Written by Jerred Ziegler.
Will Zell, co-founder of Nikola Labs, wants to help people keep their smartphones charged for longer. His company has developed a phone case that captures wasted radio frequencies to slow the discharge rate of the phone’s battery. While most phones have a battery life of eight hours, a Nikola Labs case can extend that number up to 13.
“Phones are meant to be used on the go. People shouldn’t constantly be tethered to the wall to power their devices,” said Zell. “We want to create innovative wireless power products that reduce the drain on batteries.”
Phones emit radio frequencies at all times, and this constant production drains batteries, whether the phone is in use or just sitting on a desk. Nikola Labs started in late summer 2014 when Zell worked with The Ohio State University Technology Commercialization Office to create an innovative phone case using Dr. Chi-Chih Chen’s radio frequency technology. Zell’s goal was to have the breakthrough product on the market by late summer 2015.
“I’d say that’s our biggest accomplishment to date as a company,” said Zell. “We are on target to actually have this product on the market within a year of starting the business.”
Nikola Labs recently received a $100,000 Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Startup Fund (TVSF) grant. The company also just closed a $1.25 million round of seed financing. The funding will be used to build more case designs that fit more phones.
Zell is committed to keeping Nikola Labs in central Ohio and is working to secure the company’s entire supply chain in the region. His focus is on community and creating a business that has a positive impact on the local economy.
“The status quo is that you need to build hardware in China. I disagree with that,” said Zell. “I have the ability to jump in the car and drive 20 minutes to talk to a supplier. This is hugely valuable when working on a tight timeline. In Ohio, you can create businesses that support the community if you find the right partners who can build your product locally.”
Zell’s best advice for new entrepreneurs is to find a focus and put your energy behind accomplishing your goal. Survey the marketplace, pick a path to success and make sure everyone on your team is working towards that success.
“At the end of the day, shipping the product and getting it in the customer’s hand is what matters,” said Zell. “It makes me happy to see so many central Ohio companies finding this kind of traction and I’m excited to see the future. It is possible to build solid businesses in the Columbus area.”