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Ahmed Shuja Put the 'Progressive' in Progressive Cooling Solutions

Ahmed Shuja came to UC Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research from a slightly different route from those taken by others. It was a little farther west — he came from the College of Engineering.

Date: 5/5/2008
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Ahmed obtained his BS in materials engineering and his PhD in electrical engineering. He came to the College of Business for its Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research with an idea for a business.

“Even before he enrolled in the PhD program, he knew that he wanted to start a company,” says Frank Gerner, College of Engineering associate dean for undergraduate and administrative affairs.

Megan Payne, Liz Sayers, Ahmed Shuja and Chuck Matthews at the MBA Jungle in 2006.
Megan Payne, Liz Sayers, Ahmed Shuja and Chuck Matthews at the MBA Jungle in 2006

Once Ahmed landed in the Carl H. Lindner building, he quickly took off. As an engineering doctoral student, he pulled together the Progressive Cooling Solutions inter-disciplinary team comprising engineering and business students, including Srinivas Parimi, Dennis Delvin, Ibraham El Rahi, Michael Finn, Megan Payne and Liz Sayers, and started working on a winning streak at many business-plan competitions.

Charles Matthews, professor of entrepreneurship and strategic management, commented at the time, “Ahmed Shuja did an outstanding job representing his team and UC with his new venture plan, Progressive Cooling Solutions. Thanks to the team’s hard work, Progressive Cooling is poised to redefine the process by which tomorrow’s electronics will be cooled.” 

Stuart Clark, Shuja and Matthews.
Stuart Clark, Shuja and Matthews

Matthews is also founder and executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research (the “E-Center”) in the College of Business at UC.

“Ahmed finished third or higher in over seven competitions including taking first runner-up in the 'UC Spirit of Enterprise,' 'Best New Technology' at the 2006 MOOT Corp Competition and continued his streak as a finalist at the 2007 California Clean Tech Open,” Matthews recalls. He checks them off by heart:

  • 2006 first place — UC MBA New Venture Competition
  • 2006 second runner-up — UC Spirit of Enterprise Graduate Business Plan Competition
  • 2006 finalist — MBA Jungle Business Venture Challenge (one of only 12 teams from over 200 entries to make the finals)
  • 2006 second place Lightning Round — New Venture Championship, U of Oregon
  • 2006 first runner-up — Stuart Clark New Venture Challenge, U of Manitoba
  • 2006 Best New Technology — MOOT Corp Business Plan Competition, UT Austin
  • 2006 first place — Third Annual Cincinnati Creates Companies Technology Entrepreneurship Competition, U of Cincinnati
  • 2007 finalist in the Energy Efficiency Category — California Clean Teach Open

So what is Progressive Cooling Solutions (PCS)? Progressive Cooling Solutions developed the commercial potential of a micro loop heat pipe, based on breakthrough technology in MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) developed at UC. The company will provide superior and novel MEMS-based thermal dissipation hardware for cooling commercial micro chips and electronics that is more efficient, smaller and far more compatible and effective than other commercial systems.

Then Ahmed announced in December 2006 that his new start-up venture, Progressive Cooling Solutions (PCS) LLC, was relocating to Berkeley, Calif. Ahmed had been offered a position by Siemens Technology-to-Business (TTB) as an Innovator where he was to continue the development of the micro-loop heat-pipe technology that drove PCS’s thermal-management devices. The development project would allow Ahmed to get PCS ready for A-round investment.

David Roth, Matthews and Shuja at the Acton Award Reception in 2008.
David Roth, Matthews and Shuja at the Acton Award Reception in 2008.

“This is a tremendous recognition of the hard work and future potential of Progressive Cooling Solutions,” Matthews notes, who had Ahmed as a student in both his graduate course and his technology entrepreneurship program “Cincinnati Creates Companies.” “Ahmed has done an absolutely incredible job conceptualizing, planning and bringing this venture to life.”

Progressive’s entrepreneurial journey included developing its business model in the Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research in the College of Business at UC. PCS took second runner-up honors in the UC “Spirit of Enterprise” business plan competition and went on the road to present its business model in seven cities including Austin, Tx; Boston; in Silicon Valley, Calif.; and Portland, Ore. Multiple monetary and professional awards were won such as “Best New Product” both at the MOOT Corp® Business Plan Competition in Austin and at Nanotech 2006 in Boston. PCS also received a $5,000 grant from the E-Center’s Bearcat Bridge Fund to assist in the launch. Progressive also took home a $10,000 check in 2006 for a first-place finish in the “Cincinnati Creates Companies” annual competition.

The monetary winnings were applied to business development activities such as the Larta New Venture Showcase in California June 26–29, 2006.

“The Larta showcase was an excellent venue, and has opened many doors in terms of beta customer contacts,” Ahmed said at the time. PCS made a number of potential customer contacts at Siemens, Boeing, Dupont, Dell, Sharp, Meggit Aerospace and Sony, to name a few.

Siemens Technology-to-Business Center then offered Ahmed a position at their Berkeley, Calif., office. Over the next 12 to 18 months, PCS developed beta prototypes for commercial applications. A revised business model was then prepared to make PCS for ready for an “A-round investment” from potential venture capital sources.” Siemens TTB will then spin PCS out on its own and also will encourage the participation of other outside investors in PCS as well.

"I want to thank the Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research for the moral, physical and financial support it has provided to our start-up company," Ahmed said at the time. "The funds allocated through the Bearcat Bridge Fund have been critical in the early stage development of our venture. We were also participants in the third 'Cincinnati Creates Companies' technology entrepreneurship cohort, and would like to thank Dr. Matthews and this group as well.”

“This has been a truly interdisciplinary effort spanning the colleges of engineering and business,” Ahmed has said. “I cannot thank enough the great support provided by Drs. Henderson, Gerner and Matthews.”

About the Siemens TTB Program
The Siemens TTB model complements the process of innovation development within Corporate Technology by helping Siemens to leverage radical innovations such as Progressive’s new liquid cooling technology. A team of venture technologists scouts universities, small start-up companies and other innovation sources for new inventions, different approaches and radical ideas. TTB then applies a variety of techniques to bring these technologies into the Siemens sphere. For example, they hire the inventors and invest in a company for licensing intellectual property. Every project is treated as an entrepreneurial venture, both developing and validating the technology and the business case for it, to make either a new Siemens business or a new stand-alone company working with Siemens. TTB’s vision is to combine the strength of a global enterprise with the speed and flexibility of a small company and to quickly move the latest technologies into Siemens’ business.

About the UC Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research (“E-Center”)
Founded in UC’s College of Business in 1997 by Professor Charles H. Matthews, the E-Center’s vision is to provide a state-of-the-art entrepreneurship curriculum and research base not only for potential student entrepreneurs and scholars, but also for people in the many organizations that interact with small, entrepreneurial and family-owned businesses on a daily basis. Its mission focuses on removing barriers and creating gateways for entrepreneurs, especially student entrepreneurs. The University of Cincinnati has been consistently ranked as one of the top 50 programs for entrepreneurship in the United States by Success magazine and one of the top 100 programs in the United States by Entrepreneur Magazine.

About the College of Engineering’s Center for Microelectronics Sensors and MEMS and Microscale Heat Transfer Lab
Collaborative effort has been ongoing for nearly 20 years between these two COE labs. These projects have included silicon micro heat pipes, ultra-deep silicon microchannel single-phase cooling, and a silicon-based micro-sterling engine. The most recent project under development was the planar micro loop heat pipe using coherent porous silicon. This project was funded by NASA Glenn, NASA Space Power Center, NSF and EPRI. In total, H. Thurman Henderson, professor emeritus of electrical engineering, and Frank M. Gerner, associate dean for the College of Engineering, have advised more than 30 students in the areas of microscale heat transport and MEMS fabrication.

Next week, the College of Engineering and on May 15 the Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research celebrate their accomplishments and pride in their alumni with their annual banquets:

Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research
College of Business

May 15, 2008
Marriott Kingsgate Conference Center
151 Goodman Ave.   On the UC Campus
Cincinnati OH  45220
5:30 – 9 p.m.
Tenth Anniversary Celebration
For more information: 513-556-7014 or go to www.

College of Engineering
May 16, 2008
Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza
6 p.m.
Inaugural Presentation of Herman Schneider Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award and Lifetime Achievement Award
Engineers with Pride
For more information: 513-556-2933