On the 21st of April this year, we ran a story on this platform, on our Alumni of the Week segment about siblings Tony Nyagah and Charity Wanjiku, detailing their collaborative efforts and knack for innovation that saw through the birth of Strauss Energy Limited , a company which manufactures solar roofing tiles that produce electricity. At this time, their innovation had managed to get to the semifinalists stage of the GIST Tech-I Competition, in which their fate would be determined through online voting (open to anyone), and selection by a panel of experts at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). Saying the competition was tight would be an understatement. This year the GIST Tech-I Competition received a record 1,075 applications from 104 countries and territories. Over 140 regional, scientific, and entrepreneurship experts from around the world participated in the expert review round of the competition. As if that statistic is not scary enough, the GIST acknowledges that this years competition had the highest number of online voters, breaking all previous records. After a month of voting, a total of 431,655 votes were submitted from 186 different countries and territories around the world.
At around 8 pm Wednesday night, on the 4th day of May, 2016 came the moment of reckoning. The 2016 GIST Tech-I Finalists were announced, and Strauss Energy, represented by Charity Wanjiku, our very own JKUAT alumna, was among them! The Global Innovation through Science & Technology (GIST) initiative nurtures innovators throughout the world in several categories and levels. Specifically, the GIST Tech-I Competition is an annual competition for science and technology entrepreneurs from emerging economies worldwide. Through this platform, aspiring innovators submit their ideas and startups online in an application consisting of an executive summary and promotional video. Their applications are then reviewed by experts and voted on by the global voting public in order to determine the finalists.
Up to thirty finalists receive a trip to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), and this year, the summit will be held in the Silicon Valley, to showcase their ventures and to receive intensive training. GIST Tech-I winners, selected by experts at the GES, win prizes, and receive one-on-one mentorship and training. The GIST initiative is led by the U.S. Department of State, and the Tech-I competition is implemented by The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This is the peak that siblings Tony Nyagah and Charity Wanjiku, both JKUAT alumni, have managed to scale so far, thanks to their thoughtful and viable innovation of Strauss Energy. Charity Wanjiku, who was representing the Strauss Energy brand, managed to be among the top 15 startup stage finalists who will now be flying out to the Silicon Valley to pitch their ideas on the GES. She was the only Kenyan in this category, with the only other African countries represented being Egypt and Nigeria. Thanks to her, and to their amazing innovation, the Silicon Savannah is heading to Silicon Valley!
Theirs has been a clear testimony to the University’s identity of being a trendsetter in higher education, research and innovation. The JKUAT community could never be prouder. Meanwhile if you missed our previous story about Tony and Charity, worry not! You can still read it here. To those who heeded our call to vote for the amazing Strauss Energy innovation, we say thank you. In Charity’s words, ” To all those who supported us, I cannot thank you enough, and as for the University that mentored me to where I am, I can only say long live JKUAT and its alumni.”
The culture of innovation is one of the basic foundations on which JKUAT is anchored, and a necessary dose that all students are subjected to with an aim of ensuring they positively impact on the society. Matter of fact, the good news of JKUAT alumni making it to the Silicon Valley comes at a time when the University’s College of Engineering & Technology is hosting the 2016 Sustainable Research and Innovation (SRI) Conference at Kenya School of Monetary Studies, illustrating just how central innovation and research is to the University’s existence. For now though, let us celebrate and enjoy the prestige of being associated with our proud alumni.