Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.
Co-founder Kevin Kung has past experience setting up and managing new ventures in Kenya. This includes EcoCoils, a for-profit that began by selling low-toxin and low-cost mosquito coils. Kevin helped implement the core technology used by EcoCoils, and helped the company secure a partnership with the largest mosquito coil company in East Africa, resulting in the sales and distribution of more than one million mosquito coils. As an MIT student, Kevin co-founded the MIT Waste Alliance, a community which aims to foster a new ecosystem to encourage conversation and innovations around waste. Over the past 12 months, this group has grown to have over 300 members not only within MIT but also in the Greater Boston area, running regular events such as lecture series, innovation exhibitions, and field trips. Additionally, Kevin has been involved with the MIT Global Startup Workshop for 3 years, first as a panel organizer, and then as a chief organization of its business plan competition.
Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?
Safire relies on two types of operational partners: farmers and fuel retailers. Farmers own and operate our reactor, convert their own biomass waste and then sell it to Safire. Safire distributes the fuel to retailers at wholesale who then sell the fuel to end-customers for use in domestic cooking. Through work with local farming partners and farm-based community organizations, we have interacted with various farmers and validated that this activity will create valuable new revenue streams for them (up to 10% additional income). Through our work with a network of fuel retailers in Nairobi, we have also determined there are many partners inclined sell our fuel, given the substantial revenue opportunities available to them.
Our technical development comes directly out of research carried out MIT, with whom we have ongoing collaboration. In Kenya, we have a technical partnership with the University of Nairobi for technology prototyping and emissions testing. We also have a technical partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology- Bombay, with whom we have been characterizing locally available rural biomass/agricultural waste, to make our reactor design robust in diverse contexts.
In terms of financial partners, the research and development phase of our technology is heavily supported by the Tata Foundation, the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund (JP Morgan), and the Legatum Group. All three financial sources for the research constitute obligation-free gifts. The Tata Foundation has expressed an interest in continuing their financial support of our commercialization effort going forward.
Finally, we have met and been on friendly terms with key high-level political allies, such as Professor Judi Wakhungu (Cabinet Secretary for Environment, nominated directly by the President of Kenya), as well as other more regional officials. We put our emphasis on the fact that these allies support us because of our social and economic impact, and not because of our perceived ties with any political parties.