Turner Social Impact Society member Michael Wong, W’19, co-founded InstaHub as a cost-effective solution to combat electricity waste from building lights. He reflects on the opportunities and challenges of building a social enterprise in college.

Every day we waste energy in obvious ways, but our innate desire for convenience often stops us from taking simple steps (such as flipping a light switch off) to conserve energy. I bet you didn’t know that simply “forgetting” to turn off the lights costs the U.S. $30 billion in electricity waste and hundreds of million metric tons of CO2 every year.

Growing up in Oakland, California not only introduced my love for technology, but it has also stimulated my interest in living in a more sustainable world because it’s possible.

With the intention of getting 85% of U.S. buildings without automatic lighting to install motion sensors to combat this energy waste, my co-founder Dayo Adewole (GR’21) and I learned that the challenge is primarily a business challenge. Hundreds of facility managers told our team that it is time-consuming and expensive to remodel buildings to automate lights with existing hard-wire motion sensors.

A Solution to the Issue

Our passion for the problem of energy waste and the lack of simple, scalable innovations to make sustainability efforts more accessible without remodeling existing infrastructure led to the creation of InstaHub, the center for instant automation solutions. InstaHub is an easy to install motion sensor device that goes over any old light switch, without any rewiring.

We identified a gap in the industry and truly believe that making automation more accessible will not only address human errors in energy and offer cost savings, but it will also gradually promote more resource-conscious behaviors. The potential for positive environmental and social impact through relatively simple means is part of the core appeal of InstaHub.

Opportunities Across the Country

Over the past year, our team participated in multiple accelerators (VIP-Xcelerate, NextFab, Hult Prize, Penn I-Corps), received various grants/investments, appeared on radio shows (including Wharton SiriusXM Launchpad and Dollars and Change), and won multiple competitions including Philadelphia’s Smart Impact Award hosted by Fulphil. We also recently expanded our team.

Last spring, we had the humbling experience to surround ourselves with finalist teams of social entrepreneurs from across the world at the TCU Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition in Texas. The Turner Social Impact Society’s Impact Award gave me the opportunity to attend, pitch, and connect with other social entrepreneurs.

A hand holding a brochure for the TCU Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition, featuring Michael Wong giving a pitch.
Michael Wong, W’19, and his venture InstaHub featured on the brochures of the TCU Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition in Texas.

As a student entrepreneur, I have many unexpected expenses that come up and funding like this makes it possible to partake in special opportunities. After learning about the Turner Social Impact Society from the Vice Dean of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, Katherine Klein, I have since been part of this interdisciplinary community with a strong commitment to social impact on campus.

Through InstaHub, we’ve leveraged a deep network of like-minded peers to bounce around ideas, improve our pitch, and even meet with a powerful network of investors. Special thanks to David Mazzocco, Associate Director of Sustainability and Projects, and his Wharton Operations team. They have been phenomenal in supporting our work by sponsoring grant funding and invaluable pilot opportunities. David spent a Thursday evening through Monday morning with our team coaching us and watching our pitch approximately one million times.

It was a dream come true to pitch alongside my sister, Tiffany Wong (W’21), who keeps me grounded and fearless, and constructively helps me improve our pitch for InstaHub.

Words of Encouragement

Building a social enterprise in college comes with a limitless number of uncertainties, but it certainly offers an invaluable learning experience that keeps me up at night (for the better). Nevertheless, what’s a better time to do it than now? My co-founder Dayo Adewole (GR’21) and I are confident that pursuing our dream in building an innovative business as a vehicle of scaling impact can be profitable.

We encourage anyone who is passionate about an issue to believe in themselves. Always remember that businesses that tackle social and environmental challenges can be very profitable throughout many generations moving forward.

Learn more about InstaHub.

— Michael Wong

Posted: January 7, 2019

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