USM Venture Capital Fund Supports $1.2 Million Investment in MF Fire, a UMCP-Based Fire Technology Start-up
First Investment from recently created Maryland Momentum Fund
Adelphi, Md. (Nov. 9, 2017) – The University System of Maryland (USM) has selected MF Fire, a start-up company developing innovations in the wood-burning stove industry based on technology advances from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), as recipient of the first investment from the recently established Maryland Momentum Fund.
As part of an initial funding round of $1.2 million, the Maryland Momentum Fund is contributing $192,500. The USM Board of Regents created the $25 million fund in 2016 to enable the system to invest in and support promising commercial opportunities arising from advances in research and intellectual property at USM campuses. Other critical sources of money in the $1.2 million funding round include Bill Clarke, a leading clean tech investor.
MF Fire is a fire technology company with origins at Department of Fire Protection and Engineering, which offers the only fully accredited undergraduate program of its kind in the United States, and is one of only three accredited such graduate programs in the U.S.
In 2012, a professor approached graduate students and fire protection engineers Ryan Fisher and Taylor Myers with the challenge of developing an eco-friendly “next-generation wood stove.” Together, Fisher and Myers assembled a graduate fire science team and developed a wood-burning stove whose “clean” capacities comply with more-stringent emissions regulations that, at the time, threatened to eliminate all but six wood stoves from the market.
MF Fire has sought to engineer the perfect wood fire. This app-driven, ultra-clean wood stove has won the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Clean Energy Prize for Energy Efficiency in 2014 and first place in the particulate emissions category at the 2013 Alliance for Green Heat Wood Stove Decathlon. While traditional wood stoves are dirty and inefficient, MF Fire reimagined the wood stove as a clean energy source and created a smart stove that is up to 60x cleaner than average wood stoves.
Fisher (company chief operating officer) and Taylor (chief technical officer) have teamed with 28-year business veteran and entrepreneur Paul LaPorte to develop a commercial model for the company. LaPorte, a Baltimore resident, is chief executive officer. MF Fire bases its entire production efforts in the U.S., with its headquarters, as well as distribution and assembly, centered at its facility in west Baltimore.
“The Maryland Momentum Fund embodies our goal of maximizing resources throughout the University System of Maryland and enhancing the system’s economic value to the state,” said USM Chancellor Robert L. Caret. “I am pleased the Maryland Momentum Fund has selected as its first investment MF Fire, a cutting-edge technology that was developed by keen young minds at USM’s flagship campus in College Park. I also salute the vision of the board’s Committee on Economic Development and Technology Commercialization, under the leadership of Regent Gary Attman, in creating this venture fund and recognizing its potential.”
The MF Fire stove, known as Catalyst, already exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2020 emission standard. Its combustion process releases 30 percent less carbon dioxide than traditional wood stoves, using a “smart controller” that automatically adjusts to deliver an ideal fire continuously.
Catalyst utilizes an intelligent control system to optimize combustion and make it easier to start and maintain than traditional wood stoves. Users can control Catalyst with an app on their smart phone.
“With our Catalyst smart wood stove, MF Fire is pushing the bounds of what is possible in wood heat. For the first time, consumers can expect a clean, safe, efficient and effortless wood stove experience – something totally familiar, yet completely modern,” said LaPorte, the MF Fire CEO. “We have reimagined wood fire as a clean energy source, and used state-of-the-art fire science and technology to bring that vision to life – one that deserves a prominent place, whether in a modern smart home or a rural cabin.”
The USM Board of Regents established the Maryland Momentum Fund to concentrate on filling gaps in the funding pipeline to push USM's most innovative ideas into the marketplace.
With a $10 million commitment from the USM already in place, the system is collaborating with UM Ventures to reach out to area venture capitalists and angel investors for an additional $15 million. UM Ventures is a joint initiative of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) to commercialize technologies and expand industry collaboration.
“We are very excited to have MF Fire as the initial investment from the Momentum Fund. The company offers an efficient product based on combustion science and it emerged out of a center of excellence at the University of Maryland,” said David Wise, a longtime regional business innovator now serving as director of the Maryland Momentum Fund. “The Momentum Fund was established to support investments that create competitive companies while fostering our unique innovation ecosystem.”
As it approaches the $25 million level, the Maryland Momentum Fund will leverage this financial support to achieve several objectives:
• Accelerate the success and profitability of USM start-ups;
• Attract promising entrepreneurs and innovators to USM institutions;
• Seize the opportunity to commercialize valuable USM intellectual property;
• Develop long-term financial returns that can be reinvested in future start-ups affiliated with the USM.
Contact: Mike Lurie