Brikner and her business partner Louis Perna (AeroAstro ’09, SM’14), began Accion Systems in 2012. Their company is based on a technology they developed with AeroAstro Professor Paulo Lozano in AeroAstro’s Space Propulsion Laboratory — a compact, inexpensive, electric-based satellite thruster system. These tiny rocket motors will enable inexpensive microsatellites to accomplish work previously possible only with large, expensive satellites. As a result of this new technology, sophisticated space missions once exclusively the province of government and large aerospace firms are now within reach of entrepreneurs like Brikner. The challenge is getting this new technology from the lab to the marketplace, says Brikner. “I exhausted almost every startup resource MIT has,” she says. Brikner credits Lozano for providing “an early taste of how the industry works,” she says. “He let me be student manager for a multimilliondollar NASA space program, and I was invited to be speaker at conferences he couldn’t attend,” she recalls. “I got exposure and was connected to people I otherwise would never have met.”
With Lozano as technical advisor, Accion has raised millions of dollars for prototyping and testing its first commercial system.
Brikner also took advantage of MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service, which helped prepare her and the team that would eventually form Accion, for the process of commercializing their nascent, compact technology for small satellites. The group entered the MIT100K business plan competition, one of the many nodes of the innovation ecosystem on campus, and found a second home to fuel their start up idea and satiate their need for caffeine.
“I basically camped out at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship,’ she says, “because we had legal problems, and with mentors there, dug our company systematically out of holes.” Today, with Lozano as technical advisor, Accion has raised millions of dollars for prototyping and testing its first commercial system, the matchbook sized MAX-1, and is targeting early 2016 for its first delivery to customers. Brikner notes with pride that six of Accion’s nine employees are from MIT. “We’re turning mechanical engineers and material scientists into rocket scientists,” she says.
Published on Nov 18, 2016
Annual magazine review of MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department research and educational initiatives.