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Dartmouth Engineering Grad Makes Pitch on ABC’s Shark Tank Friday

By Anna Fiorentino
February 2015 • CoolStuff

This Friday, February 20th, at 9pm EST Anna Stork ’08 will appear on ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch LuminAID, the world’s first inflatable solar light. The Emmy-winning reality TV show asks entrepreneurs to present to a panel of investors—including billionaire Mark Cuban—who will then decide if they want to invest in their company.

[Find out what happened on the show!]

“LuminAID has yet to take on an investor, so potentially having a strategic ‘Shark’ partner is something we are very excited about,” says Stork, who majored in engineering at Dartmouth. “During the taping, the investors asked me where I went to school and I told them about how supportive everyone from Dartmouth has been of LuminAID.”

LuminAID pitch to Shark Tank
Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork ’08 pitch to the Sharks on ABC this Friday, February 20th, at 9pm EST.

LuminAID is an inexpensive, compact, hand-held inflatable, rechargeable LED lamp, used for disaster relief aid, humanitarian use, or recreational use. Waterproof and easy to ship, it lasts longer than a battery-powered flashlight, is safer than a kerosene lamp, and doesn’t require expensive rechargeable batteries. It produces up to 16 hours of light, takes six hours to recharge, and can be recharged up to 800 times, says Stork. Sold on the luminaid.com website, the original model costs $19.95. A new brighter version runs $24.95.

Stork and Andrea Sreshta designed the light when they were classmates at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture in response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake. 

“At the time there was a lot of clean water, shelter, and food being shipped to Haiti, but most people in informal settlements were without a light source,” says Stork. “We saw a need for a portable light source to improve safety of people living in tents.”

The simple solar technology has earned LuminAID awards and startup cash from business competitions, including the 2013 Clean Energy Challenge, Chicago Booth New Venture Challenge, and the 2014 Toyota Mother’s of Invention. Last year their Chicago-based company of four also took home a prize at the Chicago Innovation Awards.

LuminAID founders
LuminAID founders Andrea Sreshta & Anna Stork ’08

“It’s just a solar panel with a thin rechargeable battery connected to LED lights, with the circuit integrated into the plastic. The innovation is the combination of solar with the inflatable,” says Stork, who has two patents filed under the offices of Columbia Technology Ventures.

Stork says she first began thinking about merging sustainability and design while at Dartmouth. “I took away a lot from my course in materials science. I also learned about solar and renewable energy,” she says.

Stork and Sreshta incorporated LuminAID Lab in 2011 with the intent of providing an immediate lighting solution for individuals in regions affected by natural disasters and wars.

LuminAID has caught on. Its “Give Light, Get Light” campaign on the crowd-funding site IndieGoGo let customers pre-buy one light and send a gift of another light to a partner foundation in a developing country. An organization called Solar Sister equipped budding female entrepreneurs with the marketing and sales skills to sell LuminAID solar lights in Uganda. Elephant Energy followed a similar model in Namibia, and Pencils of Promise outfitted schools with LuminAID lights in Laos, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Closer to home, LuminAID lights helped people affected by hurricanes Isaac and Sandy.

“Another huge milestone is our partnership with ShelterBox, a disaster relief aid organization based in the United Kingdom,” says Stork. “They have distributed over 40,000 LuminAID lights to victims of emergency situations.”

Making it to Shark Tank is a milestone in itself. “We were really lucky because I know they have thousands of submissions on the Shark Tank website,” Stork says. It’s been a great opportunity for us to share our vision for LuminAID and the story behind developing the product.”

Tags: alumni, entrepreneurship, humanitarian service, innovation, international, patent

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