“What I am driven by is the concept of self-actualization, When I say that, what I mean is (that) I am driven by showing people that look like me what’s possible.”
And she definitely does look like us. Jessica O. Matthews made that remark in an interview with NBCBLK, where she talked about her invention – the Soccket soccer ball that could generate three hours of LED light after 30 minutes of play.
This is one of the many innovations made by Jessica Matthews and her tech company – Uncharted Play. Matthews, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States, first came up with the idea for the company when visiting Nigeria for a family wedding. When the power went out during the party, her relatives switched on the noisy, noxious diesel generators that have become a way of life for nearly 60 million Nigerians. As we all know by now, only 25 percent of Nigerians have access to regular electricity, and the nation averages 32 eight-hour power outages per month.
This inspired the Harvard graduate to innovate on possible off-grid power solutions. Alongside the SOCCKET ball invention, Uncharted Play is also credited with other innovations such as PULSE, an emergency battery charging jump rope. Both products use Uncharted Play’s proprietary M.O.R.E. (Motion-based, Off-Grid, Renewable Energy) technology to harness power generated by minutes of play to create hours of electricity.
She believes that people should not have to be restricted to being connected to walls to have access to power and has been making great strides in converting kinetic energy to usable electricity.
Though her company is based in New york, she has revealed plans to spread her power solutions to other parts of the world including Africa, and with the recent 7 million dollar funding she has just received, She just might get her wish.
The $7 million investment in Uncharted Play makes Matthews the 13th black female founder who has raised more than $1 million in outside investment.
In the tech ecosystem, black female founders receive basically zero venture capital. Of the several thousand venture deals that went down from 2012 to 2014, less than 1 percent of them went to black women. This goes to highlight just how much of landmark this is for Jessica Matthews and all African American women in the renewable energy sphere.
Some might argue that Mathews is yet to truly create a lasting solution to most of the world’s power struggles but at 28 years old one would be foolish to bet against her achieving that in the nearest future.
In an interview when she was questioned about comparisons with her schoolmate – a certain Mark Zuckerburg, she emoted, saying
“I said to them, ‘I just have to come clean; I don’t know if I can do this. Zuckerberg and I went to the same school, but we grew up in a totally different experiences, He is much more like them (silicon valley type). They won’t understand me. They won’t understand the experience.”
She further explained that personal experiences and struggles give birth to solutions. Zuckerberg could not have invented SOCCKET, because his struggle was he could not get a date while at Harvard. Meanwhile, Matthews’ solution is based her own family’s struggle with energy issues in Nigeria.
We certainly understand the struggle and we applaud innovations such as these.