For a rare window into the white-knuckle world of starting up a new company, check out this indepth profile of Princeton Power, a young company that may well evolve into one of the major energy players of the 21st century.

The piece tells the story of how four recent Princeton Engineering undergraduates — Darren Hammell, Mark Holveck, Erik Limpaecher, and John Lerch — formed the company, which is commercializing new technology for making solar and wind power more efficient.

Among the more amazing revelations: When entrepreneur Greg Olsen committed to seed the young company with $500,000, he did so with a message scribbled on a yellow Post-It note.

Inevitably, the article mentions Ed Zschau, whose class in “high-tech entrepreneurship” has legendarily inspired legions of entrepreneurially minded Princeton undergraduates.

Holveck tells Alan S. Brown, associate editor of Mechanical Engineering magazine, that he chose to attend Princeton because undergraduates receive a lot of one-on-one attention from professors and because its engineering program is an integral part of a world-class university.

“I saw people from more narrowly focused engineering programs and they became pigeonholed,” he says. “I didn’t want to be the guy in cubicle 26 calculating thermal engine blocks; I just wanted to learn and become great.”

Last year Princeton Power received a grant of $529,626 from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology for a collaboration with Princeton Engineering professors Clarence Rowley and Sanjeev Kulkarni. To get a better idea of the breadth at Princeton that Holveck alludes to, see this interview with Kulkarni on his new book with philosopher Gil Harman.

Photo: John Jameson

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