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COVID-19 crisis prompts Portable Electric's pivot from cinema

Company known for making film industry generators now serving medical sector
CEO Mark Rabin showcases Portable Electric’s generators. His Vancouver-based company is shifting production away from the now-dormant film industry to providing devices to medical facilities | Submitted

For Mark Rabin, the mission of his company, Portable Electric Ltd., has always been about “bringing cleantech to Hollywood.”

The Vancouver-based company is best known for manufacturing, selling and renting a variety of battery-powered generators used on film and TV productions across the globe.

Unlike roaring diesel generators traditionally used on filming locations, Portable Electric’s devices are emissions-free and make not a peep for the boom microphones.

So what happens when a pandemic forces film and TV productions across the globe to simultaneously call it a wrap midway through shooting?

“We’re into a new market that we’ve never even thought about before,” said Rabin, who is Portable Electric’s CEO.

In COVID-19’s aftermath, Portable Electric is now deploying its devices to focus on the needs of medical facilities coping with the crisis.

“Our equipment is ideal for powering temporary triage centres, mobile clinics, drive-through testing, and anywhere you have a non-traditional area set up for ventilators and auxiliary equipment,” he said.

“The challenges of doing a pivot in a number of weeks, after being the leader in the film and entertainment industry for power, is it’s a very different customer, very different market, very different language.”

The equipment already meets industrial standards and won’t have to be modified for use in medical facilities.

However, the Portable Electric team is still determining how the power needs of lighting equipment or a nest of monitors on a film set differs from medical equipment.

“It’s the same system but we had to learn and understand what are the appliances we’re powering, what are the power draws, how long can our equipment power a ventilator, for example,” Rabin said.

Hundreds of Portable Electric’s devices are distributed throughout eight countries, but for now the company is focusing on medical needs in the Cascadia region and down into the California market.

“Just like you would if you were doing a market validation … for an idea or an early stage startup, we did the same thing and we started from scratch,” Rabin said.

“This is a very important turning point for our company as well as for the world around us, and we see ourselves as part of the solution.”

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