Gregory Chrin '10, Founder/CEO of Apis Innovation, Wins Ben Franklin Venture Idol

Greg Chrin deals firsthand with the problem of methane escaping from landfill gas control systems.

He handles regulatory issues involving the methane capture system at his family’s Chrin Brothers Sanitary Landfill in Williams Township. The greenhouse gas that is collected from decomposing trash there is collected and piped beneath Interstate 78 to a gas-to-energy plant in Glendon that generates 3.2 megawatts for the region’s power grid.

Globally, fugitive emissions of methane from landfills are equal to around 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or 65 percent more greenhouse gases than the United States' entire transportation industry releases annually.
That’s according to Greg Chrin’s company, Apis Innovation, which has a solution.

This week, Apis and its smartWell device beat out six competitors in the Ben Franklin Venture Idol for startup technology businesses.
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania hosted the 16th annual competition Wednesday night at its Ben Franklin TechVentures. Apis Innovation is also based at the business incubator on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus in Bethlehem.

Venture Idol is billed as a cross between television’s “Shark Tank” and “American Idol.” As in the past, this year’s field of seven early stage companies went through a round of afternoon judging to select three finalists. Each finalist then made a pitch to an audience, who selected the winner by voting with “Ben Bucks” dropped into boxes representing the three startups. A panel of investors also offered feedback on each proposal.

As the winner, Apis Innovation took home the largest share of $15,000 prorated among the competitors, from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Apis says its devices replace a costly and inefficient manual process for reducing the amount of methane that escapes from landfills' gas collection systems. Instead of having a technician physically travel around a landfill, tuning hundreds of gas wells by hand, Apis offers a remote, autonomous approach system that enables landfills to capture about 20 percent more methane.

"This is a way to automate it," Chrin said.

Apis Innovation's business model is selling monthly subscriptions of $200 for the fully automated device -- the smartWell -- or $75 for a monitoring-only device known as the wellMonitor.

"The Apis system can increase a typical customer's biogas-to-energy revenue by more than $400,000 and reduce Operations and Maintenance costs by $25,000," Chrin wrote in his summary pitch for Venture Idol.
The market for the system is vast, with 719 of the United States’ 2,400 landfills operating gas-to-energy systems, 44 landfills with these systems either planned or under construction, and 401 landfills that are candidates for electricity generation, according to the company.

Apis was formed in 2017 and is piloting the methane control system at the Williams Township landfill.

In winning over the Venture Idol crowd of about 300 people, Apis Innovation beat fellow finalists American Paper Bag LLC and Ophidion.

Here is how Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania describes the six other companies that participated in this year’s Venture Idol:
  • American Paper Bag LLC, based in Wilkes-Barre, is the first to manufacture and sell an innovative new style of paper shopping bag and paper mailer in North America. Produced with proprietary machinery, APB’s products are highly customizable (sealing strips, die cutting, etc.), provide operational cost savings (fit more bags on each pallet/truck), and are more environmentally friendly (use less paper) than traditional paper bags.
  • Ophidion, based in Bethlehem, is commercializing a new technology that enables the delivery of therapeutics, including large molecules, to the brain following systemic administration. The company is leveraging its proprietary blood-brain barrier transport technology to advance a systemically delivered gene-silencing siRNA product for the treatment of Huntington’s disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no current cure. The technology may also be applicable to the delivery of other important therapeutic modalities, including oligonucleotides, peptides, and monoclonal antibodies, to the brain to treat various neurodegenerative diseases and brain cancer.
  • Build My Team, based in Honesdale, produces Software-as-a-Service job placement tools. The company provides clients an automated, proven, and proprietary screening process that includes detailed profiling. The technology substantially reduces the time and effort required to identify and hire new staff, and improves the chances that the new hire will succeed and stay at the organization.
  • PrintElements Corp., also in Honesdale, built a print and packaging service with modern technology and a diverse network of suppliers. Its technology combines print-specific tools and integrated software to simplify project management, and a connected network of suppliers to enable a more efficient print supply chain. PrintElements’ Print-as-a-Service model provides the structural flexibility needed to support customers in a streamlined end-to-end experience.
  • Skillion Inc., based in Bethlehem, provides a mobile app and Internet of Things device for remotely monitoring and controlling micro-mobility products such as electronic bikes (e-bikes) to provide safety, prevent theft, and/or manage rentals. Both the American and European micro-mobility markets are expected to grow significantly over the next five years, particularly in urban centers, creating the need for technology to support the sector.
  • studio BE Mindfulness LLC, in Wilkes-Barre, provides scientifically-backed mindfulness techniques to corporate executives, managers, and other employees by integrating ancient Buddhist teachings and professional enhancement curriculum. Combining the reach of an online e-learning platform and the nuance of individualized instruction, participants increase productivity, reduce stress, improve interpersonal communications, and enhance resilience through the coursework.
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania President and CEO Chad Paul hosted Ben Franklin Venture Idol, and the emcee was Don Yount, president and CEO of Critical Mention and an operating partner with Activate Ventures.

The investor panelists were Jim Alperin; Paul Martino, of Bullpen Capital; Mark Mitchell, of Delaware Crossing Investor Group; and Doug Petillo, of Leading Edge Ventures.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania is an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and is funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority. Launched more than 35 years ago, Ben Franklin Technology Partners has four regional centers across Pennsylvania and says it generates $3.90 in additional state tax revenue for every dollar invested.

This article originally appeared on Lehigh Valley Live on November 8, 2019. View the full article here.

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