From NYC To Nairobi: Interview With SunCulture, Audience Choice Award Winners 2011-12
Monday, December 10, 2012
All entrepreneurs are inherently risk-takers, but some are willing to go above and beyond for an idea they believe in. NYU Stern alumnus Samir Ibrahim and serial entrepreneur Charles Nichols, winners of the Audience Choice Award at the 2011-12 Entrepreneur’s Challenge fit this description perfectly. The two recently packed their bags and moved to Kenya, where their start-up SunCulture sells solar-powered irrigation products and agricultural services to local farmers.
One year ago, Samir Ibrahim met his friend Charles Nichols for dinner at the John Dory Oyster Bar to discuss entering the NYU Social Venture Competition. Charlie had had an idea to use solar water pumps for agriculture, realizing that this would serve an unmet need for more efficient irrigation systems. Their backgrounds complimented each other – Charlie has a background in engineering and had worked for company developing solar-energy projects, while Samir had a background in finance. After some discussion, the two decided to enter the competition.
Today, they travel around rural areas in Kenya, selling green energy at low rates to Kenyan farmers. Their product, the AgroSolar Irrigation Kit, uses solar pumps to irrigate farmers’ fields using drip irrigation, a method that delivers water precisely to the crops that need it and is up to 90% more efficient than traditional agriculture methods. Water scarcity is a serious issue in drought-prone Kenya, where it can lead to crop failures and even violence.