Seattle Start-up JikoPower Inc. debuts a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign today to ramp production of their new invention dubbed the Spark™, that converts wasted energy from campfires or heat producing devices like stoves, into electricity. The hand-held Spark charges USB devices like cell phones, batteries and LED lights; providing sustainable, clean energy to people without access to electricity virtually anywhere. People may buy Sparks for themselves or donate them to their charity of choice during the JikoPower Kickstarter through Nov. 30.
“Dead cell phones waste precious time in emergencies,” says JikoPower Founder and President Ryan Ahearn. “The Spark is great for camping, but more importantly it saves lives in disasters like Hurricane Matthew. We urgently need to ramp production to meet growing demand and the Kickstarter will help us do that.”
The team went to Kenya and Uganda last July to test market the Spark using the grand prize money they won placing first at the 2016 University of Washington Business Plan Competition awarded by the Foster School of Business. “We came back with orders, distribution connections and moving personal stories from people whose lives were greatly improved,” says Ahearn.
“We saw mountains of unused donated shoes and clothes, yet these well-dressed people were without basic electricity,” says JikoPower Co-founder and Vice President Marene Wiley. “With the Spark, people no longer depend on dangerous kerosene for light and they don’t have to travel great distances or pay exorbitant fees to charge a cellphone,” she explains. “Women in Kenya are using the JikoPower Spark to start their own businesses by charging neighbors phones. The difference in their lives is amazing.”
“80 percent of people in Kenya have cellphones, but only 20 percent have access to electricity,” says Wiley, “but Kenya is just one example. The Spark is extremely useful in all developing countries.”
JikoPower’s Paul Denisenko is in India using the Spark on a mission trip for his church. “Many people see my Spark and ask how they can get one in India, because power outages are so frequent,” says Denisenko.
JikoPower is offering to partner with NGOs to receive Sparks donated in their Kickstarter Campaign, so they can get them into the hands of people who need them most.
The JikoPower Spark, is a small thermoelectric generator (TEG) with a 2-5 watt output using a water reservoir with a metal arm inserted directly onto a heat source. “The heat creates electricity that we capture,” explains Ahearn.
JikoPower started a year ago with three engineers winning the grand prize at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge. They’ve grown into a team of eight inspired graduates and students from the University of Washington working to make a difference in the world.