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Fetherstill’s Journey in Windsor-Essex’s Tech Ecosystem

Moving to Windsor has, by far, been the greatest decision I’ve made in the past three years,” boasts Mayank Balakrishnan, the visionary behind Fetherstill Inc., “Not only for my family but also for my startup.”

Mayank brings a wealth of experience and a passion for sustainable transportation. His journey into the world of electric vehicles began with a master’s degree in Transport Planning and the Environment from The University of Leeds. Working in sustainable transportation, Mayank quickly realized that the heart of any electric technology lies in its battery, and the rest was history.

“I realized that everything revolves around batteries, not just modern chemistry but also the potential of batteries in replacing existing energy for the future,” explains Mayank, “They’re looking to replace fossil fuels, not just with vehicles but everything from energy storage to small applications. Initially, my idea was to focus on electric vehicles, but going through the journey, I realized there’s much more to electric energy than batteries”.

Mayank eventually found himself pulled to the Windsor-Essex region, prompted by solid feedback encouraging him to explore opportunities; the company’s focus expanded beyond electric vehicles to encompass a broader spectrum, including small portable power stations, home battery backups, drones, robotics, and electric mobility. “What I see is a massive opportunity in all these fields,” explains Mayank.

The decision to move to Windsor proved pivotal for Mayank and Fetherstill Inc. Despite the challenges inherent in working in the Advanced Manufacturing sector, the move opened doors to a supportive ecosystem that would play a crucial role in the startup’s growth.

Acknowledging the challenges of working in a capital-intensive industry, especially in the early stages of a startup, the product’s complexity and the need for strong collaborations and partnerships became apparent early on.

Mayank emphasizes that the journey has been financially challenging, but with the proper support, progress has been substantial. “I think the challenge has been the finances, of course, but I’ve been fortunate with support in terms of funding,” he reflects.

WETechAlliance and Invest WindsorEssex emerge as pillars of support in Fetherstill’s journey. Mayank describes WEtech as a constant presence since day one, highlighting the pivotal role of Susana Martins, WEtech Business Advisor and Mayank’s mentor, in supporting and keeping him on track.

The collaborations facilitated by WEtech, including a recent one with the University of Windsor, have been instrumental in expanding Fetherstill’s network and resources. “WEtech has been with me from day one. I’ve received great support from Susana on a very periodic basis. She keeps me in check and on track,” Mayank expresses.

“In the startup world, collaboration is critical, transforming individual efforts into a cohesive whole,” says Susana. “As a WEtech business advisor, my role is to provide practical guidance, ensuring entrepreneurs stay focused on their goals while aligning with the ever-changing business landscape. Fetherstill has formed key partnerships in the Windsor-Essex region, and is developing new electric technologies key to industry. I have no doubt they’ll positively contribute to the quickly evolving landscape of automotive technology.”

Invest Windsor Essex, another key player in Fetherstill’s support network, has proven to be an invaluable partner. Mayank commends the entire team for their support, from crucial events connecting Fetherstill with potential clients, to ongoing partnerships in virtual reality (VR) and cybersecurity. “I’m again partnering with them for the VR cave and cybersecurity. WEtech and Invest Windsor-Essex have been crucial to my journey, and I would recommend them to any startup,” he affirms. Invest WindsorEssex has been able to provide funding for Fetherstill from Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

The collaborative efforts extend beyond these organizations. Fetherstill Inc. has leveraged programs like the Ontario Conversion Package, Mathworks Bundles, Ansys Simulation Software collaboration, and participation in conferences facilitated by WindsorEssex Regional Technology Development Site (WE RTDS). These programs provide essential resources and create opportunities for exposure and networking.

As Mayank reflects on the support received, it becomes evident that Fetherstill’s success is intertwined with the collaborative and comprehensive ecosystem fostered by WEtech, Invest WindsorEssex, and other partner organizations.

Mackenzie Habash, Program Manager at Invest WindsorEssex, offers a unique perspective on collaborating with Fetherstill in the advanced manufacturing sector. She highlights Fetherstill’s innovative approach and deep integration into Windsor’s tech ecosystem.

“Fetherstill stands out as an exemplar of innovation in the advanced manufacturing sector. Under the leadership of Mayank, the founder, the company has deeply embedded itself within Windsor’s vibrant tech ecosystem,” Mackenzie emphasizes.

Mackenzie identifies Fetherstill’s journey with the WE RTDS as a remarkable progression. The company has actively participated in technical and engineering programs, starting with the Ontario Conversion Package, where Fetherstill moved to Ontario without a fully functioning prototype.

“Their progression through multiple developmental programs is a testament to their remarkable growth. From those nascent stages to actively participating in technical and engineering programs, Fetherstill has showcased substantial technological advancement and maturity as a company,” Mackenzie observes.

Fetherstill’s resilience, adaptability, and unwavering determination to succeed shine through their involvement within the local tech ecosystem. “Fetherstill’s team has consistently displayed an unwavering commitment and readiness to embrace opportunities presented to them. Their proactive engagement, such as willingly traveling across the province to showcase their company and establish connections, reflects the team’s resilience, adaptability, and unwavering determination to succeed against all odds,” Mackenzie remarks.

Fetherstill has drawn on the support of Invest WindsorEssex and WE RTDS programs in the intricate landscape of technology commercialization to overcome challenges. Mackenzie emphasizes the pivotal role these collaborations play in Fetherstill’s growth trajectory.

“Fetherstill’s journey offers crucial lessons for startups and entrepreneurs. Their success highlights the importance of seizing every available opportunity and actively building a robust network within the industry. This approach has been pivotal in Fetherstill’s growth and can serve as valuable guidance for others navigating the intricate landscape of technology commercialization,” said Mackenzie.

The collaboration extends to esteemed organizations like St. Clair College and WETechAlliance, each contributing distinct resources vital to Fetherstill’s advancement. Mackenzie highlights the multifaceted support that ensures Fetherstill receives the necessary resources, exposure, and networking opportunities critical for their growth.

Mayank Balakrishnan paints a compelling vision for the future of Fetherstill Inc. The company aims to be a technology hub in Windsor, focusing on creating scalable solutions for clients. The plan involves connecting with organizations within the region.

“What I’m looking at for my company is to create scalable solutions for clients,” says Mayank, “We’re looking forward to connecting with organizations within the region, and we really want to be a technology hub in Windsor, and that can be two major groups within our company – the designers and the engineers.”

Mayank looks forward to creating an ecosystem where Fetherstill Inc. can connect local talent with suppliers within the region, creating a logistics supply chain communication and eventually setting up a base in the U.S.

“I think this region is so strong; you have some powerful educational institutions here, you have strong suppliers here, and the area is close to one of the strongest markets in the world. Overall, we want to flourish in battery tech and be there in the energy storage application and anything from robotics to drones; we want to be part of all these industries.”

Original Article on WETechAlliance

WETechAlliance is one of seventeen Regional Innovation Centres, funded by the Province of Ontario, serving the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent regions. We provide entrepreneurs with business services, training, perks, mentorship and strategic connections to help bring new ideas to market, scale to the next level and build a dynamic culture and a community of innovation. WETechAlliance has served as the catalyst for technology and innovation in the Windsor-Essex + Chatham-Kent regions since 2011.

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