Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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November 05, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Godfrey Simiyu Katiambo came from Kenya for the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator”

His start-up named INNO-NEAT Energy Solutions is focused on bringing electricity to communities that lack it and also providing a reliable source for clean drinking water.

Without a doubt, the entrepreneur who travelled the longest distance to participate in Cohort 2 of the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator” is Godfrey Simiyu Katiambo. He came from Nairobi, Kenya to join the 13-week program operated by the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park.

Katiambo told us during a recent interview that he grew-up in a small village in the African nation where there was no electricity or abundant drinking water. “We had to walk long distances to get water early in the morning,” he said.

The son of parents who were schoolteachers, he said that the family relied on kerosene lamps to provide lighting. As a result, Katiambo developed asthma, and that condition caused him to focus his energies in college and for the past decade on bringing clean energy to communities like the village where he was raised.

The start-up that he founded and for which he serves as Chief Executive Officer is named INNO-NEAT Energy Solutions, and Katiambo and his team have developed a unique solution to the two problems – bringing electricity to communities that lack it and also providing a reliable source for clean drinking water.

What’s the secret sauce?

It is breaking old, big lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles into several parts that can then be repurposed and used power homes. That same technology can also be used to supplement a solar-powered water filtration system to produce clean, potable water for communities facing water scarcity and contamination issues.

“We can serve 50 to 100 homes with the solar-powered system that costs $500,” Katiambo says of its Safisolar system. The flagship product combines innovative technology with solar energy to remove contaminants, including bacteria and viruses from water sources, ensuring safe and clean drinking water.

The system incorporates advanced membrane filtration technologies to achieve high-quality water purification. It is portable, easy to use, and requires minimal maintenance. The system is offered to low-income off-grid communities through a Pay-as-you-Go model thereby lowering the costs of ownership for these communities.

How did an African-based company find the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator”?

For starters, this is not his first start-up program. In 2021, INNO-NEAT participated in “Startup|Energy’s Energy Camp East Africa” where it won 2,500 euros to further develop its business idea. The next year, Katiambo was a winner in the 2022 edition of the RRR Accelerator that was focused on non-government organizations and private companies with plans to take up innovative projects to promote the reuse, refurbishment, and repair (RRR) of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) in low-income and middle-income countries.

“I found Spark,” he says and applied. “I’ve been welcomed in the nicest way possible.”

His goal: take the idea to the next level.

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