Powerstove™ is revolutionary clean-cookstove technology in Sub-Saharan Africa that merges thermoelectric technology with the traditional African way of cooking. It generates 8W of power up to a maximum of 20W while cooking. This clean-cookstove have won several awards even though they are yet to launch. Innovation Village had an interview with Okey Esse, the brain behind Powerstove. He threw more light on how Powerstove works, awards as well as challenges. Excerpts.
Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
Okey Esse is a self-taught serial entrepreneur and investor with 12+ years practical experience in turning ideas into products and then to profits. He founded five successful companies, created two proprietary products, holds franchise of two other products and has established himself as a valuable resource in fundraising activities. To date, Okey has raised over US$3million for 68+ SMEs.
What is your Powerstove.com.ng-all about? What are you offering Nigerians?
Powerstove is an idea that came since 2016. We saw how difficult it is for women to prepare meals and their exposure to toxic smokes from firewoods or charcoal and decided to do something about this problem. Since 2016, we have worked on three different versions of clean cookstove that suits our traditional style of cooking. Today, we have a stove that uses charcoal or any other biomass, smokeless, burns faster than cooking gas, generates electricity to charge phones, light bulbs and most importantly communicates to the users on their phones. Yes, our Powerstove can communicate.
What motivated you to establish Powerstove?
The high rates of deaths attributed to Indoor House Pollution caused by open fire cooking smoke
How does Powerstove make money?
We make money by selling our products.
Powerstove is enabling Nigerians, especially in the rural areas, cook with ease. Do you think your technology has discouraged the use of firewood and other non-environment friendly methods for processing foods?
Powerstove is migrating Nigerians to clean, sustainable and healthier cooking methods. We are offering Nigerians, a technology that is better in terms affordability, cost-savings, durability, user controls and improved livelihood.
How do you react to being shortlisted as one of the semifinalists for the GIST Tech-I competition? Do you think your startup can scoop the prize?
We are humbled by the announcement. Every Award Powerstove has received is a confirmation of technology towards alleviating poverty, creating a sustainable environment, and saving lives. We believe with the quality of our product, the precision of our technology and the invaluable human and environmental benefits of Powerstove, the world will vote us into the Top 10 Finals GIST Tech-I competition.
Your startup was recently named Energy startup of the year Africa 2018 Award. Can you share the experience at the awards? How will the award boost the portfolio of Powerstove?
The Award came to us as a big surprise. 600 applications from over 48 countries and winning the Award at Casablanca, Morocco, is no child’s play. We respect the quality of the applications, and it was a keenly contested competition. The Award has opened a lot of opportunities for us. Engie a global energy player and an expert operator in the three businesses of electricity, natural gas and energy services have signified interest in our technology and we hope to escalate that relationship to improve our operations and market share.
How will you describe the reception of Powerstove so far?
Amazing, Powerstove will be in South Africa on February 20-21, 2018 to receive The Africa Youth Energy Innovator Award. And that will make it two Awards from South Africa. Powerstove is set to be launched by March 2018 and we have received more than 300 Purchase Order before the launch. It’s truly an amazing experience.
What are some of the challenges of running and managing Powestove?
Well as a startup, our main challenge has been funding. We have invested over US$80,000 in our technology without a single investor and the business still needs more if we must meet the demands of our customers. We have the right workforce, well motivated and ready for the challenges ahead, and we are still negotiating with few investors. Very soon we will overcome our challenges.
If you have the opportunity of starting again or setting up another startup, what will you do differently? What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Partnership, Patience and belief in your ability. What makes most startup fail is impatience and I want to go it alone. Powerstove is successful because we continuously learn from our experience, critic ourselves and invest in ourselves. We have not launched, and Nigerians are coming to our office to ask us to collect money and give them the Powerstove, but for more than 2 years we have been working to improve on every part of the stove. We started with Powerstove 1.0 (which won GSVC Africa Award in 2016), after testing we came up with Powerstove 2.0 (with three Awards: DEMO Africa, Engie Startup of the Year and Africa Energy Youth Innovator) and I’m sure that most startups would have launched at that stage but we had a stove of 80% efficiency which is not what we wanted. Fast forward to today, we now have 95% efficient ultra clean cookstove with inbuilt IoT functionalities plus a water-resistant Biomass pellet that cost 50% less than charcoal and produces more heat.