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JRI Spins-Off a Startup to Aid Inventors

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     As any inventor will tell you, making the leap from research and development to viable products capable of generating an income sufficient to support a company can be insanely difficult. First, you have to create something and show that it works. That's hard enough. After that, however, there are many steps on the road to success. The road includes time spent on the name for the device or technology, development of a manufacturing process that produces at affordable prices, marketing, generating strategic alliances, and avoiding a myriad of pitfalls. All this must be taken care of while the patent issues are being resolved. Even if a US patent is obtained, this is typically too late for international patents to be filed and many inventors are left only being able to monetize their hard work in the US.

     Now a pair from JRI plans to change all that. JRI Founder, Dr. Sanza Kazadi, and JRI Board Member and Alumni, Mr. Albert Chang, have formed a new company called Wakunga Technologies. This new company promises to change the game in the world of high impact technologies through a groundbreaking new process that restricts the risk to inventors and the greater market in general. Using the Wakunga Technology process, inventors can obtain help in finding funding, product development, and licensing of their new technologies. “Investors obtain the additional opportunity to invest in the technology itself. This opens another avenue of investment revenues distinct from directly investing in a single company using the technology in a product line. Effectively, this means the investor is gaining a stake and profit from every company that uses the technology in any defensible market. By accessing the cashflow rather than the equity, an investor can greatly improve his/her overall outcome.” says Kazadi, co-founder of Wakunga Technologies.

     The first technology that Wakunga Technologies has acquired is one under development at JRI for the past eight years, which has led to three published papers and two posters, to date. The technology is a process for acquiring useful energy from environmental thermal energy.

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The technology functions by generating an internal thermal gradient (illustrated here using two mason jars as cavities).  Since the technology generates two different temperatures, it can draw in heat from the environment, pump heat out to the environment, or both.  Clever assemblies of these cells can draw in and make available a significant amount of thermal energy cleanly, renewably, and with no environmentally damaging side-effects.  The technology consumes water (which need not be potable) and generates water vapor.  It has the potential to make an impact in a number of ways including eliminating much of the energy costs of refrigeration, water heating, and desalination. Wakunga Technologies has given the technology the name Fire 2.0. A “road show” has been organized during which Kazadi and Chang will be visiting many organizations and teaching them how the technology works and how it can be built. In addition, Wakunga Technology's website contains a link to a second website (www.entrochemical.com) which describes the science in detail.

     Both Chang and Kazadi are especially interested in making sure that some of the technologies that Wakunga Technologies is championing make it to the third world, as this area has both a great need and a great potential market. “One of my primary motivations for doing this start-up is to effect ... change. I can only imagine what people in developing nations could do if they didn't have to worry about clean water or reliable energy.” said Chang. “Wakunga is basically the broker that's going to make this all happen; we're the central node that's going to spread this technology out to both the developing and developed world.”

     The collaboration between Chang and Kazadi brings together two people with a common interest in hard things. “I'm driven by solving problems.” says Chang. “Now that I'm doing this start-up, I realize that what drove me to JRI when I was a student was this precise point of motivation. I've always loved solving problems, and my life since JRI has been driven by the need to solver harder and harder problems.” Kazadi agrees with his colleague. “I think when you're looking at big problems, the key is to break them down into smaller problems and work on them one at a time. JRI has always been about teaching people how to do that and now Wakunga Technologies will enable Albert and I to apply it to solving very hard problems that plague people worldwide.”

     About the road forward, Chang emphasized that in his view, the business aspect has to be carefully considered when thinking about good solutions to hard problems. “I honestly don't think people can make a big difference in the world unless there's a way to sustain it - and business has been a great way, from what I've seen, to sustain change.”

     “People are trying to do a lot of good in this world,” says Kazadi. “We don't see it in the popular media and don't realize just how much good the world is doing at any given time.  We humans do kind things, from  random acts of kindness and to moving mountains just because it's right or kind or good.  I think Wakunga Technologies will ultimately be one of those good things. I think its particular contribution to the world will be to generate a pathway for innovation to survive and thrive, tilting the odds in the favor of the technology's survival in the brutal world of commerce.”

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