Learn about the experience through Janati Nakimera and Susana Lau, two members of the organizing teams, who were instrumental in the success of the workshop.
Janati Nakimera – IEEE Entrepreneurship Workshops for Scientists and Engineers in Africa
The IEEE Entrepreneurship Africa workshop had multiple sessions spread over a six-week period in September of 2021.
Participants consisted of students, researchers, and innovators across Africa.
Participants were trained on how to develop a viable business model for their ideas and how to commercialize their already developed business ideas.
The workshop began on the 3rd of September and concluded on the 7th of October, with 4 teams presenting their businesses’ pitch.
The four teams are as follows:
Team Besitilaya: The team focused on designing a platform that connects individuals to hire, buy/sell, exchange, download, or donate used or new books. Bestilaya focuses on SDGs 4 (Quality Education), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), and 17 (Partnerships for the goals). Bestilaya is the “Uber” or “Airbnb” for “Books,” which helps in accessing Library resources powered by an unlimited and distributed catalog of books.
Team Ecosteam: The team focused on the provision of a very efficient car wash service, while conserving water, which is an extremely crucial aspect of the community and environment. The team accomplished this by using waterless and chemical free steam. Their vision is to replace ordinary car wash services that tend to be a threat to water conservation and environmental health.
Team Energy Access: The team focused on providing energy access to small business owners through the productive utilization of off-grid solar technologies. This extends energy access to the last mile and ensures clean energy use in unserved/underserved communities. Achieving SDG7 is key in this journey to provide Power 4 All.
Team DRC Honey: The team focused on commercializing the honey making business in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With 71 percent of the population living on less than a dollar a day, the honey making business will allow individuals, especially women, to contribute independently to their family’s economic resources.
The judges were able to deliberate and provide feedback to all of the teams who presented after the pitches. Team Bestilaya was announced as the top team and received their prizes. There was a lot of learning and networking at the workshop, as evidenced by the feedback received from the attendees.
Susana Lau – IEEE Entrepreneurship Workshops for Scientists and Engineers From Panama to Latin America
For the first time, an IEEE Entrepreneurship program was held in Panama with the goal of preparing scientists and engineers through various business-related sessions such as How to seek opportunities to solve problems in society through technical innovation and Develop a business plan, market it and be ready to seek investment. This program lasted 6 weeks starting in May 2021.
I had the great opportunity to collaborate with two Panamanians, Nélida Gómez and Carolina Rojas, both IEEE and WIE volunteers, who together with the program leaders Ken Stauffer and Surya Raghu, and the technical support of Lauren Beighley and Thomas Mónaco, managed to bring together panelists and entrepreneurs from, both the United States and Central America.
The possibility of doing this event virtually provided an opportunity to bring together participants from not only Panama, but from Ecuador, Colombia, and Mexico, among others. Likewise, it allowed us to include panelists and entrepreneurs from the United States and Latin America to make the event diverse in language (sessions in Spanish and English), culture, and skills. Having this diversity allowed us to share with other participants about the similarities and differences of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in different countries in our region and how they contrast with that of the United States. There are some similarities, but in our countries, we know that innovation is done differently.
Despite the challenge of having this workshop virtually for the first time and the challenges faced by the participants, such as time zone differences, tight agendas, and language barriers for some of them, there were four business ideas that emerged from this workshop:
- AgrloTech: combines conventional agricultural systems and new IoT technologies for complete visibility and automation.
- Singular Brew: is a proposal for a “green” fermentation enterprise that uses existing technological tools to reduce environmental impact and production costs.
- BenchtablePRO: is a portable workbench, designed for energy efficiency.
- H20 Mobile: is a water mobile car that ensures the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation.
We hope that this is just the first of many workshops to be held in Panama and that we can have continued opportunities for scientists and engineers to apply business models to their ideas.
About Susana Lau
Susana Lau is the founder of EtyaLab, a Panamanian company focused on agile software development using Scrum, working in roles from developer to product management and sales. Lau is the founder of Mercadito, a mobile application to connect farmers with buyers, empowering the farmer with technology for their sales and supporting buyers to find products nearby and at reasonable prices. This project has received several local and international recognitions such as UberPitch, Google Launchpad, Yo Emprendedor, and Solá, Seedstars Panamá. Susana is passionate about technology, women empowerment, and entrepreneurship, and is always actively participating in diverse events where she can share her experiences and motivate peers.
Susana is an IEEE member, a volunteer at WIE (Women in Engineering), and the Panama IEEE Section Vice President. She has been a mentor in events such as Panama Startup Weekend and has taught workshops on entrepreneurship and software development in various universities and at various events.
Susana Lau earned a Telecommunications Engineer MSc Degree in Information Technology from Carnegie Mellon University, USA, through a Fulbright-SENACYT fellowship.
Susana is an Affinity Groups: WiE Liaison on the 2021 IEEE Entrepreneurship Steering Committee.