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Press Release: Potenco wins POPULAR MECHANICS Breakthrough Award

On October 15th, POPULAR MECHANICS announced that Potenco was one of the winners of its fourth annual Breakthrough Awards at a ceremony in New York City. The Breakthrough Awards celebrate innovations poised to change the world, and the personalities behind them.


“This year’s roster of winners is especially diverse, from high-tech winners such as the 300-mpg Aptera vehicle of the future, to low-tech innovations like rugged wheelchairs for the developing world,” said James B. Meigs, editor-in-chief of POPULAR MECHANICS. “With the energy crisis escalating and the increased focus on climate change and the need for conservation, it is especially rewarding to showcase winners who are making breakthrough contributions in these fields. These winners are applying brilliant design and engineering to improve the lives of others.”

Potenco won a Breakthrough Product Award for the PCG1, a pull-cord power generator that creates electricity for portable gadgets with far greater efficiency than hand-cranked devices. Learn more about the PCG1 at http://www.potenco.com/products/. Watch a video at Popular Mechanics.com.

Some of the other award winners include:

  • Aptera for their ultra-high mileage plug in hybrid cars
  • Amazon for their Kindle e-book reader featuring digital paper.
  • Dr. Mehmet Toner for his circulating tumor cell detector. Dr. Toner is a biomedical engineer at Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
Further details on the Breakthrough awards can be found at:

Potenco at BarCampAfrica 2008

Barcamp Africa Logo

On Saturday, Mike, Jess and I spent the day at BarCampAfrica, an event bringing together a very interesting group of people with varied histories and interests, to talk and learn about Africa.

Google graciously hosted the event (and hopefully didn’t mind that we sampled a fair amount of their free food ; ) )

I believe there were 175 people in attendance and while the majority of attendees were US citizens (CA an MN seemed to be well represented), I think the list of African nationalities represented was pretty comprehensive.  I personally talked to folks from Ghana, Nigeria, S. Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, & Senegal.

Details of the day can be found on the BarCampAfrica site,  & by checking out postings on Twitter (#barcampafrica).

Big thanks to Ellen Lease & her team of volunteers for pulling the great day together.  Thanks as well to all the participants for making it such an interesting & rewarding event.  

We at Potenco are very much looking forward to the day when we can travel and see both the impact we’ve had (creating power entrepreneurs, helping find alternatives to kerosene lighting, etc) as well as signs that the community fostered at BCA (of social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, activists & technologists) has inspired and contributed to the growth of new institutions and practices improving the lives of people across Africa.

All the best,

Brian Warshawsky
VP Operations & Co-founder
Potenco Inc.

Some initial Potenco related photos:
by Erica M. Lee, on Flickr

by Erica M. Lee, on Flickr

Miquel Hudin testing Potenco
Miquel Hudin testing Potenco by Maneno.org, on Flickr

Press Release: Worldbike & Potenco @ Interbike


Potenco teams with worldbike to prototype the Worldbike Mobile Power Station – A cargo bicycle capable of charging cellphones, lighting  homes and many other uses


Potenco is proud to announce an exciting new product partnership with worldbike, an international association of folks committed to transportiation solutions for the world’s poor.


Coupling Potenco’s expertise in human power technology and Worldbike’s innovative longbikes for the developing world, this partnership aims to launch a product that can create job opportunities in rural communities throughout the developing world. 


Worldbike lead, Andrew Hall (presently in Kenya), describes the opportunity as such: “ The  Worldbike…brings portability and cargo capacity to the rural setting. I’ve imagined a bicycle based water purifying station, cell phone charger, a knife sharpener, battery charger for running home  lighting systems, food grinder (like peanuts), a lathe and/or drill press that can travel to the work 



In addition to a Worldbike specific human power generator, Potenco is engineering an inexpensive yet flexible bicycle power accessory which will allow anyone with a bicycle to produce 70-100W of continuous power. For an entrepreneur in Rural Africa, this would translate into the ability to charge approximately 18 phones for every hour of bicycling and provide a payback time for the investment 

in a matter of weeks, if not days. 


Potenco and Worldbike will be demonstrating a mobile power station at the Worldbike Booth  (#7027) at this year’s Interbike Expo in Las Vegas, on September 25th, 2008.


By bringing together the utility and mobility of low-cost longbikes and the high demand value-add of electricity generation, Worldbike and Potenco intend to initially micro-finance these set-ups to entrepreneurs in the developing world who would earn their living using their mobile power station to charge their neighborhood cell phones, provide power for home lighting at night, purify water, and other health and well being related services. Worldbike’s Andrew Hall will be leading tests of these products in the field in months to come.  


More on Worldbike 


Worldbike is an international network of bicycle designers, industry leaders, and international development professionals, working together to provide transportation solutions and create income-generating opportunities for the world’s poor. 


More on Potenco 


In 2009, Potenco will release a 30W generator for powering 12V deep cycle batteries in off-grid areas. Both products feature a pull-cord and eliminate the failure prone gears found in all crank-based generators. Sophisticated electronics efficiently gather the energy, making sure a person’s strength and time are not wasted. The Potenco solutions offer better cost per watt than hand-cranks and solar cells. 


Click here to watch Potenco Intern Jonas Ketterle demo a prototype bike powered generator.




Kristna Evans, Executive Director 

Kristna is a self-proclaimed nonprofit organizational development enthusiast. She brings years of 

experience in a variety of nonprofit settings, as well as a long history of supporting innovative 

bicycle solutions for the world. 


Andrew Hall, Kenya-based Project Manager and Technical Lead 

Andrew is a bicycle designer and fabricator, as well as a non-profit and small business founder. His 

work has focused in the areas of sustainability and a business model and software program for 

bicycle lending programs. 




Mike Frandsen, CEO 

Mike has an extensive background in general management with an emphasis on supply chain 

management. Mike has over 25 years of experience working with companies in the U.S, U.K. 

and Canada. Prior to joining Potenco, Mike was the CEO of TradePoint Solutions (now part of 

DemandTec). From 1995 – 2002 he was responsible for the Supply Chain Management Division 

at PeopleSoft. Mike began his career with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) with a focus on 

installing systems for small to medium manufacturing and distribution companies. Mike has a B.S. 

in Finance/Information Systems from the University of Colorado – Boulder. He is also certified in 

Inventory Management (CPIM) and in Resource Management (CIRM) from the American Production 

and Inventory Control Society. 


Colin Bulthaup, CTO/Founder 

Colin is an electrical engineer with a strong background in robotics, manufacturing, and nanotech. In 

2003 he co-founded Squid Labs, a Venture Technology firm which developed in-house technologies 

which were then spun-off as separate companies.  The spun-off companies included Instructables, 

Makani Power, OptiOpia, Howtoons, and Potenco.  Prior to Squid Labs, Colin founded Kovio, Inc. 

a Silicon Valley company that uses very high-resolution printing techniques to create low-cost 

circuits. Colin earned his Masters degree from MIT and was awarded the Collegiate Inventors 

Award by the US Patent Office. He has also won numerous electrical and mechanical engineering 

competitions, including the International Design Competition. Colin was recognized by Technology 

Review Magazine as one of the top 100 innovators under the age of 35. 


Brian Warshawsky, VP of Operations/Founder 

Brian is an engineer and operations manager with experience in fast growth high volume consumer 

electronics manufacturing. Brian was an early member of the Apple iPod operations team, and was 

the operations lead for the development and introduction of the iPod mini. Brian went on to manage 

the introduction of a number of iPod products and manufacturing processes, and was responsible 

for evaluating and bringing up new production facilities in Taiwan, China, and Europe. Brian earned 

a M.S. from MIT in Materials Engineering, and worked at startups in Boston and San Francisco prior 

to joining Apple. 



Market Analysis and Field Research


We are doing extensive market analysis and field research to effectively indentify our target markets and understand the specific needs of consumers in these markets.  We recently completed extensive field research in Uganda and will soon be underway with market analysis & consumer research in Brazil, India and Kenya.


Field Research in Rural Bangladesh

November 2007, Potenco sent a research team to Bangladesh to investigate the state of electrification first hand.  To get a sense of how our PCG would fit into a rural unelectrified culture we spent time traveling in the central and southwest areas of the country.

Deer in Mongla Fishing Village

Our travels took us to Khulna, Mongla and Dhaka where we tested prototypes with the locals and got feedback on how they could use the PCG in their lives.  As expected, there is a huge need for clean, renewable lighting.

Fishing Village in Mongla, Bangladesh

Kerosene lamps and open flames were abundant as light sources.  The soot byproduct from these lamps permeated all areas of the houses that used them.The input we got from villagers was very positive and encouraging.  Most were pleasantly surprised by the amount of pulling required to create usable light.

Market stalls in Dhaka

With the communications infrastructure as it is, a great number of Bengladeshis have mobile phones.  The mobile coverage throughout most of the country is fantastic.  The average villager that owns a cell phone charges it from a 12 volt car battery, another task that the PCG is very well suited for.Overall our trip was a great success and we have gained more insight into the power needs of rural unelectrified areas.  The Bengladeshi people we met with were wonderfully helpful and eager to see our product made available.  We intend to take what we have learned from Bangladesh and incorporate it into our development process to make Potenco’s products as useful, powerful and organic as possible to fit the end users’ needs.

Brian and Mitch in Dhaka, Bangladesh