The Answer Was Floating In The Wind; Danotek Finds Its Calling In Wind Power

During my brief time here in Michigan, I’ve heard a familiar prediction: The state is poised to become a cleantech powerhouse because of its expertise in manufacturing and automobile engineering.

So far, that’s mostly been talk. Danotek Motion Technologies, however, is walking the walk.

The Canton, MI-based startup has unique technology and Silicon Valley investors, but importantly, the company is making and selling real stuff to real wind power customers and creating jobs in return. In essence, Danotek is practicing what Michigan often preaches.

Danotek “has done an incredible job in building a sales pipeline,” Rachel Sheinbein, a principal in San Francisco-based CMEA Capital and Danotek board member, tells Xconomy. “We’re excited about the prospects.”

Using permanent magnet technology, Danotek is helping wind turbine makers build smaller, less costly, more efficient generators that can produce up to 3.2 megawatts of electricity.

Danotek has come a long way. In 2009, the company generated $450,000 in sales. As of the first quarter in 2011, Danotek boasts a $50 million backlog in orders from customers like General Electric, Clipper, DeWind (a unit of Daewoo), and WinWinD in Finland. Last year, the startup hired 58 employees from 13 countries, bringing its workforce to nearly 100 strong.

Unlike most high tech startups, Danotek successfully transitioned from a research and development firm to a full-fledged manufacturer thanks to one fateful decision, savvy investors, and an experienced CEO.

Danotek was founded in 2001 by a group of former GE engineers, including Daniel Gizaw, who also worked at Cummins Power Generation, General Motors, and Ford Motor. The company was interested in the idea of generating a constant magnetic field, which in turn, could produce a stable, continuous flow of electricity.

But in reality, “they didn’t have a clue of what this was going to be,” says CEO Don Naab. … Next Page »

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