Q&A with Caritta Seppa - Ye! Global Awards Finalist
We caught up with Young Women Entrepreneur, Ye! Global Awards 2017 Finalist, and one of Forbes Top 30 under 30, Carritta Seppa to discuss her company's outlook on the future of mobile energy, Tespack's new project bringing solar energy to rural schools, and what it's like to be a women co-founder in tech.
Ye! - What does it mean to be a mobile technology provider in 2018?
Caritta - Energy is the most important part of technology, it is like water to us, we cannot live without it. However, the future of energy is not in creating different storage solutions, it is about creating your own energy on-the-go. Everything in this world has gone mobile, from our phones to laptops, to the way we live. Thus energy needs to go mobile as well and we should all have the opportunity to be the masters of our own energy needs. Being a mobile energy company in 2018, is to show how traditional industries are changing and we need to change with them.
Ye! - How did you come up with the name Tespack?
Caritta - The name for Tespack came from Tespack’s founder Mario Aguilera and from Nikola Tesla (“Tes”) for the beginning. We believe in the wireless world and Tesla was an exceptional scientist and inventor in his field and can be thought of as the father of wireless technology. “Pack” comes from backpack as the first products we developed were Solar Smartpacks.
Ye! - What drew you to mobile energy and mobile technology as a business endeavor?
Caritta - Our lives have become dependant on our mobile devices and most of us cannot imagine living without them (including me). However all our devices depend on energy, just like pretty much everything does today. Energy is like water to us and just like our devices, we cannot live without it. We all know the feeling of running out of battery when we really need it the most. On average, 50% of us will experience this dreadful feeling once a day (up to 90% of the Millennials suffer from low battery anxiety - the constant fear of their phones running out of battery). This exists in the city but imagine in the outdoors for people on deployment and on rescue missions, access to energy becomes vital. This is something our CEO and founder Mario Aguilera experienced first-hand while operating in the Special Forces. With running out of energy as the problem, we see the solution as the ability to create your own energy. Without the capacity to create energy, you will simply end up carrying more empty devices that need recharging. The future of energy is not in creating different storage solutions but coming up with a new solution where everyone, all of us, could be energy independent and create our own energy on-the-go. Out of this belief, Tespack was born. Our vision and aim as a business is that we all should be the master of our own energy, be able to live mobile lives, have the power to remain charged and to create energy from sustainable sources such as the sun, heat or wind.
On the Mobile School Project-
Ye! - Let's talk about the Mobile School Project! What is it?
Caritta - Mobile School is a concept. In this project, Tespack provides all needed tools for teachers and/or students to be able to study and teach in rural areas where there is limited access to electricity. The idea is that with our solar panels, either teachers or students can create their own energy and store the energy into Tespack power banks. In return these students and teachers can power all needed mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, LED lights, small projectors, phones, and facilitate an increase in hours spent learning by decreasing their dependency on unreliable energy. By focusing on a modular system, we provide the opportunity for teachers and students to join their panels together and thus create a mobile solar plant where 7W can become 70W. So the teachers can teach where and whenever needed to and the students can study even in the night time when the sun has gone down.
Ye! - How did Tespack come up with the idea for the Mobile School Project? What was the inspiration?
Caritta - Everything is linked to energy and therefore we see energy as an enabler; enabling teachers and workers to bring education and health care services to the most rural areas, enabling the production of clean water, enabling workers to provide rescue services, etc. We work with different NGOs, universities, military and rescue forces and learned first-hand how important it is to be able to power any device when off-grid, not to mention to create energy on the move from the sun.
Coming from Finland where we pride ourselves on having some of the best education and educational tools. We realised that we could help and be part of the movement to educate people who live in rural areas, where there is limited access to electricity. This limits students' chances to study and teachers to teach properly. We began working on this in Bolivia where teachers travel hundreds of kilometers to teach children in rural areas. We wanted to create a solution where a teacher is able to power all needed equipment for teaching. We believe that the best way to make a change, is to provide the access to the right resources for everyone to learn and study. We believe in teaching someone how to fish, how to make a living, through educating themselves rather than simply giving them the fish, that only lasts for a day.
Ye! - Is Tespack currently looking to enable more schools in rural areas with renewable energy?
Caritta - We are currently working with couple of different projects, one of them being a project together with SauraMandala, an organisation that works in India, in the Kasmir Jammu region. In this region they have limited access to electricity and thus teaching and studying becomes a problem for many. Tespack provides the energy solutions for the school in the region so that the students can study and teachers can conduct classes without being connected to the grid. We are constantly looking for new projects, to help and enable more students to be able to study in rural areas.
Ye! - What have been some of the struggles and successes of the mobile school project?
Caritta - The biggest successes have been to see how big a difference it can make to have the tools to power mobile devices. Seeing children studying without interruptions and teachers teaching classes after dark and without worry in areas that normally would have been hard to reach for electricity is incredible. It makes you realise and understand how much it means to have energy and electricity. With the power to operate all the mobile devices any student can learn and transform their situation. We would of course love to help even more organisations and see more of our mobile school projects take place around the world, however, in order to do this, we need to get more NGOs and rescue forces to collaborate. We are working to show that investing in new products, technology and innovations can make a difference for the better in the lives of young people and rural communities.
Looking to the Future-
Ye! - How has Tespack changed from the vision you began with, to the company it is now?
Caritta - Tespack started with Solar Smartpacks, with creating products for the consumer sector. In the beginning, we focused on the consumer sector and purely on hardware. However during the years that followed, we have seen high demand for mobile energy solutions in rural areas, among military, rescue forces and NGOs. We shifted our focus from creating products to creating solutions by combining hardware and software and by becoming the mobile energy provider to everyone, no matter where they are.
Ye! - In 2018, how will Tespack continue evolving to the changing mobile energy market?
Caritta - For Tespack, 2018 means expanding to new markets, such as US and Middle-East and introducing new products to market that have not be seen yet. We will be launching the first solar smart IoT helmet ever! We will also be launching the ultra-fast charging power bank that can be charged full in minutes, not in hours. The power bank will also incorporate smart IoT, which will take us further into software as we will be launching new applications to the market that focus on energy and related data.
Ye! - How will Tespack be different ten years from now?
Caritta - In 10 years time, we see Tespack as a household name, a brand, a company for mobile energy. We want to be the company that powers people when they leave their houses - a wearable brand for everyone. So when people think of energy and mobiles, they will think of Tespack.
On being a woman in tech-
Ye! - As a successful women in tech, what are some of the challenges that you have faced?
Caritta - Everyone has to go through several challenges when running a startup/company. This has been no different for me. Of course as a woman in tech, there have been some challenges that I had to deal with that simply had to do with the way I look and am. In a male dominated technology world, having no engineering background and being young (and may I say also blonde), I had to deal a fair amount of glances. Several times others have tried to put me down or did not take me seriously because of my age and the way I look. However, I have never let this stop me or change me. I know some women who had to change their looks, dress differently, talk differently, simply to be treated better in the tech environment. I am a strong believer that we should not change ourselves for others, but rather change the industry.
Of course, working in a hardware and wearables industry has brought its own challenges, something a software company does not need to deal with. For example, I had to learn fast about different levels of customs, logistics, production, insurances, etc. The list goes on! I believe there is a reason we call it “hard”ware as yes, it can be bloody hard at times!
Ye! - Can you share some skills you have learned from your experiences working in tech and energy as a young women entrepreneur?
Caritta - I have a learned a lot about confidence and believing in yourself, not letting others dictate who you are and what you do. Working in the tech field and having a company can be (and honestly) is very hard at times (just like running any company really). There are always things that need to be done and on many occasions, you will end up dealing with them yourself. For a long time, I tried to do too many things by myself without asking for help. This only led to me feeling more tired and stressed. I learnt to let go, to let others help as the key to success is teamwork. Working in the tech and energy industry, I had to (and constantly have to) continue learning. I learn new things every day. Being young and without an engineering degree, it is essential to constantly work hard and stay updated. Now what I do is schedule a time each day, typically in the morning, to read and learn something new. Something I recommend to everyone, read a lot!
Ye! - What advice can you share with other aspirational young women entrepreneurs?
Caritta - Don’t let your background, skills or age define you and your future! It doesn't matter if you weren't the best in school or didn't study electronics or mechanics. If you still want to pursue a career in STEM fields, do it. These days there are so many sources and opportunities out there that we should all take greater advantage off. Follow your passion and what feels right to you, no matter what this is. In the end, we only live once. We should all actually “live” and not simply exist. The world keeps changing every day so make sure you do as well! What I mean with this - constantly keep learning and trying new things. Take online courses, travel a lot, read, simply do things that will make your value higher to yourself and to a company. The best investment you can ever make is in yourself. This all might sound like a cliche but it is the truth. So go and live your life the way you want.
To learn more about the mobile school project watch the clip!
Images Courtesy of Tespack.