Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge

This past Saturday was a crazy one, and I’m not just speaking in terms of Michigan Football. Though the Wolverines fell a touch short, Saturday was still a great and productive day. Waking up at 6:30 to make the drive out to Kalamazoo, Michigan was not the best way to start the day, but a few cups of coffee and an hour and a half of driving later Jay, Zhewei and I arrived onto Western Michigan University’s campus and were ready to represent Bamboo Bikes, Uganda. Bamboo Bikes, Uganda is a bamboo bikes project aimed at promoting sustainability through materials selection and clean transportation while being socially driven with a goal of providing bike transportation in Uganda. The Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge (MiCEVC) skill building day was extremely helpful and Bamboo Bikes, Uganda was able to get some great feedback as well as identify action items we need to accomplish in order to progress our idea into a full fledged business. With 14 teams consisting of a total of 70 people there were certainly ideas aplenty. Teams with projects ranging from energy consumption savings with fuel injection and efficient lighting, to farming and fishing sustainability presented their ideas and businesses.

After a brief introduction of the teams we dove right into working. The first activity was a business blueprint. We covered the paper in sticky notes and really identified who our target customer was within a particular segment, what key resources we had and how we could separate ourselves from competitors with a unique value proposition. We then did some customer discovery with other teams to find out if we were really addressing the correct problem. Our initial price point came into question as we wanted to utilize the sustainable materials and foreign aid aspects of the project. If we are able to reach price parody with current bikes and still offer these great extras then we could truly have a game changing idea on our hands. As the day wound down we gained insight into what markets to reach out to, who to contact first in order to access those markets and what we could do to progress the idea as quickly as possible. The final skill building exercise was to make a pitch deck and then pitch it to one of the people running the event. Amy Klinke, U of M Center for Entrepreneurship’s Asst. Director of Small Business Initiatives, gave us some great feedback on our pitch and how to polish it even more. All in all it was a great day and I’m glad to have learned some extremely important skills!

This blog post was written by Justin Moyer, a member of Vort Port International’s Bamboo Bikes Team. He currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan and attends the University of Michigan.

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