Tales and Tips from the Winner’s Circle #2 WAGA
As this year’s cohort prepares to pitch at the Regional Finals, we catch up with last year’s winners. Read on to see how they’ve progressed, what they’ve learned, and their golden tip for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Gibson Kawago, WAGA – Tanzania
WAGA repurposes used lithium-ion batteries to create battery packs for rural households and businesses. The solar-powered rechargeable PAWA Mini battery pack gives off-grid (outside of the electricity grid) businessowners a viable and clean lighting alternative to kerosene lamps.
What was special about your ClimateLaunchpad experience?
ClimateLaunchpad helped me make my first pitch deck (a version of which I still use!). I’ve done other competitions before, but this is the only one where I’m still in regular contact with Anza (National Lead organisation in Tanzania) and the central team. Now, WAGA is not just a project anymore, it’s a business.
Your biggest highlight since ClimateLaunchpad?
Winning gave me and my business credibility and this competition opened a lot of doors. I met the US Vice-President Kamala Harris! She was cheerful, charming, and asked a lot of educated questions. I was also part of the 2022 UN Cohort of Young Leaders for SDGs. I also made a lot of new connections touring my product around the USA.
What’s the hardest part of running a start-up?
It’s like banging your head against a wall – it’s a thousand uncertainties at once, but it helps you grow as a person. In this early stage, we are investing all of our finances back into the business. Some people around me are buying nice cars, nice houses, but for me it’s about patience. Some say that we’re aiming too high, but it’s about long-term goals.
How do you stay positive?
Everyone and every business comes from different backgrounds, so I don’t compare myself to what I see around me, but to where I came from. You are the one that can keep yourself positive.
If you had a time machine, what would you tell your earlier self?
The more you experience, the more you find out. When I had my idea 7 years ago, I thought I was already ready to enter the market, but now I know I wasn’t. I was also short-sighted, but now I know the value of setting medium- and long-term goals.
With my ClimateLaunchpad winnings I was able to buy equipment to test my batteries and a proper storage shelf. I’ve already had a paid pilot. With another competition win, I’ll have enough capital to shift my attention away from R&D and into producing my product. I’m aiming to hit the market in January and start making sales.
Any business tips?
Social Media as Customer Discovery: I use social media as a feedback platform – I post my product online and with the comments I get customer feedback for free and build a network.
Network (and do your homework): Always do your homework on who you will be talking to – your knowledge of your field and of them will catch their attention, build trust, and will help future partnerships.
And your golden tip(s) for this year’s cohort?
Follow the pitch deck instructions: You should change your pitch according to your audience, and your audience is ClimateLaunchpad – so follow the rules.
Update your pitch deck as you go: Don’t wait until the last minute.
Learn from your peers: At the Regional Level, you’ll meet different people with different mindsets – mix your skills with theirs.
FOCUS: To get everything out of the ClimateLaunchpad programme and to bring your business to the next level afterwards, you need focus.