ISHOW USA Provides Financial, Design and Business Support for Three Winning Teams


July 14, 2017


Paul Scott (left), director of the ASME Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) program, kicks off the competition in Washington, D.C.

Social entrepreneurs addressing eye care, cooking and food preservation in low-resource settings were the winners among 10 teams competing as finalists at ASME’s recent Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) in Washington, D.C.

The Washington competition, which took place June 21-23 at the District Architecture Center, was the third ISHOW this year, with earlier events held in Nairobi, Kenya and Bangalore, India. ISHOW is ASME’s annual showcase and competition for hardware-led social innovation. In each city, three teams were chosen as winners. Each winning team received $10,000 in cash, plus 20 hours of design consultation from ASME ISHOW partner, Catapult Design.


The BioLite team describes their HomeStove. From left to right: Noel Wilson, creative director, Catapult; Josh Heitsenrether, managing director, Marketing, ASME; Amish Parashar, Venture Capital & Innovation, Yamaha Motor Ventures; Ethan Kay, managing director, Emerging Markets, BioLite Energy; and Ryan Gist, director of engineering, BioLite Energy.

“If it’s only up to me, I’m going to hire a sales manager in Kenya to work on scaling distribution of our home stove,” said Ethan Kay, explaining how he planned to spend his team’s cash prize. Kay heads the emerging markets unit of BioLite, which makes the BioLite HomeStove, a small cook stove that generates electricity to power a fan for improved combustion as well as to power consumer devices, such as cell-phone chargers. BioLite designs and markets stoves for campers and other users around the world, and also provides cooking and energy solutions in developing regions. The company has sold 20,000 HomeStoves in Kenya, Uganda and India, and Kay said that a new sales manager would work with microfinance partners to help expand sales further across East Africa.

The two other ISHOW USA winners are not as far along in their business trajectory as their colleagues at BioLite.


Ethan Kay of BioLite with the BioLite HomeStove, one of the three winning entries at ISHOW USA in Washington, D.C.

“Every bit of validation helps us move forward,” said Jeremy Fryer-Biggs, part of a team developing a lightweight and efficient evaporative cooler that uses no electricity. “This is your vote of confidence. We are a tiny little company. We don’t have a lot of money. And every bit of validation helps us move forward from an amazing but crazy idea to something that will actually provide real-world help to people.”

Fryer-Biggs, CTO of Evaptainers, said the cash winnings will go immediately for tooling to facilitate manufacturing in China. Quang Truong, the company’s COO, said Catapult Design would help Evaptainers greatly expand its markets. “Right now, our unit is really made for the U.S. markets,” Truong said. “And I think that Catapult Design will help us go a long way toward creating a unit with much lower costs. And that will ultimately help us with distribution in developing markets.”


The Evaptainers team answers questions about their evaporative cooler from the ISHOW judges. Left to right: Spencer Taylor, chief executive officer; Quang Truong, chief operations officer; Jeremy Fryer-Biggs, chief technical officer.

 For the third winning team, receiving a top prize was a long time coming. “We’ve been doing this for six years, and we’ve done a lot of competitions,” said Shivang Dave, CEO and co-founder of PlenOptika, maker of QuickSee, a portable device that can provide eye glass prescriptions in low-resource settings. “And I think this is the first time we’ve won one of the top prizes. We’re always second, third, or fourth.... So it’s like ‘wow’, we’ve finally done enough work to get over that hump. So we’re really excited.”

PlenOptika is just now finishing its first mass manufacturing run. “The money will be very valuable for us,” Dave said. “We are finishing our manufacturing soon, and we’re trying to fundraise and write grants to do our safety testing, and this money will go directly toward that. So we can then register with the FDA, and then move toward commercial sales.”


Shivang R. Dave, CEO, PlenOptika, shows how the QuickSee displays prescriptions for eyeglasses.

The teams in Washington spoke of the value of a competition focusing on hardware, with judges who recognize the challenge of designing, manufacturing and testing a hardware product. Competitors also said they valued the insights of experts who held four formal sessions with each team, on customer and user knowledge, hardware validation and development, manufacturing optimization, and implementation strategy.

“What I find powerful about ISHOW is that everyone wins,” said Ethan Kay of BioLite. “Either we win the prize, or we have an incredible day together with a bunch of industry leaders and thought partners who in the half hour sessions can make our business and products better.  To me that has been extremely valuable and really unique about ISHOW.”

To learn more about the ISHOW program, visit https://thisishardware.org.

- Roger Torda, Public Information