Startup companies face a virtual Mt. Everest when it comes to gaining industry credibility and the interest of potential new customers. No matter how great the product or market fit is, garnering the attention of industry leaders and decision-makers is always an epic task.

One way to build up industry and technical credibility is to respond to competitions and requests for proposals from industry influencers and federal agencies that invite new innovation from private-sector startups. But like every resource commitment when a company is young, it is a balancing act. Too great a focus on federal requests for proposals or entries into competitions can cause a company to lose focus on the day-to-day requirements of company-building and selling their product; however, when the startup approaches the process with a laser-like focus, the outcomes can accelerate growth.

Ten-Nine Technologies, the Oklahoma leader in battery innovation formed around the non-toxic nanomaterials invented by CEO Paige Johnson, is a standout when it comes to sharing their story with audiences that can impact entire industries.

“Devices are only as good as the batteries that power them, and batteries are only as good as the materials that are in them,” said Ashley Gordon Schaefer, head of cell development at Ten-Nine. “We are a material science company with entirely new material for all batteries, including those in electric vehicles and electrified aviation. Ten-Nine is tackling the big problems of the world through nano-material production.”

Ten-Nine’s extensive technical validation, from rigorous material testing both in-house and at external labs, has caused government agencies and industry groups to take Ten-Nine seriously. In battery innovation, interested high-potential government agencies include NASA and the Department of Defense.

In December, Schaefer took this message to NASA as one of only ten finalists (chosen from more than 100 applicants) in the prestigious NASA iTech Cycle II competition, presenting applications of the TENIX™ technology for aviation and space. On the same day, CEO Johnson spoke to a global audience of battery technologists from leading automotive OEMS and their key suppliers at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference, where Ten-Nine was one of only eight finalists invited to present at the EnerTech Innovation and Investment Forum.

“We both used the same data for two very different markets to talk about the application of our product in rechargeable systems, for the first time in a public setting,” Schaefer said. “Electric aviation cares about high discharge rates to take off and land safely. Most of the fuel is used to get the aircraft off the ground. For electric vehicles, battery range and weight are the priorities.”

Ten-Nine’s new class of high-energy materials has seven U.S. patents and net-zero goals for its carbon footprint. No wonder leaders at NASA and in the automotive industry asked to hear more.

The message: this new class of material creates impactful gains in aerospace and EV applications with a cost-effective, drop-in strategy of replacing just 10% of traditional cathode-active material with TENIX™ nanomaterial. Introducing a drop in material means battery manufacturers don’t have to worry about changing processes, equipment, or formulations. And it has been scaled to tonnage production volumes.

When a company like Ten-Nine sets out to solve the big problems of the world through innovation that disrupts entire industries, there will be resistance. This startup is gaining international attention and industry support to maneuver these choppy waters successfully. Watch this company.

Scott Meacham CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at [email protected].

This article was originally published by The Oklahoman.