Backpacking, Hydroelectricity and Personal Power: Enomad’s backstory
In the past couple days, we have gotten several questions about our company. Who is Enomad? Where did we come from and what makes us different?
We know you’re curious, so we wanted to address this head-on. I’m Hyerin Park, Founder and CEO of Enomad. Let me share our story.
Since I was very young, I have always been fascinated by nature and sought any adventure I could find. When I was 20-years-old, I left for India on a nine-month backpacking journey. I took every opportunity I could to stay with locals and live as they live. On one night of my trip, I visited a remote village in Kodaikanal, southern India. There was a nine-year-old boy who lived with his widowed mother, and that night was his first time seeing a digital camera. He asked me how to use it (actually he asked me what it is first) and he played with this camera all night. I could see that this one piece of technology inspired him to think beyond the boundaries he knew.
I wanted to give him a camera, but I realized that even if I gave mine to him, he had no access to electricity to charge it. That was a life-changing moment to see how such simple electric accessibility affects our modern life. (I was later robbed and had my camera stolen, but these are a few of the photos saved from my trip that were uploaded to the internet at the time.)
I studied business, but discovering energy solutions for off-grid areas was still an issue close to my heart. The use of mobile devices spread rapidly from developed countries to developing countries. Energy demand in off-grid areas is becoming not just a luxury, but a necessity, for higher quality of life. So after I finished graduate school, I joined a Korean government project that developed a 100kW tidal power plant and generated energy for an isolated island, and I worked as a project manager for four years from 2009 to 2013. It was amazing to see energy harnessed from natural resources. However, most of project was operated by the government and large, energy corporations, and there was still no access for people located outside of the grid. I wanted to solve this problem and empower people in remote locations to take the access to power into their own hands. Then I got the idea: personal, portable generators.
So I partnered with my co-founder Kihwan who is a turbine and power system engineer. Together, we moved to the Capital City of Korea to meet people and research opportunities to turn this idea into a business. I’m going to be honest; It was challenging. As a female founder in the manufacturing industry, I was met with a lot of skepticism and negativity. We were also trying to do something completely different. We had no interest in large-scale production of a product that would be the “next big thing” in technology. We wanted to build a clean energy generator that was small, personalized and affordable for the people often left out of mass marketing. Things took a turn when we met Douglas, from Palo Alto. Douglas, a successful business person who believed in our message, became an impact investor. His investment allowed us to research and develop our product and business. He believes in our vision for personal energy access as a solution to energy poverty, and he wants to see energy access that creates new opportunities and culture around the world. We can’t thank him enough for his support.
Although there are several other portable solar power or thermal generators on the market, portable water power had not been proven as business model yet. We needed to determine our market’s needs to get to the next step. That is why we launched our first project: A smart charging hydropower station. We installed our prototypes into a river park located in the heart of Seoul, capital city of South Korea, and let people charge their smartphones using the energy from moving water. During the day, people used the stations to charge their smartphones, and at night, we used the backup batteries to play music by the river. It was an amazing moment for us to to receive such strong support of our work and vision. More than 120,000 people visited the station in three months, and we were introduced as a company by major local and international media. We got many business offers from many different business fields but as a startup company, we needed to focus on this path:
1) We needed to be able to deliver our mission and values.
2) Our product has to have the ability and interest to go to mass-production.
3) We needed to prove that our product and business has the ability to expand as a sustainable business in the market; and that is how our first target marget became the camping and outdoor market.
So we took a three-month road trip and visited 60+ campsites across the East coast to West coast in America. We found that people are using mobile devices not only for surfing the internet and calling their friends. They’re also using them for work, as GPS, taking pictures, getting information or making emergency calls. They liked our portable water power generator not just for the back up power but also because it provided another option to harness power from the natural resources they were already using. We wanted to make something meaningful and valuable for our users and environment. Our major focus was modular design so it would be completely customizable; it has the capacity of a generator, battery and many other applications.
We worked hard designing the best product we could introduce:
1) Intuitive, user-friendly design
2) Portable, small and light-weight enough for long-term backpacking
3) Stable and powerful performance
4) Practical for various activities
We have been at work for a full one and a half years to get here. The result is the Estream that you are looking at now. Our business model, technology and design of product has been approved by multiple major businesses and R&D competitions. Our design and technology is now patented in four countries, and we are so excited to have you join our journey now. It’s been wonderful to get so many supportive messages and great ideas on how to improve the Estream to be more attractive all around the world. We know your backing of our Kickstarter campaign is not just to purchase one product. It’s also an investment of your time, money and support for us to go to the market with a great product and loving community.
Still there are 20 days more to go, and we are working our best to reach our goal and bring the Estream to you soon! Please follow our campaign online and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, and let us know if you have any ideas or comments on the Estream. Thank you!