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Winning business plan to bring light into Guatemalan homes

Sustainability analysis, lifecycle assessment, financial feasibility and a hybrid business model led to the first place in a business plan competition for innovative clean technology ideas for a team of students from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). Team ‘Quantum Energy and Engineering’ won the Dutch CleanTech Challenge and was runner-up at the Global CleanTech Challenge for their sustainability product.



Quantum’s product, Geti, is a kettle for boiling water. When put on top of a cook-stove, the attached thermoelectric generator transforms the waste heat into electricity, which is then stored in a battery. This battery then feeds a USB charging port and a high-efficiency LED system that can be hung from the ceiling or used as a hand lantern. Geti does not consume any fuel which makes it clean (zero emissions) as compared to the traditional candles and kerosene lamps. This means Geti provides clean drinking water and light at the same time.

Access to electricity in Guatemala

“World Bank statistics indicate that 1.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity, and are forced to buy candles and kerosene lamps for lighting,” says RSM student Sanne Wassink, a member of the winning team. “Using candles and kerosene lamps emits fumes that can cause illnesses and death. Moreover they have a low efficiency and low energy quality. We really believe our product will improve their quality of life.

During the course, team ‘Quantum’ consisted of RSM master students Jericho Bakhuis, Alissa Griffioen, Tsikwan Lam and Sanne Wassink, and mechanical engineering students Diego Quan and Avishek Goel from TU Delft. They worked on a sustainability product with two partners in Guatemala: energy systems engineer student Oscar Flores and industrial design engineer student Adriana Palencia.

Hybrid business model

“We focused on the Guatemalan energy market, because some team members have local knowledge from there, giving us an advantage in entering the market,” Wassink explains. “Knowledge of the local language and culturally acceptable practices helped Diego Quan and Oscar Flores devise product idea. With the team, we carried out a sustainability analysis, lifecycle assessment, financial feasibility and worked on developing a hybrid business model,” she added. Thanks to this hybrid business model, the end user can lease the Geti from a local distributor for less than what they currently spend on candles. It works based on a recharge system, which means people can recharge by an arbitrary amount which suits their daily budget. The distributor buys the Geti for a down payment which is the fraction of the cost price, the recharge costs made by the end user flow to both parties (Quantum and the local distributor), to ensure viable long-run cashflows.

The Dutch CleanTech Challenge, in which five teams competed, was hosted by the Delft Centre for Entrepreneurship, Yes!Delft students, the TU Delft Energy Club and the Erasmus Center for Entrepreneurship students to conclude a combined elective was between RSM and TU Delft called Clean Tech Business Study, offered by Delft Centre for Entrepreneurship.

Coaching and pitching

Quantum won second place in the Global CleanTech Challenge, which was hosted by London Business School and University College London, where the students received coaching by Gerard Gregg-Smith. The finals took place in London in April 2019 for eight start-ups, that were chosen after many selection rounds and hundreds of applications submitted globally.

The jury members at both competitions were impressed with Quantum. They said the team “is very able to develop itself, and they showcased a great pitch and business plan during the whole elective as well as in the finals. The problem they’re trying to solve needs no convincing, and I love their passion.”

Diego, Oscar, Avishek, Adriana and Sanne plan to continue to evolve this business idea into a market-ready product. “We are currently optimising the working prototype and establishing it into a market-ready product. Geti provides an incremental and socially acceptable approach for solving light poverty. The team also has other products lined up that are able to alleviate more than lighting needs. The technologies of these future products, build upon that of Geti,” said Sanne Wassink. 

Since London, the team has also competed in the finals at the All Energy Day in The Hague in May, and they will pitch at the Ideation Contest at TU Delft in June 2019.

CleanTech elective in Rotterdam and Delft

The RSM CleanTech elective provides students in the MSc Global Business & Sustainability programme an interdisciplinary experience working in conjunction with students from TU Delft. Teams are called upon to share and apply their respective technical and managerial knowledge to formulate a new business idea for a sustainable product or service.

Lectures were held at RSM and TU Delft from January until April. The module guided students through the process providing sessions on aspects such as assessing market potential, product commercialisation, business modelling, and assessing the financial feasibility of ideas. Academic faculty members, external advisors and experienced entrepreneurs help coach teams to completion. The RSM students are also expected to complete an additional assignment focusing on intellectual property rights.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten@rsm.nl.

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