By Chloe Aiello
Watch out Elon Musk, Jessica O. Matthews is coming for your spot.
The entrepreneur behind renewable company Uncharted Power has been devising innovative kinetic energy solutions since she was 19. After almost eight years in the game, she's tackling the problem of energy infrastructure, while arming herself with the knowledge that perspective is power.
"Infrastructure seemed scary, it seemed big and no one that looked like me was doing infrastructure," Matthews told Cheddar Friday. "But now that I've been in the room this long ... I decided that sometimes just having a new perspective in and of itself will be groundbreaking, so I am no longer afraid of taking it all over."
That fearlessness is paying off. Matthews has already been called "the Elon Musk of kinetic energy."
"I have publicly said, 'Elon Musk I'm coming for you. I'm not afraid,'" she said.
The Harvard graduate first earned acclaim for her co-invention, the Soccket Ball, which is a soccer ball-shaped generator that produces off-grid power through motion. The team eventually graduated from putting generators in soccer balls, jump ropes, and other forms of play to building out a platform that "turn[s] everything around us into a source of power ー from walking on the ground to sitting in a chair, to pushing a stroller."
Now the team primarily focuses on matters of infrastructure.
"For the last couple of years, we've been building out those technologies and now are actually launching full-on infrastructure micro-grid projects as close to home as in Connecticut ー and as far away as in Rwanda and Zimbabwe," Matthews said.
Matthews, who is Nigerian, said she was originally inspired by her family's plight in Africa to enter the energy field. While growing up, she would visit Nigeria several times each year from her home in the U.S., and during those visits she came to expect frequent power outages. Her family relied heavily on bulky, outdated diesel-powered generators ー and still didn't get the best results.
"It can be as simple as charging your cell phone. Like imagine if you left the house always with a battery level under 10 percent ー I think you'd have PTSD, it would be impossible," she said.
Thanks to the support of her family and her parents, Matthews said she grew up with the knowledge that she could change the world if she really tried. And that's what she set out to do.
"If you are trying to design solutions for the world, you need to have a team that represents the world," she said.
For full interview click here.