“No matter how exciting a technology might be, regardless of what it enables, the cost will ultimately decide when and if the technology will be accepted or adopted,” says Steve Wilcenski, Co-Founder & CEO of BNNano, Inc. speaking of their unique business model coupled with scientific technology.
Under the leadership of Steve, BNNano leverages innovations in material science to transform, revitalize, and revolutionize industrial commodities. Currently, it is the only company across the world that has a commercially viable manufacturing process for Boron Nitride Nanotubes.
NanoBarbTM, its patent-pending Boron Nitride Nanotube, costs orders of magnitude lower than any other manufacturer and comes with a promise of nonpareil quality.
BNNano: Getting Off the Grounds
Steve founded BNNano in the year 2016 along with his business partner, Jason Taylor. Before starting BNNano, Steve mentions that they lacked experience with boron nitride nanotubes. However, their experience in material science and the commercialization of complex materials provided them a bias-free process born in the laboratory without any preconceived approaches.
Initially, the idea was to approach the production of this material solely from a business perspective. “We were fiscally conservative and focused our efforts relying on innovation. We knew we had to create a new way to produce boron nitride nanotubes at the current (or lower) cost for similar nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes. Given there are only two primary ingredients, Boron and Nitrogen, we were confident we could find a low-cost approach,” said Steve narrating their motive behind starting BNNano.
Right from the beginning, Steve and Jason were invested in examining and researching the supply chain, manufacturing process, cost structures with as much rigor as they did on the technology. They wanted to be sure that with growth, they could also tangibly reduce costs. They attacked the bill of materials needed for production from a factory design and labor efficiency perspective. And today, they have a truly advanced manufacturing operation that maximizes output while minimizing resources needed for production.
Our conversations with Steve and Jason went much beyond how they established BNNano, Inc. by keeping their nose to the grindstone. Below is an excerpt.
What do you think forms the foundation on which successful organizations are built?
I believe that patience, discipline, and adaptability are the foundation for all successful and forward-thinking organizations. To find long-term success, businesses cannot succumb to a corporate culture of prioritizing wants above needs. Organizations that stay true to this will be well-positioned to survive hard times and flourish in good times.
Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
We initially started the business to be the premier supplier of boron nitride nanotubes but wanted to develop a process to manufacture this super material while addressing the common problems that plagued nanomaterials. We hoped that by providing the desired material that was easy to use and relatively inexpensive then we would have an excellent chance to gain customers and grow our business.
As we grew our business, many customers told us that they would love to use our materials but they had no experience handling nanomaterials, or their policies prevented them from doing so. We are big believers in listening to our customers so we developed the capability to pre-mix or modify our materials into chemistries that would be easier for our customers to use. Based on customer feedback we expanded our offerings.
We took this idea a bit further by developing additional products. We focused on metals, specifically aluminum and copper. We developed master alloys that would enable new alloys of aluminum and copper.
What would you say motivates you the most to do what you do?
I am driven by many motivations. One of the strongest is the obligation I feel towards those who have funded us. While we have a few angel investors, we have also received financial and emotional support from our friends and family. Realizing that the people whom I have known for most of my life believe in me and the company enough to be willing to take the risk and invest in us is motivating. I cannot let them down.
It is also motivating to know we are innovators and the first to do what we do. We may not be the first to make boron nitride nanotubes, but we are the only ones globally that can mass-produce them. More importantly, we improved boron nitride nanotubes by creating our NanoBarbs™.
Finally, I am motivated by our potential. We have an amazing team and are poised to grow BNNano into a company that disrupts industries and facilitates new and exciting innovations. Eventually, we hope to repay the kindness and support that our friends and family have bestowed upon us by creating jobs in small towns and make a difference in our community.
Where do you see you and your company a couple of years from now?
BNNano’s growth is going to be our primary motto. For 2021 and beyond, we are planning to expand our operations and capabilities so that we can help our customers integrate our NanoBarbs™ into their products. We are continually working to improve the quality of our products and reduce costs so that our materials can bring disruptive innovations from small scale to large.
We also have plans to expand our production capacity by orders of magnitude. In addition to developing our NanoBarb™ Aluminum and Copper production lines, we have a few new products to introduce to the marketplace.
We also see 2021 as a time when we will continue to grow our IP Portfolio, solidify strategic partnerships in key markets and focus on international growth. We hope that by creating clusters of nanotechnology companies, we will be able to make a significant impact on the community by developing new materials and creating new business and job opportunities for individuals.
Knowing the Leaders Behind BNNano | Steve Wilcenski, Co-Founder & CEO
Steve co-founded BNNano with business partner, Jason Taylor in 2016. They initially focused on developing new technologies while concurrently working to understand cost structures and supply chains. As one of the co-inventors for all BNNano’s original Intellectual Property, Steve was heavily involved with the operations and original process design. His role has since evolved away from the technical side of the business to head the operations at BNNano as the CEO. As a part of his current role, Steve is focused on fundraising, corporate resources, and acting as the main point of communication and face for BNNano.
Jason Taylor, Co-Founder & CTO
Jason began his career as a Process Development Engineer, working to identify critical factors and optimize multilayer GaN epitaxy for LED products initially introduced in the dashboards of cars, cellphones, and video screens. Working directly with customers and internal R&D groups, Taylor helped to develop innovative ways to address market opportunities creating ten patents along the way. During this time, Jason began looking for new materials that could lead to the “next” revolution; he found Boron Nitride Nanotubes. Jason earned a B.S. and M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Virginia Tech.
“Our process was designed with efficacy and ease of use in mind. Our process is very efficient and produces no pollutants and no toxic wastes.”