Steve Wilcenski: Harnessing the Potential of Nanotechnology to Improve People’s Lives
The 10 Most Impactful Leaders Driving Change in Business, 2022
Passion is powerful and those who are driven by passion find success. Co-founder and CEO of BNNano Steve Wilcenski’s enthusiasm and expertise for advanced material science has help BNNano become an innovator in the exciting field of nanotechnology.
Wilcenski never visualized himself in such an industry but noted the excellent fit, “The funny thing about life is that the path we take is rarely the one we wanted.” He continued, “At BNNano, we are manufacturing and commercializing exceptional products we hope one day will be found in products we use every day and in high tech, next generation applications.”
Motivations Along the Way
Wilcenski’s success is built on two motivations. First, his personal commitment to repay the angel investors, friends, and family who showed their faith and trust in him and BNNano by investing their own dollars. “Knowing that people I have known for most of my life believe in me and our company enough to take risk and invest in us is motivating. I cannot let them down.” He is proud to work with a strong, innovative and collaborative team who are committed to excel.
A second motivation is Wilcenski’s desire to innovate and create a product with the potential to disrupt industries and bring value back to commodities and US manufacturing. When discussing their primary product, he explained, “We may not be the first to make boron nitride nanotubes, but we are the only ones globally that can mass-produce them. More importantly, we improved boron nitride nanotubes by creating our NanoBarbs™.” NanoBarbs™ are unique and enhanced Boron Nitride Nanotubes that when added to industrial commodities, improves their natural properties changing them into extraordinary materials.
Making a Difference
Wilcenski expressed a desire to give back to his community, “As we grow, we will be able to employ individuals and support our community all while making products that will improve lives, impact the communities where we work, change industries, and advance future technologies. I am excited to discover where BNNano leads us and know we can make a difference in the world.”
In 2021, BNNano plans to expand operations and capabilities to better facilitate the integration of their NanoBarbs™ into new products and industries. “We want to impact the communities where we work by creating clusters of nanotechnology companies. This will allow us to partner with companies to develop new materials and products utilizing nanomaterials to create new businesses that can continue to add jobs and opportunities.”
BNNano seeks to focus on what matters most. Wilcenski explained, “No matter how technologically advanced a company is, success is enabled by your relationships, partners, and employees.” Wilcenski and Taylor encourage their team to find a balance, “Work is important, but we are our most effective selves when we are happy, healthy and engaged in life.” He continued, “We understand that to achieve the success we desire, we need to prioritize and stay on course. We want to retain our corporate culture and do right by our angel investors, friends, family, and team.”
Merging Business with Technology
Wilcenski’s diverse education in business, engineering, and material science has poised BNNano for success. He holds both an MBA and BS in materials science and engineering from North Carolina State University and an MS in Chemistry from Clemson University. He explained, “This technology-science-business blend gives me the ability to effectively communicate with all parts of an organization even when their perspectives and priorities conflict.” Throughout his career, he led teams that manufactured novel nanomaterials and innovative semiconductor products that have been implemented in biomedical, automotive, communications, defense, aerospace, and consumer electronics markets.
When founding BNNano in 2016 with Jason Taylor, Wilcenski and his co-founder both focused on innovating new technologies, process design, and operations. However, with growth comes change. Wilcenski has transitioned from a technical role to CEO and now focuses primarily on managing operations, fundraising, corporate resources, and strategy. He noted, “I am adept at simplifying complex problems, finding ways to commercial products, and have learned to mitigate risk and manage change. I am able to bridge the gaps between technology and business and find paths to success.”
Maintaining BNNano’s Upward Trajectory
BNNano’s ability to blend business with advanced technologies has helped them stay ahead. Wilcenski shared, “Our experience in materials science and commercialization of complex materials, provided us a bias-free process born in the laboratory, freeing us of preconceived approaches. We thought first about how to make this material from a business perspective. We were fiscally conservative and our reliance on innovation focused our efforts.”
The creation of an improved boron nitride nanotube, the NanoBarb™ provides BNNano with a major competitive advantage. The low cost, increased purity, and ability to scale and commercialize will lead to success and continued growth. with a low-cost approach, they gained a major competitive advantage. Being confident on their skills with low-cost guarantee, they are all set to lead on top of the success curve.
Wilcenski continued, “At BNNano, we are leveraging innovations in cutting edge materials science to transform, revitalize, and revolutionize industrial commodities. We will continue to develop or NanoBarb™ Aluminum and Copper production lines and we have a few new products to introduce to the marketplace. We also see 2021 as a time when we will continue to grow our IP Portfolio and to solidify strategic partnerships in key markets and continue to focus on international growth.”
BNNano recently was awarded one of only three Platinum Designations in the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School’s third annual Most Fundable Companies® List. BNNano competed over 4,500 early-stage U.S. startups spanning all 50 states. Additionally, BNNano signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the US Naval Postgraduate School in December 2020.