Interview: Triea Systems (2013)

Interview by Madeline Parrish

Affinity Lab Washington, DC Finalists, Triea Systems’ Art Lazerow shared about the exciting things that have been happening for Triea Systems. Their innovative technologies are going to reduce both energy costs and emissions for their customers through heat recycling. Based in Maryland they are poised to redefine the energy system in Maryland and beyond. They are a three year old start up that is on the verge of commercialization. 

How many people does the business employ?

Currently we have a team of ten that includes board members and advisors.

Where are you located?

We have operational offices in Beltsville Maryland and our executives are out of the Bethesda Maryland area.

Who are you customers?

Triea Systems’ has technology that is useful in a large number of industries. One of the major uses of our technology is in the commercial and industrial building settings, in agricultural and military applications. Because Triea Systems has numerous technologies we have a wide range of customers.  

What are your annual revenues?

As of this moment we haven’t generated any real external revenues. But we have generated some in-house revenues through BETA projects funded by myself.  We are also not yet making a net profit.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Well, on a macro level we are working with business of all types to help control and reduce their operating expenses, mainly in the form of reduced energy costs. We do this by recovering or recycling heat in a manner that is less expensive than the cost of producing heat conventionally, typically 30% less expensive than natural gas and 70% less expensive than propane. So we offer to our customers very low costs and reduce the amount of fossil fuel purchases.  We are also working in the poultry growing industry system that uses mainly propane to heat their flocks. This industry, because it uses propane based heating, will benefit greatly from our technology.

How did you become interested in the problem?

I personally became interested in the problem as an early investor. This system was presented as a geothermal energy system that didn’t require digging. I was very excited about this because I knew from my real estate experience the power of a system like that.

What is your solution to the problem?

We are addressing the cost and environmental problems posed by traditional energy solutions by applying our technology. We do this where it applies to the operation of our customer. For example, hotels spend a large amount of money heating shower water and so for a hotel in a warm climate we recover the heat created by the air conditioning system that is conventionally lost, and use it to heat bath water. This greatly cuts down on their operating costs.


Above: Art Lazerow, Chairman of Triea, inspecting inside the chicken house with ducts and air handlers ready for final assembly.

How has the William James Foundation competition and mentoring program helped you?

The William James Foundation has been sensational in helping us improve our written business plan. In saying that I mean Triea Systems has been developing our business plan for last three years and modifying it continuously, almost weekly. In doing this we have also been using it in numerous business plan competitions and have had success.

Especially with the William James Foundations we saw our business plan really improve with each round and the judges in both cycles gave us very insightful comments. I used those comments and sliced them up in order put all the comments about a topic together so that I could see patterns. In doing this I was able address the comment from the person who didn’t get an aspect by using the feedback from the other six judges who did. This whole experience has been a great exercise.

What are your major challenges?

We have a a few specific challenges. They include developing and proving our technology, and patenting it.  We have also been working to find the appropriate industries in which Triea Systems will effectively reside.

There is also the challenge of finding the correct human and financial resources. We have assembled an effective team to carry out our mission. Right now we have a great advisory board with combined 250 years of experience amongst the ten of us. The financial challenge is to find the resources funding our company and move it into commercialization.   

What other resources have you found that are particularly useful for social entrepreneurs? The Triea Systems team found our time with Cleantech Open to be beneficial. We have also relied a lot on our corporate motto of “just show up.”  We simply try to take advantage of every opportunity big or small. This includes attending conferences from energy to venture capital, utilities, or economic development. For example, we gave a presentation at a venture capital conference and didn’t feel any response from our audience but we got an email from an investor two days later. You just never know when you’re going to make a connection.