Center of Excellence for Energy announces the winners of the Venture Development Program Demo Day hosted by Arizona State University’s Dr. Brent Sebold

CAIRO, EGYPT – March 28, 2024 – The Center of Excellence for Energy, supported by the American people through USAID and operated by Arizona State University, announced the winners of the Venture Development Program Demo Day. Led by Dr. Brent Sebold, Director of Entrepreneurship + Innovation at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, the event was the culmination of a six-month E + I program featuring two seminars, selection of six venture teams based at Egyptian partner universities, five months of mentoring by ASU faculty, and the exciting conclusion in a “Shark Tank” style Venture Development Program Demo Day.

The E + I program is part of the center’s efforts to advance higher education capacity in energy through curriculum development, research innovation, and increased partnerships between higher education, energy industry, and governmental agencies to support Egypt in reaching its goal of 42% renewable energy by 2035.

“It is important for faculty to develop skills not only in the technical areas of their fields, but also in business including proposal writing and venture development,” says Dr. Sayfe Kiaei, Center of Excellence for Energy project director and Arizona State University professor. “This workshop will be a hands-on opportunity for faculty at our Egyptian partner universities to take a concept they have from idea to business venture. And they will be learning from one of the best in the field, Dr. Brent Sebold.”

The program kicked off in October when Dr. Sebold hosted a Foundations of Entrepreneurship seminar, which introduced Egyptian faculty and students to key organizational capacity development constructs as well as technology transfer-related concepts and models, including lean startup and evidence-based entrepreneurial methods to discover problem solution fits and readiness for product-market fit.

“The entrepreneurial mindset is integral to our learning outcomes because it enables impact within technology development, “says Dr. Sebold. “You can come up with a great invention, a novel way of solving a problem, but if you can’t combine that with an entrepreneurial mindset and a mission to create value in society then you’re not going to be able to scale that invention to the billions of people around the world who could really benefit from your solution.”

Interested faculty and student teams were asked to submit proposals for new business ventures and innovative solutions to Egypt’s energy challenges. Six teams were selected to compete for their share of $8000 in seed funding. The teams were mentored by Dr. Sebold, and other ASU faculty, from October 2023 – February 2024. In February, Dr. Sebold visited Egypt to hold a second seminar, conduct in-person preparation and training, and hold a pitch presentation competition (Venture Development Program Demo Day).

The three-day event kicked off with the University Entrepreneurship and Venture Development Seminar. Participants from Ain Shams, Mansoura, and Aswan universities, alongside industry professionals, convened for an engaging conversation with Dr. Sebold preparing them to navigate and contribute effectively to university entrepreneurship and venture development ecosystems. The two-part session covered the importance of cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset, key strategies for innovation management, and examples of successful venture development models. Before the day was over, participants learned how to design, manage, and scale startup mentoring programs, innovation spaces, and funding competitions tailored to any university ecosystem.

“The innovation is there and so are the students and their ideas, but a few dots still need to be connected. Being here today and learning from what they have already done at Arizona State University and customizing it to our university environments helps connect some of these dots,” said Dr. Ahmed Fikry, director of the Technology, Innovation, and Commercial Office at Mansoura University.

During the second day, Dr. Sebold worked with the six venture development teams on their pitch presentations. This was their last session, after their five-month mentorship, to refine their pitches with Dr. Sebold, and other venture development experts, before they competed for seed grant funding.

The Venture Development Program Demo Day was the culminating event, during which the six venture teams presented their innovative energy initiatives in a “Shark Tank” style showcase. Technology startup fans watched as the teams pitched their fully developed business proposals for clean energy solutions to a distinguished panel of judges, and the winning ventures received a share of $8,000 each in seed funding, powered by USAID, to further develop their ventures.

Mohanad Ahmed, a senior at Ain Shams University and a member of the Eco Drive venture team, shared his enthusiasm for the program, stating, “If you had asked me a few months ago what I wanted to do after graduation, I would have said seek employment at a company. But now, I want to develop my own startup. Maybe even more than one. For me, this workshop changed the way I think.”

Dr. Brent Sebold commended the teams for their dedication to addressing pressing energy issues, saying, “We don’t know if any one of these ventures is going to solve the climate crisis in the next six months or six years, but we do know that we’re chipping away at these individual problem statements in a novel way. So, I’m very excited about the founders and the technologies being developed within these three partner schools.”

The first-place winning venture, Carbonless, which received $2,000, developed a renewable energy solution to decarbonize the maritime industry by capturing and repurposing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The second place, AgroVisioners, which received $1,500, used artificial intelligence in agriculture to control water and oxygen and improve crop quality as well as a plan to benefit from fog in agriculture. In third place, BiAswan, which received $1,500, utilized agricultural and solid waste in the production of clean energy and fertilizers. Receiving $1000 for fourth place, Eco Drive proposed using solar and wind energy to power vehicles by installing power generation units on top of the car. Also receiving $1000, for fifth place, Solar Heater harnessed solar energy in homes, using new technology to maintain water temperature in heaters. And the sixth-place venture, ThermalSync, which received $1,000, used artificial intelligence to select solar power plant locations, optimize plant efficiency, and manage solar photovoltaic systems.

Arizona State University has been operating the Center of Excellence for Energy since 2021 in partnership with its Egyptian partner universities: Ain Shams University, Mansoura University, and Aswan University. For more information about the center and to learn about future opportunities for engagement, visit the Center of Excellence for Energy.