Women in Technology: Insight from a Bold Visionary
There’s a word in the Quechua language of the Andes, “ayni.” It’s about sacred reciprocity – with the earth, with the animals, with all people”, notes Marisa Goudy in her #365magicwords project.
This year I am holding conversations with women leaders in technology whose authority further informs me of current trends and challenges.
Recently I spoke with Sonya Davidson, CEO and Founder, H2energy Now who emigrated from the United States to Israel in 2007.
During our highly-engaged conversation, I was quick to see that Sonya is, as her profile states, a passionate, creative, and competitive entrepreneur. Sonya, holder of three patents and five academic degrees including taking classes from Wharton School of Engineering and Cambridge University, has been highly-involved in energy research for the past ten years.
Our 9:00 pm Israel Standard Time Skype conversation prompted me to ask, “How do you manage work/life balance?” Sonya expressed,
” Every morning I ask for knowledge, understanding and insight. When I make mistakes I learn from them.”
When I inquired about where her thirst for science was nurtured, she answered with a broad grin, “In my grandmother’s kitchen where experiments were the norm. My grandmother gave me the confidence to believe in myself.” In a 2015 TIAA interview, Sonya is quoted, “When I dropped a glass of water when I was a child, my mom, instead of getting mad, took the time to explain the principles of water — how it gathers and forms a shape, how you can float things on it. I became fascinated with water, and throughout elementary school, high school and college I paid attention to the science of it.”
“I watch two TEDTalks a day, listen to lectures on iTunes, and take advantage of open source lectures such as those from the British Association of Jewish Studies – as many as ten a week.”
H2energy Now began with a 6-month accelerator program through The Hive by Gvahim. Sonya noted, “We validated our project and found the customers with the most pain are the 9000 large scale solar and wind farms in EU and USA.
The US Department of Energy states that only 2.3% of our daily electrical needs is met by storage, resulting in 97.7% of our daily energy requiring generation on demand. There are other companies out there involved in energy storage including pumped hydro which requires normally a $500M investment, a large footprint and a high place to pump and store the water.
Our accelerator pushed us to validate our product with our end users. We have talked with and had conversations with Shell, Kyocera, Ashai KASEI, Panasonic, Enel, and LG. We have talked with companies in solar and wind industry in Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Japan, and Germany with interest in our product coming from all over the world.”
H2energy Now has assembled a team of mentors and advisers whose 350 years of experience allowed them to move forward in their product development cycle. They have filed Intellectual Property starting with a clean opinion from Patent Test to filing a Patent Convention Treaty to regional filings in USA and Europe. Over the past five years, H2energy Now has tested, reflected and tested again for a total of over 195 tests and product development tests. The startup has reached proof of principal prototype stage and is presently involved in its commercialization.
Sonya states, “We have presented first, representing Israel on Wall Street as part of a program introducing Israel High-tech to NYC investors. We presented twice. We have been selected out of 6,000 applicants to present in Lausanne Switzerland as part of Eureka High Tech Investment Programme. We have presented all over Israel, and in 2016 selected out of 120 countries and 800 applicants to be recognized as one of EU’s top sustainable entrepreneurs and presented in Vienna, Austria”
To date, H2energy Now has had had articles written on its startup in Japanese, French, Hebrew, Chinese, and Spanish. The startup has attracted bright interns from several college programs designed in collaboration with Israeli High tech companies. “I shared many stories on our company and our story on the way to a product. Since being in Israel, one of the amazing things I found was so many of the people give back to the entrepreneurs in classes, lectures, and one on one advice. I felt it was also important to pay it forward”, Sonya expressed. Because
“We do influence those around us.”
Israel, dubbed ‘Startup Nation’, has one of the highest concentrations of startups per capita in the world with almost one thousand new startups launched each year. But in order to succeed, Israeli startups need to reach an international market to be sustainable.
LEARNING FROM MISTAKES
When I asked Sonya what mistake she learned the most from, she replied, “I have made several mistakes along the way developing our technology and product from not listening to some very good advice, and at times going it alone rather than asking for help. I have been willing to explore new technologies, and new possible solutions and at times stumbling till I completely understood them and was good at them.”
Further she shared this great story to illustrate the startup’s willingness to learn from the product development process. “We realized we could change the arrangement of water in our separation chamber. I happened to read a book called Einstein in Berlin by Thomas Levenson. In his book, the author explains how Einstein used a thought process to test his theories. For example, if someone is falling off a building does he feel gravity on the way down? I said I could do this and proceeded to do several thought experiments. First, I took my water into space, here it forms a nice sphere or ball. A sphere was part of our solution because it is the correct shape to hit with our electromagnetic waves. We next squished it making it less in size which resulted in higher pressure gas but did not solve our problem.” You can see the experiement at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKk_7NIKY3Y
“Then I remembered seeing a spider web as a child. Here the water was captured in droplet form. This was the solution we went after. Because a droplet overcomes the principle of water to share energy as it does in a pool of water. Thereby when you add energy to it, by electromagnetism the droplet’s only option is to separate, which it does. We found a medium made out of plastic to capture our droplets and spray it into the container to create the droplets.
We succeeded in increasing the efficiency of the process by going through these thought experiments and then building the system to achieve it.”
The goal of H2energy Now is to change the world by enabling 24/7 use of alternative energy.
Milestones and Intellectual Property for H2energy Now are listed on its website http://h2energynow.com/
Thank you for reading this first in a series of interviews with women in technology. If you would like to be interviewed or have some to suggest for an interview, please contact me at email@example.com Your “likes” and comments are most appreciated.
Evelyn Asher, an executive coach, continues to be energized by startups. Her fascination with technology stems from an early volunteer opportunity for a STEM project serving alongside IBM engineers in Boca Raton. Her commitment to sustainability was nurtured in serving on the Greater Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Sustainability Committee and collaborating with the Watauga County Extension Service on an Agripreneur Series when she served as director of the Small Business Center for Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute.