Client Spotlight: Technology Exchange Lab

Guest Writer: Alex Audette

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I had the chance to ask Éadaoin Ilten and Brennan Lake of Technology Exchange Lab a few questions, and learned how they’re using forward-thinking strategies to improve lives around the world.

Introduce yourselves! What do you do?

Here at Technology Exchange Lab (TEL), we believe that the fight against poverty starts with satisfying basic human needs, such as clean water, and access to energy and healthcare. We help tackle these challenges by driving the adoption of innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions that improve livelihoods in developing communities across world. From hand washing stations in Sierra Leone, to solar lantern distribution initiatives in India, our programs are designed from the bottom-up, in order to meet the needs and aspirations of people living at the base of the pyramid.

What brings you to CIC?

TEL was founded in 2009 by two MIT Sloan alumni who met at a local networking event. Their shared vision of poverty alleviation was inspired by their collective experience at MIT of introducing technology-based solutions to improve lives around the world. As the organization grew from an idea into a reality, settling at the CIC was a logical step to tap into Cambridge’s academic and innovation ecosystem.

Share your accomplishments! Gloat, gloat, gloat!

Over the past 7 years, we’ve carefully curated an online database of over 600 solutions to challenges related to water and sanitation, energy access, agricultural productivity, health care, and more. Every day, people turn to TEL’s online platform to discover appropriate solutions to their unique development challenges. The platform has served as an initial touchpoint for our work with incredible community based organizations working on the front lines of international development across South Asia, Latin America and the African continent. Parallel to this, we’ve built institutional partnerships with the United Nations, USAID, Siemens Stiftung and several programs at MIT.

Anything exciting on the horizon?

In spring 2017, we’ll invite the general public and CIC members alike to the TEL World House exhibition. In partnership with MIT, we are hosting a free outdoor event to showcase of some of the most compelling solutions available in the TEL database, such as solar lanterns, clean cookstoves, water purifiers, health products, and much more. Visitors will be able to demo solutions, while also meeting the inventors, development practitioners and social entrepreneurs who put the solutions to action.  

What do you like about CIC? How does the environment here impact your company philosophy?

In addition to having an unbeatable location, One Broadway has offered us a solid home base for doing business globally. As a small organization, it’s nice to host our partners and clients in such a professional, and impressive setting. What has been of most value, however, are the connections we’ve made with other CIC members, from partner organizations to world class programmers who have been inspired by TEL to help us fulfill our mission.

International development, you say! Would you like to support my “Alexit” referendum and secede from the Commonwealth with me?  

You wouldn’t be setting a precedent, since Maine “Mainxeted” from Massachusetts in 1820. While Maine has its virtues – blueberries, Stephen King, Tom from your organic tube of toothpaste – I don’t think we’ll join you in Alexiting. Since seceding, Maine has consistently underperformed the Commonwealth, macroeconomically speaking. Consider Effy, the downeast fisherwoman of the 1820s, an early icon of unemployment. Despite years of prosperity in her early life, after Maine seceded she lobster job!

Bummer. Your loss. What should I name my new nation?

I would name it after the CIC workstations “Data Motel”. Because that name totally makes sense…

Should I drive on the right- or left-hand side?

Straight down the middle.

The country’s secret password?

Fidelio.