Hey! I’m Krystal, the founder of Grouphug.
My story starts with a frustration.
I’m a pretty eco-conscious person. I carry reusable tote bags, I use stainless water bottles, I compost: I do ALL of the things. But when it comes to renewable energy, I couldn’t find an easy way to incorporate it into my life. When I started Grouphug, I lived in a tiny 300 square foot apartment in New York City. I can’t install solar panels on my roof. There are personal solar panels on the market, but they are designed for camping, which I HATE. And that's how the Window Solar Charger was born! I wanted a solar panel I could use every day that was beautiful enough to hang in my apartment.
I didn’t start out in the energy industry. I spent over 6 years in the toy industry, leading product design at educational toy company littleBits. I designed toys with giants like Lucasfilm & Marvel. That’s my secret weapon; I design solar panels as if they are toys. They make you smile.
That’s my secret weapon; I design solar panels as if they are toys. They make you smile.
I quit my toy job to focus on sustainability. I wanted to be part of the solution. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make at first, so I would get coffee and interview friends. I asked them “if you could do anything to be more sustainable, what would it be?”. So many people answered, “well I would go solar, but I can’t. I don’t have a roof”.
People think solar panels are ugly and utilitarian, or that you have to own a house with a roof to go solar, which leaves out millions of apartment dwellers in NYC. I realized, the fundamental design of commercial solar panels hasn’t changed in 60 years, despite the price of solar cells dropping a whopping 99% over the last four decades. Why aren’t solar panels everywhere? I’m going to try to change that.
I remember the first prototype I made. I hacked something together on the floor of my living room. It looked horrible, but it actually charged by phone! Then with every iteration I learned about how the technology works and how I could bend the rules to fit the vision I had. I made ten prototypes and signed up for holiday gift fairs in New York. I set up a table and put my solar panels out for display. When the first person asked me if they were for sale, I quickly said “no, no these are just prototypes”. I was so nervous! Then I took a deep breath and dove in. Quickly the ten prototypes sold out and I knew I was onto something. Fast forward a few months and I was manufacturing a giant cat-shaped solar panel for the New York Hall of Science. Did I ever think I would be making animal-shaped energy harvesting tech? No, but I’m so glad I am!
We have so many exciting projects under development, all around the idea of people-focused sustainable design.
Important innovations like photovoltaics are stuck in the past because of their lack of human-centered design. I believe that if you make something fun and accessible, even a utility, the adoption rate will boom.
- Krystal Persaud