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Alvinio Gomes: The winner of the Startup Weekend 2019

· Social Impact Invest

For a while now I've been impressed by the development of the Cape Verdean tech & start-up scene. I was interested in hearing a few stories, and wanted to understand both the motivation and challenges. In this series of interviews I'm speaking to young (start-up) entrepreneurs in Cape Verde. Despite challenging circumstances they are able to discover solutions and bring these to the market. Products that can create a better society. This is part 9:

Company Name: Alvis Fotovoltaico

Interview with: Alvinio Gomes

Age: 24

Location: Calheta de São Miguel

Problem/Solution: Renewable Energy solutions

Stage: Pre-Seed

When I was making plans for this series of interviews, I wanted to speak to young entrepreneurs from different places in Cape Verde. I expected that there would be things happening around tech & startups in the city of Praia. There's been a lot of talk around the 'centralisation' in Cape Verde in recent years. Critics point to the way investments (and thus progress) is often focused in the nation's capital, and other parts of the country are left behind.

The fact that the city of Praia and the island of Santiago are the most populated city and island of the country are a logical explanation for the way some decisions are made. Those who are against an organisation such as Sokols, a group who actively supports 'decentralisation', say it's nothing more than a jealous reaction towards the city of Praia from people of the smaller second city of Cape Verde, Mindelo.

To me, it doesn't seem like it's simply about a 'rivalery' between Santiago and São Vicente, because in my opinion the development of the rest of the island of Santiago is behind of that of the city of Praia. The recent discussion about a possible 'Estatuto especial' for Praia was a new argument for people who are for decentralisation, which would grant more autonomy for all the islands.

It makes me happy that I've been able to talk to Jaqueline Lima from São Domingos before, and now with Alvinio from the small Calheta de São Miguel. After Praia, Mindelo, Porto Novo, Garça, Ribeira Brava and São Domingos, Calheta becomes the 7th city in Cape Verde featured in these series of interviews with young founders and entrepreneurs. My wish is to add a few more in the coming weeks and months.

Alvis Fotovoltaico was choosen as the national winner of the Startup Weekend in 2019. This edition, that had more than 250 (!) participants from the entire country, was all about Sustainable Entrepreneurship. The winner of the 2019 edition is a specialist when it comes to installing and maintaining solar panels.

Who is the man behind Alvis Fotovoltaico?

“My name is Alvinio, and I was born and raised in Calheta. I went to high school in the city of Assomada, where I was trained to become an electrician. After that, I did a Renewable Energy course in Praia, where I also did an internship at a large company.”

“I also did an internship on the island of Sal, at the APP for about 3 months. After returning from Sal, I worked in Praia for a few different companies. I'm a creative person who loves challenges. So, at a certain point I started thinking, I started thinking why couldn't I work for myself?”

“I'm the only one within my family who's still living in Cape Verde. The rest of my family is living and working abroad now. Of course I've thought about leaving as well, but I think investing in my own company is a better option compared to 'investing' in immigration.”

“Although most people think that the name Alvis comes from my own name, that's not true. It's an acronym, which stands for Ambiente Limpo Verde Independente Sustentavel (Environment Clean Green Independent Sustainable).”

How did you end up participating in the Startup Weekend?

“I was working on my market research for the company at the time. I was fortunate to work with a few great engineers, from who I learned a lot. For the next step, I enrolled into the 'Germe' course, which was enabled by Jovemprego. The course teaches you how to set and plan for your own business.”

“After I had given a presentation about my complany plans, I was asked if I would like to participate in the coming Startup Weekend edition. As I said, I love a good challenge, so I said yes. I immediatley went to work on my team for the event, and we concluded enrollment. We were the only participants from Calheta, and only one of two (!) from the Santiago Norte region.”

“I believe in my company 100%, but still, I never thought we would be able to win the nationals. The winner was chosen through a voting system. What you normally see is that people only vote for people they know. In this case so many people voted for our project, people who we didn't know. This means they were not voting for us, but really for our business and our presentation.”

What do you think about the current ecosystem?

“I'm not the type that sits back and waits, I always chase what I want. But it's definitely not easy to achieve something. Unfortunately, many promises that have been made towards me have not been kept. The challenges you face as an entrepreneur are even more difficult to chase alone. It's helps a lot if you can work with someone who has specific knowledge about certain subject.”

“I've been able to do many interesting things lately. Besides the Startup Weekend, I've gotten the chance to present my work at different organisations, which included the mayor of Calheta. I was also chosen to participate in the Incubator of CERMI, the center for renewable energy and industrial maintenance.”

“Again, it's such a pity that certain promises were not kept. I always participate when there is an opportunity for a course to follow, because I enjoy learning very much. It's dissapointing when certain events are cancelled when to could have been helpful for me.”

“Maybe it's because I have a , but sometimes I feel as though there is a knowledge gap that I need to fill. When it comes to marketing for example, it's not just a question of whether you know how to sell or not. It's not that easy when you're unknown in the market. The big question is how to work towards selling something that costs a lot of money.”

“For now, my market focus is the Santiago Norte region. I'm very aware of the fact that I need to take things step by step. This is something that needs time, but that's ok, I'm in it for the long haul.”

Read other interviews here: