As I look back on the high speed whirlwind of the LAUNCH: Energy Forum, I have deep admiration, respect, and gratitude for the vision and persistence of the original members of NASA and its partners who drove the formation of LAUNCH. It is an example of the efforts, such as the Open Government Initiative and the Quadrennial Development and Diplomacy Review, to update the way our government does things.
For the past several months, the four core partners (NASA, USAID, State, Nike), dozens of private sector and NGO partners, and over 200 innovators spent time thinking about solutions to a global problem: how to reliably generate, store, and distribute energy to people who need it and don't have it. As the other blog postings made clear, the ten selected innovators cover the spectrum in these three areas.
The focus of the entire weekend was speed: speed to identify areas of highest import that will best accelerate the maturation of the innovator's idea into a market reality with real-world impact, speed to the moment when a LAUNCH Council member made a specific offer of help, speed to discovering synergies between two or more innovators. It was exhausting. We worked 15 hour days. But, it was also exhilarating.
The impact of LAUNCH was made very clear on the second day. Promethean Power, located in Massachusetts, announced the close of their first purchase order from Amul, one of India's largest dairies, to provide reliable cooling for milk at the point of its collection. The founders of Promethean credit the reputation of NASA and the other LAUNCH partners with creating that extra little "push" to help them close this contract.
This is a prime example of the power of LAUNCH's model. It aims to help innovators grow their ideas and businesses faster by providing the intangibles that are critical to the early stages of a startup's health and rapid growth. Incubation is a tough nut to crack. Time and often a lack of money are a major issue for startups. Anything that helps a startup team get things done faster is critically important, often very time consuming, and all vital to the successful evolution of a startup. LAUNCH is providing exactly those things, in ways ranging from sourcing customer prospects and finding manufacturing partners, to vetting new talent, identifying the best distribution partners and models, and offering IP strategy.
Given the very human nature of startups and innovation, the energizing effect of being at Kennedy Space Center -- with dinner one night under a Saturn V rocket and the opportunity to see Shuttle Endeavor up close -- is one heck of an accelerant to the psyche. But, what I'm just as excited about is being a new member of the LAUNCH core team. From my perspective, LAUNCH is extremely well thought out and well executed, and I can't wait to see the results it creates.