By Alison Roadburg, iSpace
With the goal to refine their ideas from the Negawatt Weekend, teams Sunshade Energy, ASOR, WI and FLIP participated in an intensive, tailor-made boot camp from April 7th until April 26th. iSpace hosted the boot camp convening coaches and mentors who have provided the training along key aspects of business and product development. Bearing witness to the energy and dedication to their new products generated by the boot camp participants, I am convinced that the topic of energy efficiency will remain long salient after the competition.
The teams’ ideas are bold and impressive, as the teams embarked on a journey to help curb contextual energy inefficiencies in Accra. Negawatt came at a pivotal moment in Ghana, as we’ve been experiencing severe power cuts throughout the country, the most pressing of which hit the capital. With no electricity for periods of 24 hours or longer, entrepreneurs have been forced to ask themselves, how can we make energy more efficient through new inventions?
Flip introduced an energy-saving and time-controlled switch for street lighting and commercial lighting in buildings. ASOR offered a hardware and software solution allowing consumers to estimate and track the power needs of home appliances. Sunshade Energy focused on strengthening building insulations by offering an upgrade of conventional shading systems, and WI focused on strengthening building insulation by offering a turbine cool housing unit by a process known as “air exchange”.
“It was a learning curve”
The goal of the boot camp was to take the ideas generated at the Negawatt Weekend to the next level, through an intensive curriculum of business development, finance, marketing, the legalities of a startup, and software and hardware training. Extra attention was paid to polishing the pitching skills, as this was a key step in the transgression of the boot camp. In addition to the training curriculum, each team was matched with a mentor for individualized guidance on specific needs and received a virtual mentorship session from National Instruments (NI).
‘The boot camp was a great learning experience for me, though it was a learning curve. I’ve been on the entrepreneurial journey for a while, but there were things that I didn’t realize and there are things that I didn’t know, so it has changed my focus on some of the things that I do.’ – said Nii Tete Saashi Quaye from Sunshade Energy.
The boot camp began with an enticing session on pitch coaching by Precious Nana Ewusi Nyarko, whose dynamic experience inspired the participants to go beyond standard approaches when they present their business ideas. iSpace co-founder and CEO Josiah Kwesi Eyison facilitated a session on business development, followed by marketing expert, Rita Kusi, who taught participants on how to present their newly-crafted brand. Kofi Essel-Appiah, acclaimed architect and active member of the Ghana Green Building Council, worked alongside the participants to ensure that their ideas were indeed addressing the energy efficiency pain points. Fiifi Baidoo, co-founder and Chief technical Officer of iSpace, facilitated a session on software development, alongside Ben Nortey, founder of the Metro Institute of Innovation and Technology, who facilitated a session on hardware specifications. Lawyer, Naa Sarku Nettey guided the group on the legality rights to patent ideas, and Wayne Miranda, founder and CEO of Growth Mosaic, led the participants on the logistics of financing a startup. Last but not least, Andrew Etwire from Power World conducted a specialized training on solar energy.
‘It was energizing to see youth coming up with creative and innovative ideas for energy efficiency. The passion which inspired the teams to move from ideas to prototype to an eventual idea was a very encouraging thing to witness.’ – recalled Josiah Kwesi Eyison, co-Founder and CEO of iSpace.
Not another hackathon
At the end of the boot camp, two teams out of four – Sunshade Energy and WI – were selected to continue on in the Negawatt competition in a 3-month business accelerator program. The challenge competition will culminate in November 2015, when one team from each of the Negawatt cities, who’s performed best during the acceleration, will travel to the Smart City World Expo Congress in Barcelona. There they will meet their peers from the other challenge countries, as well as winners of the Negawatt online urban energy efficiency competition, which is managed by the MIT Climate CoLab and open to teams worldwide. In Barcelona, the teams will also pitch their solutions in front of the panel of mayoral representatives from the participating cities.
For Accra, the Negawatt Challenge hasn’t been just another hackathon. From its outset, the Negawatt has placed a special emphasis on the process – one that inspires thoughtful ideation and is based on the generation of viable solutions – and on an intensive acceleration for sustainable, behavioral and effective change as it relates to urban energy. iSpace has been excited to be part of this initiative and we look forward to new opportunities to driving deeper community engagement on energy efficiency.