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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jessica O. Matthews and Uncharted Power

Jessica O. Matthews
The perfect mashup of Bill Nye the Science Guy and Beyoncé, Jessica O. Matthews enjoys building, testing, and inventing. She also loves inspiring young minority women to think big and break new ground. A Nigerian-American inventor, a venture capitalist, and the CEO and Founder of Uncharted Power (previously named Uncharted Play), Matthews has changed the way that many developing countries light their homes.
Before Uncharted Power

Matthews grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY, and is a dual citizen of the United States and Nigeria. She attended Our Lady of Lourdes High School and excelled at many of the school’s science fairs. At a young age, Jessica fell in love with the world of science. She enjoyed learning and creating new things that would enhance the world around her.

When she was 19, she was attending her aunts wedding in Nigeria. While everyone was celebrating, the power went out—which is typical for a country with unstable electricity—and the venue workers brought in diesel generators. The smell, as you could imagine, was terrible. But Matthews knew that such generators posed an even greater threat: severe effects on the body. When she tried to talk to her relatives about it, they said it was fine and that she had nothing to worry about. However, she wasn’t okay with this being the norm and went home to create the SOCCKET—an energy-harnessing soccer ball. This invention would go on to change and save lives.

She graduated from Harvard Business School in 2010, and from that point on, Matthews became a powerhouse within the nonprofit/business realm. After presenting at the Clinton Global Initiative University, as well as attending President Barack Obama’s trip to Tanzania in 2013, it was clear that this brilliant Harvard grad was going to have an outstanding career.

Uncharted Power

Uncharted Power is fueled by Motion-based Off-grid Renewable Energy (MORE)—an energy harvesting and emanating building block that can be seamlessly integrated into various infrastructures, objects, and products. With this technology, Matthews realized that she could create a platform that can turn almost anything that moves into a source of power. This breakthrough could provide power for people all over the world. She continued to brainstorm all the different platforms she could create that would harvest energy and be enjoyable to use.

After years of research and development, Uncharted Power introduced the PULSE, a jump rope that uses the same energy-harnessing ability of the SOCCKET. Both the SOCCKET and the PULSE allow kids to play around outside while simultaneously harvesting energy that they can use later. After at least thirty minutes of play, a child can harness the stored energy to power the lamp that comes with each product.

What Matthews has done with her business within the tech ecosystem is something absolutely incredible. Sadly, the norm is that black female founders receive almost zero venture capital. Since 2009, black women-led startups have raised $289 million in venture funding. That number represents .0006% of the total tech venture funding raised. Therefore, the fact that Matthews was able to raise $7 million in venture funding is phenomenal and speaks to her intelligence and determination.

While Matthews was able to raise $7 million for her own venture, other inventors around the globe still struggle to fund their own projects. For anyone who wants to follow in her footsteps, despite the difficult road ahead, Matthews has shown that the benefits are absolutely worth every hurdle—whether someone wishes to create innovative longboards, basketballs, or even scooters.

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