In June 2017, Professor Ernesto Julio Calvo won the DSM Bright Minds Challenge for Inquimae. Traditionally, lithium - the lifeblood of battery technology - is available through one source and one source only: extraction from giant salt lakes or ‘flats. It’s a very slow process that wastes millions of gallons of water while releasing sodium chloride and magnesium sulfate waste into the air and soil. Or at least, it was. Ernesto’s revolutionary electrochemical method uses solar power to extract the lithium…but with zero environmental impact.
The Bright Minds Challenge team interviewed Jan Slaghekke, Chief Global Officer at Sungevity, the world’s most energised network of people who power their lives with sunshine. We wanted to get an insight into what it takes to create a successful renewable energy start-up.
[BM] What inspired you to join the Sungevity team?
[JS] I joined Sungevity’s roof top revolution for 2 reasons:
- The Potential of Solar: I saw the potential that Solar has to transform the world's energy system, bringing clean, decentralised local power to peoples homes and businesses. Sungevity’s approach made it simple to do and could lead to massive scale.
- The People working in the company: I was attracted to their mission driven spirit, all dedicated to bringing Solar to the masses - and all wanting to make a difference.
[BM] The Bright Minds Challenge is looking for people who’ve hit on something big and that demonstrate the drive and determination to see their solution through to success. What advice can you share with potential Bright Minds who are trying to scale up their own solutions?
[JS] The best piece of advice that I can offer to aspiring Bright Minds is to hire the right people - focus on aligning them around the direction of your company, then get out of their way. There are four lessons that I’d like to share from my own experience at a solar energy start-up: