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Launch Alaska Accelerates Start-ups in Land of the Midnight Sun

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For many Americans, the openness of Alaska represents a beacon of freedom and independence, with forests teeming with wildlife and twice as much land as Texas. Alaska is an awe-inspiring state with the promise of liberation from the everyday toils of modern life. However, that freedom comes with a slight draw-back for now: isolation. Large swaths of the state are virtually inaccessible by roads including the State’s capital, Juneau. This means Alaskans are constantly confronted by challenges to their supply of food, energy, water, and transportation – challenges that are exacerbated by an ever changing climate. One Alaska-based start-up accelerator leverages the 49th state’s unique geographic challenges to help launch small companies focused on solving the globe’s toughest problems, while providing real-time solutions to isolated communities across Alaska.

BoxPower’s solar microgrids fit into a shipping container and take 24-hours to set up. Thanks to their work with Launch Alaska, they are currently proving power for isolated Alaskans.  Photo courtesy of BoxPower.

“We think startups are the key to a needed industrial re-revolution, driving the rapid, critical shift in our systems that will allow us to mitigate the causes and effects of climate change while unlocking incredible economic opportunity,” Launch Alaska states. One of the main ways Launch Alaska accelerates small businesses is through their Tech Deployment Track which gathers start-ups from all over the world with a panel of over 30 “power-players” and “decision-makers” from Alaska. The start-ups are given an opportunity to present their cutting-edge solutions to people that have the authority to develop the technology. This provides start-ups with some of their first opportunities to grow their business and creates functional solutions for the challenges facing Alaskans every day. “We’re trying to get solutions to the world’s most pressing problems of our day in the field,” Isaac Vanderburg, CEO of Launch Alaska, shared. “The way we think we can do that is by connecting people with solutions to the people with challenges.” 

BoxPower’s solar microgrid providing power for the rural community of Buckland, AK thanks to a partnership with Launch Alaska. Photo courtesy of BoxPower.

A rather striking example of Launch Alaska’s success in connecting people with solutions to communities facing problems came when a California energy start-up arrived in Buckland, Alaska with three non-descript shipping containers. The 800 residents of Buckland are isolated from the rest of Alaska, and this isolation means everything from laundry soap to diesel runs at a high price. Since most of their electricity comes from diesel generators onsite, many of the residents have to make tough decisions about whether to heat their home or put food on their table, but the team at the start-up BoxPower wanted to change that. Inside each shipping container was everything the Buckland municipal crew needed to erect three solar arrays generating a total of 47,000 kWh of electricity at a fraction of the cost of diesel-generated energy. “We see huge potential in Alaska to bring renewable energy to all of the rural communities to give them more resilient power and an improved quality of life,” Angelo Campus, BoxPower Founder, said. He concluded, “I wanna thank Launch Alaska, the Alaskan accelerator program that originally brought us into this incredible state.”

Ampaire’s Electric EEL hybrid aircraft. Ampaire is one of Launch Alaska’s cohorts for the 2020-2021 Tech Deployment Track. Photo Courtesy of Ampaire.

Advancing renewable microgrid technologies such as the one BoxPower constructed in Buckland is just one way that Launch Alaska is working to solve the problems of the future today. Launch Alaska’s portfolio includes delivery drones that can carry heavy loads of 100lbs. for hours, practical hybrid-electric aircraft, low-energy water treatment, and many more high-impact technologies addressing the challenges of the future, today. Launch Alaska is proving that the Alaskan frontier is a world-class location for start-ups to kick off new technology and begin the process of scaling it for the rest of the globe.


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