Aidex Voices

Ahead of the AidEx 2019 Aid Innovation Challenge at Brussels Expo in Belgium on 13 November, we caught up with last year’s winner Sen Chang, CEO of YOLK to find out what has happened since.

The solar company YOLK emerged in 2014, receiving initial recognition for its ‘million-dollar-selling Solar Paper’ as they surpassed the US$1 million mark on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, becoming the first Korean company to do so. Since 2018, YOLK pursued innovation in the social impact sector by investing its effective design and technology fusion into the Solar Cow Project.

Having been shortlisted to the final four, Chang pitched the Solar Cow and Power Milk to a panel of judges live at AidEx 2018. The panellists were impressed by the innovation’s concept of providing positive reinforcement to parents in the form of an electrical power source in exchange for sending their children to school and was awarded first prize.

Over the past year, the product has gone on to be granted funding from Kenya and Tanzanian aid agencies with one Solar Cow installed in Tanzania last month. Awards include the iF Social Impact 2018 finalist prize, winner of the CES 2019 Innovation Award and in Green Tech Awards’ top three. YOLK has also participated in the GES Summit and Google Asia Demo Day in Thailand. Solar Cow has featured in news worldwide including Reuters and the Malala Fund to name a few, with a particular highlight being an opportunity to connect with global leaders such as Prince Andrew.

Speaking to Chang ahead of the upcoming AidEx event next month, where YOLK will be exhibiting their upgraded version of the Solar Cow and the CEO herself will be a judge, AidEx Voices wanted to learn more about why taking part in the Challenge last year was an effective launching pad:

In what way has the AidEx Aid Innovation Challenge helped you with YOLK?

Winning the Challenge catapulted YOLK and the Solar Cow project to new heights, which we may not have been able to achieve without the assistance of AidEx. Being our first award, the AidEx Aid Innovation Challenge opened new doors for YOLK, presenting vital opportunities to our company. It bestowed our company with a higher level of credibility and YOLK has continued to thrive because of this. We have proceeded to win various awards and have earned international coverage from many different media outlets. We are grateful to the AidEx Aid Innovation Challenge and its foundational role in our success.

Would you recommend AidEx as an important platform to launch an innovation?

YOLK would highly recommend AidEx as a fundamental platform for launching an innovation. We believe it provides companies with a platform to gain recognition for their innovative ideas, as well as the opportunity to network with other professionals involved in humanitarian aid and international development. This platform truly helped launch the recognition of the Solar Cow project and propelled our project off the ground. We highly recommend and believe in the AidEx platform and its ability to help upcoming organisations. 

What advice would you give to other aspiring innovators who want to have social impact in the aid and development sector?

It is crucial to test and gather information from your target market. Communicating and understanding your target market is vital because it will provide your organisation with insight into your users and give you the opportunity to adjust your project to truly fit their needs. It does not matter if a project works in theory, it must work in the field. This will only happen by gathering actual results and developing relationships with your target market.

How will you be participating in AidEx this year?

YOLK is planning to exhibit with our new upgraded version of the Solar Cow. Our pilot version could only serve a select number of children. However, in just one year, YOLK was able to create an improved model that has the capacity to cater to 250 children, using just one Solar Cow system. We are very excited about this new system and believe it can bring about a large social impact.

Visit YOLK to see their innovation and watch the Challenge live at AidEx 2019 by registering to attend for free here >>