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Feel Good Friday – Stower Charges Phones with Fire

Attention campers. We are not sure if your world has been rocked by Stower yet, but get ready. Launched in 2012 by Andy Byrnes and Adam Kell, this contraption charges your phone, go pro, flashlight (whatever has a USB) through your campfire. Check out this day dreamy video to learn more.

Ends up this little product is helping revolutionize how people in emerging markets charge their phones. If you have traveled to South America, India or Africa you know mobile phones are in huge demand. Many of these places were so remote they never had landlines, but because they are so remote, charging is an issue. Beyond the consumer energy products, Stower is currently partnered with Grupo EBIS in Guatemala to deliver low cost energy to families through a clean stove initiative.

To learn more about the company we got on the horn with Andy to hear more.

Tell us how Stower came into being.

We started Stower when we got out of school in 2012. The idea was to provide electricity to emerging markets. In 2013 we got into Stanford’s incubator and one of our advisers told us how difficult it is to get into an emerging market from the get go, so it could be a better idea to build a brand in the US first and then try the emerging markets. That is exactly what we did and it has been a great success in the outdoor market.

How did you begin working with Guatemala?

We launched the flame Stower fire charger last May. Last July we got a phone call from someone in Guatemala who had bought one of our products at an REI in America and started using it down there. It was crazy that they came to us when we developed this to take to that kind of market. Our partners down there make the cook stoves for the Guatemalan government. We are integrating our charger into their cook stove.

Tell us more about the mobile phone phenomenon in emerging markets.

Mobile phones are huge in emerging markets, so for this cook stove project, there are over half a million cook stoves being made for this market over the next five years. We are doing a larger program in Ethiopia in the next six months too.

Previously in some areas, there would be a kid in the village who would collect all the phones in a bag and walk to the nearest town to charge people’s phones. There were places that basically had power strips where kids would be charged 20-40 cents per phone to charge. The kid would wait for several hours for all the phones to charge and then walk back to his village. That is a huge amount of time and money to charge phones. Most people don’t realize it but it costs about 40 cents a year to charge your phone in America.

Tell us more about the Guatemala initiative.

Grupo EBIS works with the Guatemalan government to deliver highly efficient and much safer ventilating stoves to rural families who are off-grid. These stoves reduce wood consumption as well as improve the respiratory health of families cooking with indoor fires – a huge issue, as poor ventilation and open indoor fires contribute to over 5,000 deaths a year.

Through this specific partnership, the stoves will integrate the technology from Stower to charge mobile phones directly out of the stove. This will increase efficiency and use of in-home energy sources. After Guatemala, Grupo EBIS hopes to expand this program throughout Central America.

20% of the Guatemalan population lives without access to electricity (which is very expensive to have), yet most have cell phones to earn livings and just for basic communication. To be able to provide this energy source that is readily available and inexpensive, Stower hopes to see partnerships like this expand to other developing nations all over the world.

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