MSc Energy for Smart Cities grad Laura Perez Casado forms start-up with fellow student!

Oscar Blanco Fernandez and Laura, living the culture of Ethiopia

When Laura joined MSc Energy for Smart Cities, she wanted a programme to provide her with the technical knowledge… but also the hands-on experience to see how this knowledge can be applied to solve real-world problems and create business. Her time spent there has given her that and so much more! At the EIT Alumni CONNECT event in Budapest last year, she turned a vague idea (that she and fellow student Marc Navarro Sotés came up with) into a viable business concept that is well on its way to success. Laura shares with us how the initiative was created and offers some inspirational words for other students who are coming up with their own ideas for future start-ups.

SEEDING IMPACT is born

Laura explains, “Marc and I met for a coffee in Stockholm and found out that we both wanted to do things, to be really hands on. This was the start of Seeding Impact. I took our idea of providing students and young professionals with the opportunity to join International development projects to the EIT alumni CONNECT event and won the pitching competition. It was so empowering to have our idea validated – and the prize money has enabled us to get started!”

Seeding Impact allows a company to bring a project to the table (perhaps a problem they have not been able to solve in-house), then a team of students or young professionals is selected to work on that project. The company and team can now create the perfect solution by working together.

“We wanted to encompass all the important EIT ideals, but also to include other sectors of industry, such as health – because I think lasting impact is created in many different fields!” With their winning idea and some seed money, they started to build an amazing team of like-minded individuals. “Our work is important, and it’s clear since this start-up is growing out of volunteer’s time with only passion to drive us. We all want to make a difference and have been working non-stop since.”

THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

We all know the enormous amount of hard work it takes to get a start-up off the ground. Laura acknowledges the road hasn’t been easy, with many challenges – but luckily, they’ve received support along the way. “The entrepreneurship knowledge I’ve gotten from the InnoEnergy programme was key. Not only academically, but also to get insights into how to shape a business. I’ve also received a lot of support from the InnoEnergy team at the EIT InnoEnergy Scandinavian office to help me fulfil this dream.”

Seeding Impact has already had some success, such as conducting their first event in Stockholm with another entity “Make a Difference” (MAD) targeting a sanitation problem in Uganda, where they successfully matched up a team to work on the project. Another is Ice Addis, a start-up incubator in Ethiopia, matched with Entrepreneurs Without Borders (EWB) to work with local start-ups, empowering local Ethiopian projects (Laura is on location in Ethiopia as we write this article). And just recently, they initiated a collaboration with (B)-Energy to deal with biogas digesters for developing countries. “A lot more projects are coming soon” Laura shares confidently, “we want to expand slowly. Each one must be analysed carefully… but I know we can make this work!”

Views from the office at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A LEARNING EXPERIENCE

When asked if she had any advice for future entrepreneurs, those perhaps just starting to play with an exciting idea they have for a start-up, Laura was happy to oblige. “It might sound like a typical reply, but being right in the middle of this process I can tell you… enjoy what you do! Stop thinking about the future, worrying about whether you will fail or not. If you fail, that’s okay. The path you take, the experience you gain, it is definitely worth it. There is always something to be learned along the way. The best thing you can do is to follow your ideas where they lead you, take chances and surround yourself with supportive people.” Excellent advice from a truly passionate entrepreneur.

Oscar Blanco Fernandez and Marc Navarro Sotés at IceAddis, the incubator at Ethiopia. They have been the first students that were sent there. Marc was involved from the very outset, supporting the project.