Clean Energy Trust has been coordinating a cleantech business plan competition for students alongside the U.S. Department of Energy for six years. Recently renamed the Cleantech University Prize, this $50,000 grant was awarded last year to NovoMoto. The brainchild of PhD engineers Aaron Olson and Mehrdad Arjmand, NovoMoto is dedicated to building renewable energy systems in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Learn more about Aaron’s experience with Clean Energy Trust’s competition and then as a finalist for the DoE national competition. Applications for the 2017 Midwest Cleantech University Prize are open now through December 1st!
CET: How did you hear about Clean Energy Trust and the Cleantech University Prize?
AO: We were introduced to Clean Energy Trust through the Wisconsin School of Business’ Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship and were invited to compete at the Cleantech University Prize. The Wisconsin Energy Institute, the hub for clean energy research on campus, also encouraged our involvement with CET.
CET: What did you gain and how did your company develop from working with Clean Energy Trust and our application, mentorship, and accelerator process?
AO: It was great to meet the leaders of the companies involved in the CET Challenge and learn from the invited speakers and panelists during the finalist retreat. The pitching experience and networking opportunities at the Challenge were very valuable to our team of first time entrepreneurs. Since the CET Challenge and Cleantech UP competition, we’ve had several conversations with CET to better craft our strategy with regards to legal support, our barriers to entry, and go-to-market strategy.
CET: What were some highlights from participating in the 2016 Cleantech UP National competition this past June?
AO: We really enjoyed hearing about the other companies at the event and were very pleased with our 3rd place finish in the very competitive field of 24 teams.
CET: How has Clean Energy Trust helped you and your company since winning the Cleantech University Prize?
AO: Outside of the conversations about our business strategy, the connections that CET has continued to pass our way have also been very helpful. They’ve connected us with venture firms, lawyers, consultants, and links to helpful information on funding.
CET: What’s next for NovoMoto?
AO: We are in our pilot phase of operations and conducted an assessment trip in the DRC this past July that has since signed up 106 customers as our initial group to provide service to in early 2017. This phase of work will de-risk our business operations in the DRC before we move on to deploying our own line of technology. As a continuation of the prototyping work that we’ve done, we have reached out to product development firms to get a better understanding of the timeline and cost to introduce our own product line in DRC after our pilot phase of operations. We are identifying and applying to grant opportunities to be able to provide service beyond our current group of customers and finish our initial product development cycle.
Clean Energy Trust looks forward to welcoming the next crop of student innovators and entrepreneurs into this years program. Apply here by December 1st!