The idea came to 2011 College graduate Meredith Perry one day when she forgot her laptop charger at home. She would invent a way to transfer energy and charge devices wirelessly.
Partnering with her friend and fellow 2011 College graduate Nora Dweck — who heads up the duo’s business efforts — Perry developed uBeam, which she describes simply as “wi-fi for energy.”
The uBeam system comprises two pieces: a charge station that plugs into the wall and emits energy via ultrasound waves and a battery adapter that plugs into electronic devices and absorbs the energy.
Perry and Dweck presented the concept at the Innovation Fair of the 2011 Pennvention Competition — Penn’s annual student inventors contest — in April when they were seniors, winning four different awards and more than $6,000 in cash and prizes for their idea.
News of uBeam reached Walter Mossberg, the famed technology columnist of The Wall Street Journal and co-executive editor of the technology website AllThingsD.com. Impressed with the idea, Mossberg invited the women to present the system last week at the annual D: All Things Digital conference (“the Emmys of tech conferences,” as Perry said) — provided they could build a working demonstration to present.
It took weeks to finish uBeam. In fact, it wasn’t until just 30 minutes before the presentation at the conference that the device was completed.
“Meredith and I were thrown into it so quickly that we couldn’t process what was going on,” Dweck said.
The inventors’ lack of formal engineering schooling made the process even more difficult. Perry majored in paleobiology at Penn and Dweck majored in political science. “I basically was teaching myself how to be an electrical engineer,” Perry said.
But their presentation gained immediate buzz. “This demo was the darling of D9, as it has it all,” wrote technology columnist Rafe Needleman on CNET.com, referring to the All Things Digital conference. “A team of two young, undiscovered, female entrepreneurs, a science-based product and a gee-whiz solution to a problem everyone can at least identify with — nobody likes plugging in their devices.”
Perry and Dweck are now trying to find the right investors for uBeam as they move the business forward. “I’m being inundated with advice from people on how to not get screwed over from people who want a piece of the pie,” Perry said.
The pair is trying to raise $3 million to get the product ready for release. “We’re in conversations with a few different companies,” Dweck said. “The future’s kind of bright.”
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