Where are we in the process?
We secured a grant from the Swiss Innovation Agency (Innosuisse) and are now in the process of interviewing 30 heads of sustainability of Swiss companies to gather customer insights. These will help us validate, enhance and adjust our value proposition as necessary. We have applied to the Trust Valley program to develop our minimum viable product for ETAM certificates based on blockchain technology and have also applied to the publicly funded REPIC platform, which offers seed grants to Swiss companies to test a technology or its business model in developing countries.
What are the pilot projects?
Our co-founder Joshua Amponsem has volunteered the roof of the Green Africa Youth Organization in Accra to create a “show home” for a mini pilot. The objective is to connect a 15Kw solar home system with Ethereum’s blockchain technology. This will ultimately generate the ETAM certificates in the way of NFTs (non fungible tokens) and provide information on the total amount of CO2 emissions avoided, total jobs created, total impact on GDP growth, among other sustainable development goals. We will base the price of these high quality ETAM certificates on value-based pricing, and then market them to Swiss companies.
We will use our findings from the mini pilot and customer interviews to engage in a long-term direct procurement project with a Swiss company; this will raise the required infrastructure funding to push ahead with our pilot project in in Ashalaja, northern Accra. We expect to power 3,000 households in Ashalaja with this pilot project, generate more than 1,000 direct and indirect jobs, produce 35m kWh of clean energy and avoid at least 15,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
Setting up IntellSol and developing its business model have been rewarding, but it has been challenging. Here are our main takeaways from what we’ve learned so far by founding and building a sustainable startup:
Enforce clear rules and structures so everyone is clear on their role
IntellSol started as a term assignment at IMD and grew into a business. Our founding team is very diverse, with four different nationalities and experience across the energy, healthcare, finance, automotive, and mining industries. But this is not without its challenges – it means we can have many different, and sometimes conflicting, points of view. Even as a small startup, it has become evident that having clear boundaries, structures, and processes in place from the beginning is important. That way you can avoid misunderstandings around people’s roles and responsibilities.
Don’t be afraid to evolve your product once you’ve started
We founded the company in August 2021 and a month later learned about blockchain technology, which provides and allows for independent verification and full transparency by all the members of the distributed ledger. We realized that by integrating the technology we could increase trust and security by proving a digital certificate that is traceable and unique, thus avoiding the risk of double counting. The technology generates the certificates automatically, after carrying out independent validation, rather than producing them manually. This is more efficient and enables the ETAM certificate to be produced literally as the sun shines.
Peg your business model to a megatrend to build momentum
COP26 generated a lot of interest around climate change and energy poverty in Africa. By addressing these trends and tapping into the UN’s SDGs with our business model, we are increasing our chances of riding the momentum and attracting impact investors to help us contribute to tackling the climate change challenge.