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WHAT IF EVERYONE HAD ACCESS TO ENERGY?

Electricity was introduced to western society over a hundred years ago, yet one billion people are still living without access to energy. That's an eighth of the world's population! Four years ago, my co-founder and I moved to Cambodia to tackle this problem, to eradicate energy poverty.

Through regular visits to these remote communities, we witnessed their struggle to get a few hours of lighting per night, some riding 5-10km a day to charge up old car batteries. Energy companies simply aren’t reaching these communities because it's a logistical nightmare for traditional infrastructure and maintenance, plus collecting payment is difficult when no one has a bank account. It’s simply too expensive for energy companies to reach these communities.

Okra’s technology bridges this gap, and we now have a profitable model to energise off-grid communities around the world. We’ve designed a smart, modular, solar grid that leapfrogs traditional infrastructure, combining the flexibility of solar home systems with the power availability of fully-fledged mini grids. Access to electricity is the first step in enabling these communities to beat cycles of poverty and access endless opportunities.

FUNDING WOULD ALLOW US TO…

Currently over 1,200 people have been energised with Okra’s technology throughout Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia. This equates to around 1,200 who are now avoiding ‘dirty’ fuels like kerosene and diesel and prevents over 47 tonnes of harmful CO2. So far, we’ve seen a 26.4% increase in household income since being energised by Okra.

We are ready to scale up quickly and are aiming to energise 40,000 people by the end of 2020. Although scaling up rapidly is a challenge, this funding will enable us to get our product to mass production in China and build the additional tools required to manage thousands of Okra energy grids. We’ve got a scalable model designed to eradicate energy poverty, potentially affecting millions of families around the world, though we need assistance to transform into a scalable business.

TECHNOLOGY INSPIRED ME

Having worked in a range of different industries, from enterprise to small start-ups, I found myself jumping between companies trying to learn as much as possible about technology. I liked the idea of driving my own learning, growth and success and this is what got me excited about entrepreneurship. My co-founder and I understood the potential for technology and its ability to provide both opportunity and equality. I wanted to invest my time building something that had a positive effect on people's lives at a grand scale, and this is what led to starting a social impact business.

WHAT’S YOUR BLEND FOR SUCCESS?

Okra has a blend of both technological innovation and business model innovation. Traditional aid is unfortunately not enough to eradicate energy poverty, so making it a profitable model – for all stakeholders involved – is the only solution.

This is certainly not an easy task. Running a start-up is an emotional rollercoaster, although it's a very rewarding ride. The real key that's driving Okra towards success is its underlying team: a blend of passionate, driven, like-minded people all working towards the same goal. This is what keeps us all motivated to take on one of the world's biggest problems.