We continue with our entrepreneurs’ blog. This week we focus on two innovations that were part of the 2017 SA Innovation Summit and who have been selected to pitch at the local finals of the global social entrepreneurship competition the Chivas Venture.
Clement Mokoenene shares his experience on entrepreneurship and gives us insights on his innovation, the Vehicle Energy Harvesting System which won second prize in the GCIP-SA (Global Cleantech Innovation Programme) Pitching Den.
What is Vehicle Energy Harvesting System?
The Vehicle Energy Harvesting System is a portable power plant that harnesses the power of traffic by extracting pressure from the road and using it to drive a turbine and generate renewable electricity.
What impact will your product have?
“It is the addition of a new renewable electricity source to the power mix. It is man-made, installed close to the point of use, it is free, unlimited and predictable and we will save the planet”, says Clement
What has being part of the 2017 SA Innovation Summit, the GCIP-SA Pitching Den and the Chivas Venture Pitching Den meant for your business?
Exposure that we received by being a finalist in the Summit was awesome. In addition, we got to work a lot on the marketing side of our product, particularly the pitching. We also received valuable feedback from the judges. But most importantly, winning the sponsored price to attend the Leaders and Entrepreneurs Seminar, hosted by Earheart Consulting, meant that we received world class training.
You have been selected as one of the top five South African finalists to pitch at the local finals of the Chivas Venture, global social entrepreneurship competition, how do you feel about that?
I am over-the-moon about being the Finalist in The Chivas Venture. The exposure we received has been immense and the public response overwhelming. Our products were aired on Mzansi Magic during prime time, it is surreal. We are looking forward to leveraging our pitching experience from the Pitching Den and hopefully win the competition. It won’t be easy but I guess we have 1 in 5 shot so we will definitely make the most of it.
What challenges were you faced with while building your product?
Our product is seriously ground breaking and it challenges convention, so naturally, the question I always get is “if it works why hasn’t anybody tried to do it?” – but if I followed that logic I wouldn’t be an innovator, would I? It is also highly capital intensive. This means that validation of every hypothesis involves physical testing which means it gets very expensive, very quickly. We tried to negate this by building a simulation model but since some of our theories are not in the current scientific literature, it meant further testing.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs or those looking to start their own business?
This is a very lonely road – you will often think that you are going or have gone crazy. Be part of a support program for innovators like yourselves. It is important to always have someone that’s crazier than yourself to call upon. For me, the GCIP-SA program was a God sent. Previously I would focus almost exclusively on the technology but there is a lot more to your business than just technology. GCIP-SA helped to define the problem and the customer pain point, develop my business model and unique selling point. Define your customer segments and know your competition. What is your IP strategy, do you need a patent or not? Work on your revenue model and also compile the three year profit and loss statement. Your team is critical as well and also determining who you are still missing on your team. Funding – how are going to fund the business and be clear about what you are going to do with the funds? These are all critical aspects to think about.