FARGO — Joel Jorgenson has ambitious goals for BWR (Blue Water Resolute) Innovations, the business he founded late last year in Fargo — and some of the company's work could do everything from improving car engines to killing bed bugs.
In 10 years, he hopes to achieve $20 million in revenue, 20% in earnings and to have 20 issued patents. Considering his experience with other startups, his goals may not be as aggressive as they seem.
In 2003, Jorgensen was one of the original founders of Packet Digital, a Fargo-based firm known for creating power management solutions for electronic devices and embedded systems. Before resigning as CEO and president in 2013, Jorgensen was recognized by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce as its Entrepreneur of the Year. Since then, he's done consulting for other local businesses and served as an adjunct electrical and computer engineering professor at North Dakota State University.
Jorgenson said his new business is based on a market strategy described in "Blue Ocean Strategy," a best-selling book by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. The book refers to "red oceans," which are "well-explored markets crowded with competitors," and "blue oceans," which represent "untapped market spaces" that innovative companies can pursue.
"Instead of picking something that's going to be cost-driven and a commodity where people beat each other up over price, we're coming up with the unique and the creative," Jorgenson said. "The problems we're solving are ones that haven't been solved before."
One of their first projects is focused on making legacy equipment operate more efficiently. Brian Messerschmidt, BWR's sales and marketing manager, said they're currently looking for ways to use telemetry — a process of gathering data and sending it to the cloud or to a manager's smartphone for monitoring — for preventative and predictive maintenance. In one example, their technology can be used to monitor refrigerators and freezers at grocery and convenience stores.
"We can actually determine the voltages and currents, temperatures and things like that. We can detect when a problem is about to happen or could happen in the future," Jorgenson said. "We're bringing intelligence to machines that were never meant to have it."
Adam Jorgenson, Joel's son and BWR's telemetry engineer, said the technology can be used on different platforms and in many different industries.
"We try to focus on modularity. There is only a couple of specific adjustments to change it from a refrigerator to a soda machine or something else. It only requires a base level of configuration," Adam Jorgenson said. "You just have to make the right connections."
Fuel cell technology
The team at BWR Innovations is also researching new uses for fuel cells, which combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water.
In one project, BWR is using the technology for bed bug remediation. Like many exterminators, their process involves heating the room to a sustained temperature of 130 degrees to kill the bugs. What's different is that their process is cleaner, more efficient and more discreet, which could be a bonus at a hotel.
"Everyone knows there's a problem if there's a big exterminator truck out front. Guests will start rushing to check out," Messerschmidt said.
Their equipment, powered by fuel cells rather than electricity, can be discreetly brought into the hotel using a small cart. It runs similar to a generator, with less noise and zero emissions.
While demonstrating a piece of equipment at their headquarters last month, Manufacturing Liaison Tom Wohl explained that engines powered by fuel cells also require far less maintenance.
"I believe we have maintenance of 25,000 hours before we even need to change a filter. No oil change. No bearings to go out. From a tech point of view, it puts guys like me out of a job," Volk said.
Joel Jorgenson said the maintenance schedule for an average industrial engine is 500 hours.
"You run it for three weeks and then you shut it down and do the maintenance, the oil changes and filters and everything else," he said. "This has only a few moving parts. It just works and runs for three years continuously."
He said the possible uses for fuel cell technology are endless.
"It's about getting rid of the gas or diesel engine. This is the new Tesla," he said.
A dream team
Jorgenson said reaching his goals wouldn't be possible without the team he's assembled. In addition to Adam, Wohl and Messerschmidt, the business employs Mike Cain as project manager and Sylvan Melroe as executive director.
Melroe was involved in developing and marketing the skid-steer loader at Melroe, the manufacturer now doing business as the Bobcat Company. He was also instrumental in the success of Steiger Tractor. When he started there as its vice president of sales marketing in 1973, the business was doing about $3 million in sales and had five district managers and 30 dealers. When he left seven years later, Melroe said the company had grown to 19 district managers, four regional managers, 350 dealers and $124 million in sales.
"As much as we like to create the new, there is a lot that he's seen and we count on him," Joel said of Melroe.
Jorgenson said he appreciates the different perspectives the team brings to the table.
"Culture is really the key. It’s new processes and proven successes. It’s really based on collective inputs," he said. "We have six people who are accomplished and creative, innovative and are coming from their own disciplines and specialties. Everybody is empowered to come up with the best solution and the team supports as needed," he said.