Could you please introduce yourself, how you initially gained an interest in comparing the infrastructures within the UK and Zimbabwe?
“I’m Hlanganiso Matangaidze, a 22 year old Impact Technology Entrepreneur. I was born in Zimbabwe, a country which still to this day faces many economic, political and social problems. I moved over to the UK at the age of 5 when Zim really started to go downhill. Moving to the UK not only gave me a better standard of living but a better education and resources to really empower me into being able to pursue anything I wanted to in life. It wasn’t until I started going back to Zim when i was a bit older that i started to realise how lucky I was...
One of my earliest recollections of going back were the frequent power outages and the the ridiculous amount of people living off the grid with no energy access whatsoever. this kind of ignited a curiosity in me to find out more about the energy access within my home country in which i found out that at that particular time 67% of the population lived with no energy access. This took me by surprise, I mean how in the 2015 could this many people be living without electricity ? I mean if you are fortunate enough to be living in a first world country, how easily could you navigate through your day with no electricity ? That means no lights, electrical appliances or even wifi. I think at this point I just realised that something needed to be done. This is an issue not only faced in my country of birth but so many countries around the world in Africa, Asia and south America. There is still just under 1 billion people globally living off the grid with access to any energy infrastructure! I can tell you this living with unreliable or no electricity is incredibly limiting.”
What motivated you to apply to Sussex Innovations Centre’s enterprise contest – and what was this process like for you?
“In my first year of university I started playing around with different ideas to help electrify developing countries in the most affordable way possible. One of the earliest ideas I was working on with a few others from my University was manufacturing small scale vertical wind turbines that could generate roughly 150 W of electricity, constructed from recycled washing motors and PVC pipe. At the same time there happened to be a Entrepreneurship competition held at my university campus for innovative business ideas. One of the previous winners was Trim-It which is now the worlds first mobile barber service, and possibly one of the most successful start ups to come out of the competition. So Inspired by Darrens story i decided to throw myself into deep end, despite still only having an idea. Several workshops, and pitching events later I ended up winning a social Impact award and a Santander entrepreneurship award. If anything I would say this process helped build my confidence and flesh out my idea into a sustainable business model.”
Could you please introduce RED group, and the work that it does in Zimbabwe?
“RED group was initially the group name for several ventures my team and I were undertaking such as a Media/ environmental blog, podcasts and sustainable clothing/fashion along with the energy access initiative which we called RED Tech. I think at the time we started we had 16 people working in our team, where I acted as the RED group Chairman and CEO for RED Tech. After receiving funding from the innovation centre RED tech went on to implement some Solar systems in Zimbabwe in our first pilot scheme where roughly 80 people were given clean energy access. RED tech is now going under a rebrand and name change to Marula Energy where we are working to provide 2,400 people with clean energy access before the end of 2020 in our next pilot scheme, using slightly larger and more robust solar systems.”
How did you go about applying for/receiving sponsorships/funding for Marula Energy?
“When we initially started we received funding from business competitions held by Unilever, Santander and then the Innovation centre. We then began to take things a bit more seriously and began talking to quite a few impact investors. I’ll be honest we received a lot of rejections and setbacks where quite a few people didn’t believe in our idea, therefore where unwilling to invest, but thats just a part of entrepreneurship. you have to learn to take rejection and keep moving forward. theirs that famous quote from Rocky where he says ‘ Life is about how many times you can get hit and keep moving forward’ and I feel that fits in here quite nicely. If you want to start something and see it through, you need a lot of grit and perseverance.”
What are your future aspirations for Marula Energy?
“Our goal is still the same from when I first founded the company, to provide affordable clean energy access and help end energy poverty in the developing world, particularly in my country of birth. We still have a lot of work to do before we get to that point but I’m enjoying the process and hopeful that it can be achieved in my lifetime.”
What would you say to young individuals who are looking to create an independent business/tech start up?
“Just do it. Don’t wait for the right moment because there is never a right moment to start. when I first started my initiative I didn’t know the exact steps I would need to take to get to where I am now or even to reach my end goal, but trust me when i say you will figure it out along the way, just take the first step. Another thing which I feel is key is having the right mindset, you need to back yourself fully and avoid doubting yourself. Most of the start ups i’ve seen fail, have failed because the founder gave up. Starting a business is tough and you will face constant setbacks and rejections but if your mindset is right you can push through this and you’ll be surprised what you can achieve if you stick with it. Most people over estimate what can be achieved in 1 year and under estimate what can be achieved in 10 years.”
What kept you motivated throughout the process?
“The idea of seeing this succeed. I always visualise what this could become and the positive lasting impact it could leave on society, so I guess this makes me not want to stop until I turn this vision into reality. Im a really big believer that you can manifest anything you think of into reality. This might also sound strange but I do think about what I’m leaving behind after I die (even though I’m only 22). If I can die knowing that I’ve improved the lives of millions of people, or started a company that brings a positive lasting impact on society than I feel I can die happy and without regret.”