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Norrsken opens East Africa startup fund and hub in Kigali – TechCrunch

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Startups in East Africa have a new source for investment and mentorship.

Sweden’s Norrsken Foundation—a coworking space and investment fund based in Stockholmopened its tech fund and entrepreneurship hub in Rwanda today to support ventures across the region.

Norrsken’s Kigali center is located on the former École Belge campus and will begin with seed investments of $25K to $100K for early stage startups in all sectors starting this year, Norrsken CEO Erik Engellau-Nilsson told TechCrunch.

The fund size is still being determined and Norrsken Kigali will extend the fund to larger series-stage investments from $100K to $1 million in the future.

Norrsken’s Fredrika Wessman is the head of Africa expansion and the organization is in the process of hiring a local director for its new Kigali operation.

The Swedish foundation’s move into Rwanda is strongly connected to the organization’s focus on the power of tech entrepreneurs to solve problems and generate capacity.

“We believe the single most important thing we can do here is help people get wealthy, because if that happens more investors will start to look at this region and see there’s business opportunities and bring more capital,” said Engellau-Nilsson.

“The aim is to build the biggest hub for entrepreneurship in East Africa.”

Startups that receive Norrsken funding from its Kigali center will receive mentorship and support of the overall Norrsken organization and network. “That includes unicorn founders, leading tech founders, and developers. We also look to expand that network to local accelerators and incubators,” said Engellau-Nilsson.

The Kigali center is Norrsken’s first launch outside of Sweden and the organization looks to open in 25 markets globally over the next decade.

Norrsken was formed in 2016 by Niklas Adalberth, the founder of Swedish payments solutions unicorn Klarna. Engellau-Nilsson was an exec with Adalberth at Klarna from 2013 to 2017, and both aimed to do more to support impact-driven, early stage ventures.

“We wanted to use our experience and tech to solve real problems instead of finding another way to do things like deliver burrito’s faster,” said Engellau-Nilsson.

Over 340 entrepreneurs and 120 companies currently work out of Norrsken’s Stockholm location. The organization’s fund has invested in 17 ventures, including three Africa focused startups—agtech company Wefarm, digital publisher Kognity, and weather forecasting firm Ignitia.

Norrsken chose Rwanda as the base for its East African  for the country’s progress over the last decade on infrastructure, increasing internet penetration, and improving its business environment. In 2019, Rwanda ranked higher than any African country on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business list, 29th, before Spain.

Though the country has a relatively small population (12 million) and tech scene, the government of Rwanda has prioritized tech events and development in the country. This includes becoming a leader on  drone delivery and regulatory systems, working most notably with San Francisco based UAV startup Zipline.

Of the East African countries from which Norrksen will source investments, Kenya stands out as one of the continent’s top hubs for tech startup formation, VC, and exits.

As for how ventures can reach out to pitch to Norrsken’s new fund, “If there are entrepreneurs who want to reach out to us, we’re ready to go,” said Engellau-Nilsson. Norrsken posted an informational and contact link for its Rwanda hub today.

 

 

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Barack Obama and Springsteen team for Spotify podcast special

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Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama has teamed up to launch a podcast special called Renegades: Born in the USA for Spotify. The podcast will feature eight episodes, the first two of which were released this past Monday. The podcast will touch on a number of topics ranging from America’s future to fatherhood.

Renegades: Born in the USA is the latest project from the Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions, which also has a deal with Netflix for several video projects. The new podcast saw its first two episodes drop on February 22, one titled “Outsiders: An Unlikely Friendship” and the other titled “American Skin: Race in the United States.”

The first episode involved Obama and Bruce Springsteen talking about their ‘unlikely friendship,’ while the second episode touches on the topic of racism. Both episodes include links to transcripts of the episodes for those who prefer to read them.

The first episode makes sense — Obama and Springsteen do, indeed, seem like an odd match for a podcast. Obama talks about this during Episode 1, explaining that, “In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys trying to understand this country that’s given us both so much.”

This isn’t the first podcast to result from Spotify’s deal with Higher Ground, which was struck in 2019. Listeners will be able to stream the next six episodes in the series over coming weeks — it’s unclear whether there will be a second season of the podcast.

You can stream the podcast on Spotify now.

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BLUETTI EP500: Giant 5100 watt hour solar battery that allows you to cut the cord to the electrical grid

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Sponsored Feature

As an innovative pioneer in the renewable energy industry, BLUETTI established its name in the off-grid power world with cutting edge, reliable power station product lineups. In addition to medium and small size portable power stations, they are also dedicated to research and development of high-power, large-capacity solar battery storage products.

In July 2020, Bluetti made the initial move to replace traditional gasoline generators with their ground breaking AC200. The AC200 features a 2000 watt rated inverter with 1700 watt hour battery capacity, a large array of outlets (including a ground breaking 25 amp 12 volt outlet) and up to 700W solar input with advanced built-in MPPT controller. The AC200 raised over US$6.8M on Indiegogo and changed the game in the portable power market immediately upon its release.

Upon crowdfunding completion, a follow up retail product the AC200P, with increased battery cycle life and LiFePO4 chemistry kept the legacy of AC200 while adding product improvement. The AC200P is loved by van-lifers, campers and RV travelers and people, those who are subject to frequent power outages. The AC200P has also been well received by those who want an integrated all in one solution to short or long term emergencies that result in the need for continued power supply for their homes.

6 months later, the BLUETTI Team is back with a brand new, finely engineered and crafted product with ground breaking capacity: The EP500

The EP500 contains a massive 5100 watt hour LiFePO4 battery pack that has more than 6000 charge cycles. The AC inverter is rated for 2000 watts of continuous output power with a surge capacity of 4800 watts. This inverter appears to be the same high quality and reliable unit being used on the highly successful AC200P.

The EP500’s elegant, minimalist design with massive capacity reminds us of the first-generation of Tesla’s Powerwall. With the four smooth rolling transport wheels, the EP500 is not meant to be large solar battery mounted on the wall or garage. The BLUETTI EP500 is designed to be a” no Installation needed”, plug and play product that can easily be moved to the desired location when needed.

Whether you use it as a seamless UPS home backup, or as an off-grid emergency power supply, all that is required is a press of the power button followed by activating the AC/DC switches and connecting the appliance(s) you want to power.

Compared to the long installation lead times of energy giants like Tesla or Sonnen, which take months or more than a year to make an appointment to install, the no-installation-needed BLUETTI EP500 is a game-changer in the large capacity solar battery market.

The rated AC inverter output power of 2000 continuous watts is high, but certainly not enough to power all of your electrical appliances. As an emergency energy storage power for the whole family, Bluetti has an option to double the AC output. For higher power loads, Bluetti is releasing its own “Fusion Panel terminal board”. With this accessory board, users can connect two EP500s in series, to double the rated 4000 watt power output. The Fusion board will also will also offer the option of 220/240 volt output to power 220 volt appliances. The high power output means you can now run your home air conditioner, clothes dryer, in-wall Electric Heater and other high power appliances with ease. No need to worry about power outages on a hot summer nights or cold, bitter winters anymore.

To monitor and operate remotely, the BLUETTI EP500 now supports remote App With their exclusive B-Lynk connection technology, you can easily monitor your EP500’s status and adjust settings it whether it is near you or a thousand miles away. No more having to walk to a unit to determine remaining battery or inverter capacity.

Equipped with the highest-capacity battery pack ever in the BLUETTI lineup, the EP500 also features powerful solar charging capability with up to 1200 watts input through its built in MPPT input. With prime sunlight, it takes only 5 hours to fully charge with solar input alone. The EP500 can be also charged at 600 watts input through and AC wall outlets. A built-in AC adapter is included so you can charge it with only a single AC power cable without needing a separate heavy power brick.

Still want faster charging? This class leading unit can be recharged at up to 1800 watts (1200W+600W) by using the two input ports simultaneously. Charging using both ports at the same time results in fully charged batteries in only 3 hours.

Last, but not least, except for the detailed specs and a explanation of new functions, there are two more questions that many people will be concerned about: How long can I operate my items and how does the after-sales services function for the BLUETTI products?

According to official information released, the EP500 is shipped with BLUETTI’s exclusive customized, long life LiFePO4 battery cells. The self-developed battery management system including the battery pack has a maximum 6000+ charge cycles. According to the average household electricity consumption of 3kWh per day, the BLUETTI EP500 can achieve up to 40 years of theoretical service life without using any grid energy! In addition, BLUETTI also provides a 5-year warranty and lifetime technical support for this market leading EP500. From what we can tell with current consumers’ feedback, BLUETTI is trustworthy in terms of after-sales service and support.

The pre-order for EP500 will begin on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter at 6:00 AM PDT, March 15th. It is estimated that the price for super early bird perks will be lower than $3000.

Please subscribe here for more information about EP500

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. SlashGear’s opinions, reviews, and other editorial content remain objective and are not influenced by the sponsorship.

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NASA’s all-electric X-57 Maxwell aircraft is ready for some power

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NASA has begun the next stage of testing for its all-electric plane, with the X-57 Maxwell another step closer to setting a potential blueprint for zero-emissions aircraft in the future. Designed to demonstrate how commuter aircraft could switch from traditional combustion engines to electric motors instead, the final X-57 Maxwell design is expected to feature 14 propellers.

That’ll include 12 high-lift motors running along the leading edges of the wings, and two larger, wingtip-mounted motors that are designed for cruising. In addition to the carbon footprint, NASA expects that the system will be much more efficient in power consumption not to mention quieter for those beneath the flight path.

However, NASA doesn’t expect to put the X-57 Maxwell into production itself. Instead, the first all-electric X-plane is intended as a proof-of-concept, validation for the feasibility of electrification of flight. The US space agency hopes that it’ll enable manufacturers to develop their own commercial versions, as well as assisting agencies like the FAA in development of the necessary regulations for such aircraft.

First, though, the X-57 Maxwell has to actually prove it can fly as the theories suggest. NASA still isn’t quite there yet, though it is set to begin high-voltage functional ground testing, the agency said today. Taking place at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, it’ll see the first configuration of the electric aircraft – known as Mod 2 – run off a battery support system with a large, high-voltage power supply.

“Testing is expected to start with low power, checking the startup and shutdown sequences and verifying that the new motor control software boots up and controls the motors as expected,” NASA explained today. “This software and other major components were recently redesigned based on lessons learned from previous testing by the project’s prime contractor, Empirical Systems Aerospace, or ESAero, of San Luis Obispo, California.”

Eventually, though, the tests are expected to ramp up to higher power levels. That’ll include juicing up the electric cruise motors for the X-57, to make sure the propellers spin as intended. After that, NASA will be throttling up the motors to ensure they’re giving out the right power levels.

The tests will also include validating the instrumentation system in the plane, along with testing all the various sensors that have been installed across it are functioning as they should. It’s an important step before final verification and validation testing, with the stage after that being taxiing tests and then flight.

Mod 2 doesn’t much resemble NASA’s final design for the X-57 Maxwell. It’s using a more standard fuselage and wing design, intended to give the cruise motors their final validation. In turn, NASA expects that the aircraft could go through as many as three iterations before it’s complete.

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