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Silicon Valley Insider Identifies Key Cleantech Trends


By Nour Ibrahim


“When we think of Silicon Valley, we think of Apple, Google and Facebook but those are just a few of the many, many companies, many companies in the Silicon Valley ecosystem. We also have many small and medium companies and many thousands of teeny tiny startups.”


This is how Teresa Zhang, Folsom Labs’ vice president of operations started her talk at Tech Women’s From Silicon Valley to the Nile event on March 1 at AUC's New Cairo campus where she among other technology professionals from Silicon Valley discussed the valley’s latest trends.

Zhang, who comes from a mechanical engineering background, dedicated her talk to highlighting the three major trends which she recognized in her field of work with clean technology (cleantech).

“I look around Cairo and I see tremendous energy resource. I see a growing population in need of reliable energy and I see a whole lot of traffic congestion. There is so much opportunity for these cleantech trends to take home here in Egypt.”

The first trend Zhang shared was an exponential rise in the deployment of renewable energy.

“In the very early years, renewable energy was really deployed out of environmental concerns, that is no longer the case. The motivation for renewable energy is profit and that is because the cost of renewable energy has fallen further and faster than almost anyone could’ve imagined,” reasoned Zhang.

Folsom Labs, the company that Zhang works for, provides software tools for solar arrays. One of Folsom Labs’ primary products is HelioScope which enables residential and commercial-scale solar installers to design high-performance solar arrays.

“The solar industry, is also the single biggest source of new jobs in the US. I think it’s also very interesting that the vast majority of these jobs are not coming out of big renewable energy companies… for the most part, there are small companies, powered by tens of thousands of new entrepreneurs,” said Zhang.

The second trend Zhang chose to discuss was the emergence of smart electricity grids. She explained that there is a shift from the hub and spoke model which traditionally has a central power plant sending electricity to wherever it would be needed or consumed. The shift is moving towards having more distributed sources.

“Our electricity grids are starting to look more like a mesh with two-way flows of electricity between the different nods. Nods are sometimes producing power and they are sometimes consuming power. And this new, complex system, both requires and incentivizes a whole class of new technologies,” said Zhang.

Zhang also shed light on the revolution of the vehicle industry.

“New battery technology is enabling a new class of electric vehicles,” she said adding that huge investments are going into enhancing battery technologies which could mean, with the flourishing of the car-sharing economy and autonomous vehicles, that “a child being born in the US now, will never need to learn how to drive or to own a car.”

Zhang believes that these massive trends will have both global and personal implications.


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AUC launched AUC Venture Lab (V-Lab) in 2013 which is the first university-based incubator in Egypt. It incubates early-stage and growth-stage startups that are chosen through a selection process that judges the novelty of the idea, the team’s track record and cohesion, scalability and potential for commercialization, as well as the team’s tenacity and commitment to success. Once selected, the startups benefit from training sessions, mentors, student internships and their presence at the AUC School of Business. They also play an active role in the AUC community and Egypt, sharing their entrepreneurial experience with students, faculty members, mentors and investors, as well as a global alumni network.