SolePower - Most Innovative Company

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Company: SolePower, Pittsburgh, PA
Company Description: Access to portable power is a huge problem across industries and in our daily lives. SolePower's goals are to give a power boost to the electronics that we rely on everyday, and to create "unplugged" new tech that never dies. Portable tech can be powered solely by a person moving, and SolePower is enabling it.
Nomination Category: Company/Organization Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Most Innovative Company of the Year – More Than 10 Employees

Nomination Title: SolePower - Generate usable electricity just by walking.

Describe for the judges the innovations and accomplishments of the nominated organization since the beginning of July last year (up to 525 words):

SolePower, an energy harvesting startup bringing the ultimate mobile and renewable power supply to the market, was born out of a project at Carnegie Mellon University in 2012 by co-founders Matthew Stanton and Hahna Alexander.

By 6 p.m. on campus, “you couldn’t reach anybody because everyone’s cell phone was dead,” Stanton . And that sparked an idea to convert all the energy created from walking into pedestrian power. “We found that you create way more power than we were initially expecting as you walk.” So they began designing a prototype. A couple weeks and a couple hundred dollars later, they came up with a shoe insert, the EnSole.

Upon graduation, they became entrepreneurs and started SolePower with the goal to create power-generating insoles. After some adjustments to increase power, they attached a small battery pack with USB outports suitable for charging. SolePower has a fully issued patent covering the core technology.

Not really knowing much about starting a company, they reached out to anyone they could think of for help, from friends to Carnegie Mellon’s incubator Project Olympus. They also participated in AlphaLab Gear, a program for entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh’s “growing entrepreneurial system.” They've raised nearly $1 million so far from investors including a successful Kickstarter campaign. In 2016 they were accepted to Orange Fab’s US startup accelerator, gaining access to mentorships and a vast network of resources and international partners.

The EnSole

As the company website says, “SolePower insoles are a power source as mobile as the devices they charge.”

EnSoles give the user 1 hour of talk time on an iPhone after every 2 hours of walking. The system is entirely mechanical. With each heel strike, SolePower's patented device spins a micro generator embedded inside each waterproof EnSole and generates electricity. The energy is stored in the SolePower PowerPac, an ultra-light, external power bank attached to your shoelaces.

There are applications for the innovative EnSole across many markets, all of which are accessible with the same core technology. These include outdoor enthusiasts, military and disaster relief personnel, hundreds of millions of people without reliable access to power, and domestic consumer electronics markets.

SolePower charges $200 for a pair of Ensoles, which are available for preorder online. The company will start shipping products this winter. SolePower has over 7000 people signed up.

The team is now working on ways to make the insoles even more powerful, more durable, and last longer. Their research got a big boost when they signed a contract with the United States Army . “The Army is actively looking at solutions – energy harvesting solutions – to reduce the amount of backup weight that soldiers have to carry” said Alexander. SolePower also demoed EnSoles a recent White House’s Global Entrepreneurs Event.

Stanton says. “No matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, you’ll be able to have a mobile power source that’s as portable as the technology you’re using.” “We want to be able to give people access to power around the world and we believe this can really do some meaningful things for people in developing regions.”

Provide a brief biography of the person or persons who lead the nominated company (up to 125 words):

Co-Founders Hahna Alexander and Matt Stanton, Carnegie Mellon students were named to Forbes 30 under 30 list. After running a successful Kickstarter campaign, SolePower received the 2014 Popular Science Invention of the Year, finalist in the Wearable category for the 7th annual SXSW Accelerator competition, African Innovator of Year, Glamour Women of the Year Inventor Honoree, and received $100,000 prize in Steve Case’s “Rise of the Rest” competition.

Hahna Alexander is a Carnegie Mellon mechanical engineer. Before co-founding SolePower, she worked at NASA and SpaceX in structures testing departments, and built an energy harvesting, kite-flying robot for use on windy planets like Mars. Hahna is the CTO of SolePower, focusing on power generation, mechanisms engineering, manufacturing and scaling strategy, and insole development work.

Choose one (even if both apply): The CEO (or other principal manager) of this company is a woman, and at least 40% of the management team is comprised of women.