1. Why do you only fund open source projects?
If you ask entrepreneurs and CEOs in the energy access industry about a common frustration, it's having to spend time and money to re-create a necessary tool that is needed across the board. EnAccess was founded by energy access entrepreneurs who have felt the pain of "wait, you just finished up a half year of work on _____? We are doing that exact same thing right now!"
EnAccess not only wants to make it less time consuming to access funding, we want to help solve a big pain point in our sector: the need to constantly re-invent the wheel. This is why we choose to support projects that are free for others to inspect, modify, enhance, alter, and share. We will never ask for users to pay for access to the materials we publish.
2. Do you only fund technology-based projects?
We do not only fund tech projects. Although we know that it's very common to hear "Open Source" and think about things like software and hardware, we are happy to also fund "big idea" or "moonshot" projects. For example, the AgriGrid materials include a Financial Model, a Toolkit, and a Lessons Learned document (among other things). EnAccess encourages you to come to us with an open source project that fits within the categories of what we fund - and even if it doesn't, get in touch anyway. We are always willing to expand our definition of what we publish as long as it accomplishes the goal of becoming a building block for the energy access sector.
3. What exactly will you publish as part of the open source “innovation package”?
There isn't one answer to this question, as every project that we fund creates different sorts of material. The end result might be a spreadsheet, a piece of software, a slide deck, or a set of hardware schematics. We work with our partners to package these materials in a way that makes them easy for other organisations to access, understand, and use. As an example: if a project creates a piece of software, the package might include the code itself, instructional materials on using and modifying the code, and a video describing the what, why, and how of the software. We will also include an audio interview, podcast-style, as soon as the project is ready to publish the final materials. All of the innovation packages that we publish will be made available on our Materials page.
4. I’m concerned about sharing my organisation’s IP and proprietary market knowledge. How does this work?
We don’t need your organisation to share your ultra-sensitive information or the "secret sauce" that you think is going to drive your success. While we advocate for increased collaboration in the industry, we also support competitive marketplaces and we are happy to work with profitable businesses that are aiming to grow, succeed, and become more profitable. We aren’t interested in disclosing a company’s core IP or competitive intelligence; we are interested in fully open sourcing the assets that can create a shared solution or inspire the creation of new standards for the energy access sector. If you spend some time looking at what we've already published, it will become more clear.
5. We have a tool that can dramatically change energy access. To use the tool, another organisation would need to purchase my company’s product or service. Can EnAccess fund the development of this tool?
In general, other organisations should be able to use your solution “out of the box” and free of charge. If that’s not possible, we probably aren’t the right partner to fund your project.
6. Can we use our work with EnAccess to create two versions of the same tool/output – i.e. an open source version and a commercial version?
We’d prefer to discuss this on a case-by-case basis.
7. What if this project becomes a success and I decide I want to have more control over how it can be used going forward?
We know it can be hard to predict the future, and anything can happen. First, if you are working for a company or on a project that could help bring access to energy to those who don't yet have it - we want you and/or your company to succeed. If it means you create a new brand, or a new tool that everyone knows, and you garner more attention, we think that's fantastic. Please remember that no matter how successful your tools become, according to the MIT license (the license we prefer to use), others will always be able to freely use the materials that we have published in whatever way they would like, provided that they include the original copyright and license notice in any copy of the software/source. We are happy to have a more in-depth conversation about this anytime.
8. What if our project fails - and we don’t prove, demonstrate, or create what we intended to?
We understand how hard this work is and embrace “failure” as a necessary part of innovation. Failure is not a bad thing for us; as long as we are failing for the right reasons, and can capture some lessons and insight along the way, we are all good.
In a situation where a project doesn’t work out, we’ll work with you to publish a summary of what we learned. Being transparent about failure can help us and other organisations get better; by avoiding costly mistakes, considering how we might do things differently, or inspiring new thinking. Our view is: if other organisations can learn from your experience, then it’s not all a loss.
For inspiration, check out GiveWell. We’re fans of their take on failure and learning in philanthropy.