 professors "so the ratio of faculty to students was enormously high." The vast majority of undergrads were involved in research. "This early introduction to making new things that solve problems gave me a great advantage," says Cox, now a Ph.D. student at Columbia University.
Most important, he credits his Cornell M.Eng. adviser Professor George Malliaras for introducing him "to everyone I know today that has helped me," including his former boss and now current Ph.D. adviser Professor John Kymissis.
Cox's Ph.D. work specializes in organic semiconductor electronics. His projects include organic photovoltaics and a human brain implant to treat epilepsy, currently in early human trials.
Founded in March 2011, Cox's Radiator Labs aims to seize the business opportunity inherent in the approximately 15 percent energy waste in the New York metropolitan area due to overheated apartments, equivalent to $480 million, or $260 per apartment, each year. Preliminary data indicates a U.S. market of $300 million; $77 million for New York City. The European market is estimated at over $400 million.
Two provisional patents have been filed and a small pilot is underway in two Columbia University residential buildings.
Turning to his other enterprise, Chromation, Cox points out that many technologies rely on the ability to measure components of light, particularly in chemical and biological sensing, process monitoring, and quality control. Most spectrometers are made up of optical components, such as mirrors, reflectors, and gratings. Chromation's solid-state, postage-stamp-sized device can be produced at a fraction of the cost and addresses 50 percent of the $3.7 billion market. And, the device's small size and cost could open new markets.
Cox says Chromation is funded by several government agencies, including branches of the armed services, and is working with multiple commercial entities. Most recently the company received a Blue Oceans grant from Ocean Optics, a leading worldwide manufacturer of miniature spectrometers.