Jessica O. Matthews

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Jessica O. Matthews
NationalityNigerian-American (dual citizen)
Alma materHarvard College, Harvard Business School
OccupationInventor, CEO
Years active2008-present
OrganizationUncharted Play, KDDC
Known forSoccket
Home townPoughkeepsie, NY
WebsiteJessica O. Matthews at Uncharted Power

Jessica O. Matthews is a Nigerian-American inventor, CEO and venture capitalist.[1] She is the co-founder of Uncharted Power, which made Soccket, a soccer ball that can be used as a power generator. Matthews attended Harvard College and graduated from Harvard Business School.[2] In 2011, Fortune Magazine named her Fortune’s "10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs"[3] and in 2015, named her as Fortune’s "Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs."[4] In 2012, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations named her "Scientist of the Year."[5][6][7] Matthews is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Nigeria.[2] The President of Nigeria named Matthews an Ambassador for Entrepreneurship for the country.[8]

Early life[edit]

Matthews grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY, as a dual citizen of the United States and Nigeria. Her parents run a software business, Decision Technologies International[2][9] and her sister, Tiana Idoni-Matthews, would later become a marketing director of Uncharted Play.[10] Matthews attended Our Lady of Lourdes High School,[11] as a teenager pursuing science fairs and track and field.[9] Matthews then attended Harvard College and later Harvard Business School.[2]


Uncharted Play[edit]

As a junior in college in 2008,[12] Matthews and classmate Julia Silverman invented Soccket as part of an assignment for an engineering class.[13] She has described the inspiration for the invention as coming from an experience attending her aunt's wedding in Nigeria.[14] When the electricity was lost and diesel generators were used to keep the lights on, Matthews recognized the health hazard posed from fumes and decided to try to do something about it.[2] She and Silverman presented Soccket as their proposed solution, a soccer ball that stores kinetic energy as it's used. A half-hour of play with the soccer ball generates enough energy to power a small, attachable LED light for three hours,[15] so that play with soccer ball also provides children a reading light with which to do their homework after dark. The two founded Uncharted Power to develop Soccket, with Matthews becoming CEO.[3]

After graduating from college in 2010, Matthews took a full-time job working at a crowd-funding company called CrowdTap.[8] The following year, she left that company to work on Uncharted Power full-time,[3] initially raising funds through Kickstarter and then utilizing convertible debt.[8] That same year, she presented Soccket at the Clinton Global Initiative University[3] and on President Barack Obama's 2013 trip to Tanzania.[9][16] The company also makes a jump rope that stores energy in a means similar to Soccket called the Pulse, which generates three hours of power for an LED through 15 minutes of jumping rope.[8]

The initial manufacturing run of Soccket encountered significant quality control issues, so Matthews moved production to Uncharted Play's own facilities in New York.[17] She subsequently shifted the company's focus to developing a broader range of kinetic-energy-storying products in partnership with experienced manufacturers.[2] This shift included trademarking MORE, an acronym for Motion-based Off-Grid Renewable Energy, a system which uses Soccket's energy-storing method in consumer products beyond toys.[10][18] "Matthews describes her company’s proprietary MORE technology as an energy harvesting and emanating building block that can be seamlessly integrated into various infrastructures, objects and products — everything from floor panels, streets, speedbumps and sidewalks, to subway turnstiles, strollers, shopping carts and beyond".[18] In 2016, Uncharted Power had been profitable for three consecutive years and doubled gross profit margins year over year.[19] In 2016, Matthews raised $7 million in Series A funding for Uncharted Power,[20] with the company valued at $57 million.[21][22] TechCrunch reported that this made Matthews the 13th black female founder to have raised more than $1 million in funding.[23] As of March 2017, 500,000 Socckets and Pulses had been used in developing regions, primarily in Africa and Latin America.[24]

Other initiatives[edit]

In 2016, when Matthews moved Uncharted Power to Harlem, NY, she created a non-profit arm, the Harlem Tech Fund (HTF), which aims to support 100 new startups and offer technology training to 10,000 Harlem residents over the next two to five years.[1] Matthews serves as chairman of the board of HTF.[24] That same year, she was recognized at the Harlem Economic Development Day, receiving the Outstanding Corporate Diversity Award.[1]

Matthews has expanded to work on global infrastructure projects.[25] She is co-founder and executive director of KDDC, developing a hydropower dam project in Nigeria.[26] The 30-megawatt dam is among the first hydroelectric dam projects privatized in Nigeria.[25]


Matthews has received numerous awards, honors and recognition,[5][6][7][27][28][29][24] like being named Innovator of the Year by Black Enterprise in 2013,[30] one of both Forbes 30 Under 30 and Inc. Magazine's 30 under 30 in 2014 and 2016, respectively,[8][31] and selected twice by Fortune for recognition.[3][4]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Abello, Oscar Perry (October 20, 2016). "This Woman Wants to Run Harlem's First Billion-Dollar Tech Company". NextCity. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hartmans, Avery (October 8, 2016). "The inventor of the energy-harnessing soccer ball made a huge pivot — and it's paying off big time". Business Insider. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Doing it for themselves - The Social Entrepreneurs (2)". Fortune. September 30, 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b Groden, Claire (September 9, 2015). "Meet Fortune's 2015 Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs". Fortune. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Matthews, Silverman are Scientists of the Year". Harvard Gazette. March 30, 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  6. ^ a b "The Harvard Foundation Honors Jessica Matthews '10 and Julia Silverman '10 as the 2012 Scientists of the Year at the annual Harvard Foundation Science Conference" (PDF). The Harvard Foundation Journal. XXXI (2). Spring 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  7. ^ a b Stych, Anne (April 5, 2016). "Energy-generating soccer balls, jump ropes help keep lights on in developing countries". The Business Journals. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e Helman, Christopher (January 6, 2014). "The Stars Of Forbes' 30 Under 30 In Energy And Industry". Forbes. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  9. ^ a b c della Cava, Marco (May 27, 2014). "Change Agents: Matthews' Soccket lights up lives". USA TODAY. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  10. ^ a b Shamah, David (April 4, 2016). "The soccer ball that lights up when kicked, and other kinetic energy converters". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Jessica O. Matthews '06 • Our Lady of Lourdes". Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  12. ^ "Uncharted Play - Upstarts: The Playmakers". CNN Money. June 24, 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  13. ^ Karas, David (2014-11-13). "Jessica O. Matthews has a ball generating energy". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
  14. ^ Hartogs, Jessica (July 23, 2012). "Powering the future: Kick a ball, switch on a light". CBS News. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  15. ^ Valet, Vicky (October 1, 2015). "The New Inventors: Catching Up With Six 30 Under 30 Makers". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
  16. ^ CNN Political Unit (July 2, 2013). "Obama shows off his 'Soccket' moves". CNN. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  17. ^ Collins, Jennifer (April 8, 2014). "Impoverished kids love the soccer ball that powers a lamp — until it breaks". Public Radio International. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  18. ^ a b "Her Renewable Energy Startup Turns Soccer Balls and Sidewalks Into Power Sources". Free Enterprise. 2017-05-03. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  19. ^ Buchanan, Leigh (20 May 2017). "An Entrepreneur Who Never Runs Out of Energy". Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  20. ^ Hirtenstein, Anna (22 September 2016). "Magic Johnson Funds Uncharted Play's Ball That Generates Power". Bloomberg. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  21. ^ "The Funding Is Female: 18 Founders And Venture Capitalists Changing The Tech Landscape". ValueWalk. 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-22.
  22. ^ "The Funding Is Female: 18 Founders And Venture Capitalists Changing The Tech Landscape". ValueWalk. 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  23. ^ Dickey, Megan Rose. "Black female founder raises $7 million for renewable energy tech startup". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
  24. ^ a b c Ochieng, Akinyi (17 March 2017). "Jessica O. Matthews is the Tech Maven Bringing Renewable Energy to Nigeria and Beyond". OkayAfrica. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  25. ^ a b Sharma, Charu. "Going Against the Flow: Jessica O. Matthews, Founder/CEO of Uncharted Play". Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  26. ^ "Jessica O. Matthews - SuperSoul 100". 3 August 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  27. ^ "Toyota Awards $50K in Grants to Women at Women in the World Summit". Manufacturing Close-Up. March 17, 2012. Retrieved February 22, 2017 – via HighBeam Research.
  28. ^ Adams, Kirby (September 27, 2014). "Awards celebrate legacy of 'The Greatest'". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  29. ^ Simon, Mashaun D. (February 11, 2017). "#NBCBLK28: Jessica O. Matthews has a brighter idea to capture the energy of play". NBC News. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  30. ^ Dingle, Derek T. (July 3, 2013). "How One Black Entrepreneur 'Powers' Obama's Africa Strategy". Black Enterprise. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  31. ^ Fenn, Donna (2017-05-24). "These Young Entrepreneurs Are Shaping the Future". Inc. Magazine. Retrieved 2017-02-22.