Phone Battery Entrepreneur Might Have Game Changer on His Hands
By Chris Casacchia
Benjamin Park understands his customers, a likely consequence of using several different smartphones throughout the day.
There’s tone geared for work, another set on a family plan, and the latest is an unreleased Android model that carries a silicon, Lithium-ion polymer battery developed by his Irvine-based company that promises to hold more energy than any other on the consumer market.
“Somehow I became this guy who carries three phones,” the co-founder and chief technology officer of Enevate Corp. told the Business Journal “A lot of people develop products and never use them themselves.”
The HD-Energy battery, which will be released in the fall or early next year, is billed as providing a 90% charge in 15 minutes while increasing run time 355 to 50% compared to current offerings.
Park has been using the Android phone outfitted with Enevate’s removable battery for about three months.
On a call with a reporter, the battery was at 64%, an impressive charge after four days, two hours and 49 seconds of use.
“The battery life is just outstanding,” said Park, a recipient of the Business Journal’s Second Annual Innovator of the Year Awards (see profiles of the other award winners, page 1, 4, 6 and 8).
The engineer-turned-entrepreneur was born in Virginia and as a child began an annual routine travelling to visit family in South Korea. He attended high school there and graduated with an electrical engineering and computer science degree from Seoul National University. After earning a master’s degree at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., he headed west in 2003 to work on a doctorate at the University of California-Irvine, where he studied under Marc Madou, chancellor’s professor at UCI’s Henry Samueli School f Engineering and one of the nation’s top minds in microelectronic mechanical systems, a technology utilized in movie projectors and air bag crash detection, among other applications.
The company in 2010 changed its name to Enevate after switching to silicon-based lithium-ion batteries, a key transition as manufacturers demanded larger, higher capacity batteries with more energy density for consumer electronics.
“That’s when we had to reinvent ourselves,” Park said.
Enevate raised $24 million two years later in its second financing round from new and existing investors, including its largest backer, San Diego-based Mission Ventures, and San Jose-based CEC Capital LLC; Tsing Capital, the first clean-tech venture capital firm in China; and Presidio Ventures, a Santa Clara-based unit of Sumitomo Corp. in Tokyo.
The Company, which has raised about $60 million, is in negotiations with several original-equipment manufacturers in the mobile device segment to supply its battery technology for their product lines.
“We wanted to sell our first product in a well-established, growing market rather than a market that needed to be established,” Park said.
The company also is targeting tablets, ultrathin notebooks and drones. Enevate has fielded several inquiries from electric vehicle makers and accessory suppliers, potential paving a new road for business.
Close to Home
The company, which employs about 50 at the University Research Park, is adding a 10,000-square-fot space in Tustin to house equipment and keep intellectual property closer to home.
“We don’t have key IP in Asia, but it’s an extra precaution having engineers near critical manufacturing processes” Park said.
Enevate aims to mimic the business model of Broadcom Corp., a fabless chipmaker that relied on contract manufacturers and foundries primarily in Asia to churn out millions of chips annually. The Irvine-based company in February was acquired for $37 billion by Avago Technologies Inc. in Singapore, taking the name Broadcom Ltd.
Enevate in June hired former Broadcom executive Robert Rango as chief executive.