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$225,000 Awarded to Idle Smart and Autonomous Tractor Corporation (ATC) for Energy Business Solutions

Selected by their peers as top ventures that address challenges in the energy sector

DETROIT, MI – November 28, 2016 — Two energy startups, Idle Smart and Autonomous Tractor Corporation (ATC), were selected by their peers this week to receive a total of $225,000 in investment from Village Capital, the New Belgium Family Foundation, and Sustainable America. The selection marks the end of a three-month venture development program, Energy: US 2016, run by Village Capital in partnership with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

The ventures were selected for investment through a process called “peer-selected investment”, in which the nine entrepreneurs in the cohort voted on who among their peers should receive funding. Idle Smart was ranked first, receiving $125,000 in investment, while ATC was ranked second, receiving $100,000.

Each of the nine entrepreneurs represent early-stage energy businesses committed to solving energy inefficiencies across our goods value chain, with a specific focus on the transportation of energy, water, food, and other goods.

Based in Kansas City, KS, Idle Smart provides an idle reduction and fleet uptime solution for Class 8 fleets that can reduce unnecessary fuel usage by only running the truck when absolutely necessary to maintain the temperature of the cabin, recharge batteries, or create engine warmth.  St. Michael, MN-based ATC addresses drivetrain efficiency in agricultural vehicles through modern diesel-electric technology. By developing autonomous navigation and tractor implement management to work with the diesel-electric drivetrain, ATC is saving farmers time and money while improving fuel efficiency.

Village Capital CEO Ross Baird praised the caliber of this year’s cohort. “These entrepreneurs are dedicating their careers to solve real-world problems, which gives me hope for our future,” he said. “Our society has to feed and power ourselves more efficiently as we grow. The average meal in the United States travels over 1,500 miles from farm to table—a significant waste of resources that we can’t ignore. These two winners and their peers are committed to helping end significant energy problems in our country, and we are inspired to keep their work alive.”

“We are proud to have partnered with Village Capital for their Energy: US 2016 accelerator program,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “The nine early stage entrepreneurs that were part of this program demonstrated great potential to address energy inefficiencies around the world. We congratulate the winners, Idle Smart and ATC, and look forward to the continued success of the entire cohort.”

The winning founders also spoke about the program.

“Idle Smart’s fleet efficiency and remote management platform helps fleets prevent vehicle downtime due to dead batteries and extreme cold and also helps reduce overnight idle time,” said Jeff Lynch, President and Founder of Idle Smart. “Village Capital provides access to a wealth of resources and the best business minds in an intensive yet collaborative environment, which is critical as we manage the growth of our business.”

“ATC is helping farmers to reduce the cost and improve the functionality of their equipment, “ said Kraig Schulz, CEO and Co-Founder of ATC. “Farmers are the absolute backbone of our society and yet it is a sector that has been greatly under-invested in from an innovation standpoint. The Village Capital program gave us excellent mentoring and advice on a wide range of challenges we face in bringing true innovation to farming communities all over the world.”

Throughout the program, the entrepreneurs received mentoring from industry experts and potential investors. At the end of the program, the nine ventures ranked each other in a unique peer-selection process. The seven other ventures that participated in the program can be found here.


Village Capital finds, trains, and funds entrepreneurs solving major global challenges. Village Capital builds communities around entrepreneurs to improve business success. Village Capital’s peer review model delivers better results for entrepreneurs and investors. Over 550 entrepreneurs have gained access to opportunity through over 45 Village Capital programs, and graduates have leveraged initial capital 15:1, created over 10,800 jobs, and served over 5 million customers. To learn more, visit


The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of Blackstone’s IPO in 2007 with substantial commitments from the Firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas nationwide and globally. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries and communities.

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