Generation Start-up: How Kinetic 7 aims to solve the global problem of clean cooking

The company, which has developed a battery-run portable stove, is looking to list on the Abu Dhabi bourse by 2027

Rick Parish, founder and chief executive of Kinetic 7. Photo: Kinetic 7
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As the world transitions to renewable energy and explores various pathways to achieve net-zero emissions, billions of people around the globe still lack access to clean cooking fuel solutions.

An entrepreneur for more than 24 years, Abu Dhabi-based Rick Parish has travelled extensively throughout the world, especially Africa. He found that many people still cook using wood, charcoal, biomass and animal dung in confined spaces.

“I guess, seven or eight years of seeing that and you start to wonder why aren't they using something else? Why aren't they using LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] or why are they not on electricity?” Mr Parish says.

“That’s quite simple, they can’t afford it or it’s not available or both, so … I decided to explore and see if I could come up with a solution."

Mr Parish founded Kinetic 7 Technologies in Abu Dhabi in 2018.

The company, which has an office in the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), has developed a portable stove that does not need to be plugged into the grid to function, which is crucial in areas where access to electricity may be limited or unreliable.

The stove generates hydrogen using a small amount of water and batteries that run on solar energy.

“The battery inside our stove is charged by a small solar panel,” Mr Parish says. "It's completely autonomous in terms of not having to require access to 120 or 240 volts to operate."

He acknowledges there has been a fair amount of scepticism surrounding the concept as well.

“When I say these things, everyone looks at me sideways and goes: really?”

“I keep saying, come and see it and I'll show you.”

For Mr Parish, the issue of clean cooking is also a deeply personal one.

When he lost his four-year old son to brain cancer in 2010, he investigated the types of diseases affecting children and women exposed to indoor air pollution from cooking activities.

He discovered a troubling correlation between exposure to toxic fumes and various cancers, including brain cancer.

“That was the link for me to really go: OK, you really need to do something.”

The start-up’s business plan is centred around selling the stoves to entities such as NGOs, banks, organisations and sovereign wealth funds, who in turn will donate them to the end users.

Kinetic 7 has orders worth $900 million currently and Mr Parish expects that to “triple or more” in the next few months.

The company showcased its product for the first time at the Africa Climate Week in Nairobi last year and the response was overwhelming, he says.

“[There were] thousands of people contacting us just wanting to know more to be able to access the technology,” he says.

India, the world’s most populous country, is a “massive” market as it has about 300,000 villages that could make use of Kinetic 7’s technology, Mr Parish says.

In the South Asian country, the number of people without access to clean cooking is expected to fall to 285 million in 2030 from 450 million in 2022 amid government-led efforts, according to the International Energy Agency.

His company was also engaged in talks with the Indonesian government regarding the sale of Kinetic 7’s stoves.

“They're very focused on ordering our product and then implementing it,” he says. "In fact, they want to have a factory in the region to service their country."

Mr Parish, who has invested nearly $10 million of his own money into the company, is now looking to raise an additional $200 million from external investors.

The funds will be utilised to bring the product to market by establishing a research and development centre, as well as an innovation centre and two factories, he says.

“We've already got some offers on the table at the moment … this is not just about raising the money, it's also about having the right partner, someone that will be aligned with our objectives and our culture,” Mr Parish says.

Having the right investor is critical to Kinetic 7, especially since it wants to be listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) by 2027.

Being a public company requires a big change in mindset, Mr Parish says.

“We have to pretend that we're already a public company and act accordingly,” he says.

“[An IPO] is one of the biggest things [for a company] … you've got investors' funds and you're not a private organisation any more."

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Kinetic 7
Started: 2018
Founder: Rick Parish
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Industry: Clean cooking
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Self-funded

One thing is for certain, the company’s technology is ready to be taken to the next level, he adds.

Kinetic 7’s product received a technology readiness level rating of eight, the highest, from Imperial College London, Mr Parish says.

A rating of zero indicates no progress, while a rating of eight signifies readiness for mass production.

More than 2 billion people around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, rely on harmful cooking fuels such as charcoal, firewood and agricultural waste.

The absence of clean cooking facilities results in 3.7 million premature deaths each year, with women and children facing the highest risk, the International Energy Agency says.

An annual investment of $8 billion will be required until 2030 to achieve universal access to clean cooking, the agency said in a report last year.

China, India and Indonesia have halved the number of their citizens who lack clean cooking access since 2010, mainly through free stove distribution and subsidised LPG canisters.

However, in Africa the population without clean cooking access increased between 2010 and last year.

The energy transition debate in Africa has sparked polarisation over whether to phase out fossil fuels or prioritise decarbonising existing energy systems.

"You don't have to be terribly smart to figure out that access to primary energy across Africa was a major issue," Mr Parish says.

Kinetic 7 plans to set up a factory in Kenya, which experiences constant blackouts and brownouts despite 85 per cent of its grid-connected electricity being generated from renewable energy, he says.

"There are always issues and mainly in infrastructure."

Q&A with Rick Parish, chief executive and founder of Kinetic 7

What other successful start-up do you wish you had founded?

The one thing I wish I had invented was TikTok because I learnt only recently just how effective it can be. We were contacted by a TikTok influencer in the energy sector and he saw a live demonstration of our technology in Nairobi. The UK-based influencer called me and asked if he could post the video. I agreed and it has since gone viral, with millions of views and more than 100,000 shares.

Who is your role model?

My role model is Winston Churchill because one of my mantras is that you never give up and you always keep fighting.

What new skills have you learnt since launching your business?

I'm certainly learning a lot about manufacturing and the production of stoves, especially when it involves a unique product. I've also gained insight into the financial aspects of running a tech business as a manufacturer, rather than just a service-based business, which has been my focus throughout my career. One of the things that I'm learning a lot is around firstly building a team, but secondly, making sure we've got the right people.

Where do you want to be in five years?

I'll tell you where I'm going to be in three years. We will be a listed entity on the ADX here in Abu Dhabi.

If you could do it all differently, what would you change?

I wouldn't change anything.

Updated: April 04, 2024, 10:14 AM
COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Kinetic 7
Started: 2018
Founder: Rick Parish
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Industry: Clean cooking
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Self-funded