The world’s 1st ultra-fast EV charging network has started in an SU dormitory

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After Josh Aviv brainstormed his idea for an electric car charging service with his future wife during their winter break in 2013, he launched SparkCharge in a space that many students would find starting a business intimidating – his dorm room.

“I look back on it and think, ‘That was definitely a crazy idea,’ but I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to get into something I’m passionate about,” Josh said. “Something I like.”

Since then, Josh has transformed SparkCharge, the first in the world ultra-fast mobile electric vehicle charging network, from a two-person effort to an award-winning company based in Somerville, Massachusetts, with employees across the United States

The Syracuse University alum knew he wanted to get into entrepreneurship after taking a course called environmental economics. The course – which is taught by Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs professor Peter Wilcoxen – inspired the SparkCharge founder to think about the change he could bring to the earth.

“I remember him saying, ‘If you want to change the world, solve the infrastructure problem for electric vehicles,'” Josh said. “I met him after class and really started to learn about this issue…and came up with the idea for SparkCharge.”

When the startup started, Samadhi Aviv, Josh’s wife, made SparkCharge t-shirts with Josh to prepare for events where they would talk about the company. Samadhi remembers being very involved during this time, as she had to help with marketing, accounting and hiring interns.

“There are (now) almost 30 to 40 employees in different states,” Samadhi said. “So I got to see us grow from making t-shirts at 2 a.m. to now.”

The pair got to know each other through a group of friends but only started interacting when they were in their second year at SU. Samadhi said she appreciates that even though running a business like SparkCharge takes a lot of time, Josh always makes time for his loved ones and young entrepreneurs.

One of Josh’s #1 mentors is Linda Dickerson Hartsock, Executive Director of Blackstone LaunchPad. The two first met in 2016 when Blackstone LaunchPad opened during Josh’s freshman year of graduate school and still keep in touch to talk about his business.

From occasionally speaking to her entrepreneurship class to mentoring student entrepreneurs as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Blackstone LaunchPad, Hartsock said Josh has always been very connected to her and her alma mater.

“He’s a frequent speaker, often invited to judge business plan competitions,” Hartsock said. “It’s a very long and deep personal relationship and a treasured friendship.”

In addition to his connection to the university, Hartsock said Josh also mentors young black founders because he understands the challenges of being a black entrepreneur and speaks out about those issues nationally.

Joshua Rapoza, vice president of marketing at SparkCharge, said he admires the maturity Josh has shown leading the charging company.

“I’ve worked with a lot of different people around the world, and I’ve never seen someone with such a work ethic and understanding and yet patient with everyone,” Rapoza said. “He has this passion, (and) he has this ability…to get everybody around him excited about what’s going on.”

In 2020, Josh pitched the business to the sharks of “Shark Tank” and walked away with a $1 million investment for 10% equity in sharks Lori Greiner and Mark Cuban. Although the CEO of SparkCharge was confident in what his company had to bring to the table, he had to stress how new the company was to the sharks.

“We really had to be on our game before the sharks and pitch your business in front, I think it was 3.6 million people listening that night,” Josh said.

As developers of the world’s first ultra-fast mobile charging network, Rapoza said the company offers two major services. One of them, the Roadie, is a portable modular electric vehicle charger that Rapoza says is faster than 95-98% of installed chargers and can deliver power where most chargers can’t. not. Whether it’s a parking lot, showroom or desert, electric vehicles can be charged with the Roadie, Rapoza said.

Another feature the company has rolled out is an app called Currently, which Rapoza described as “Uber Eats for hungry EVs.” The service is available in select US cities, including San Francisco and Dallas, with plans to expand to other locations across the country.

After paying for a subscription, drivers can have their electric vehicles charged by Current employees by indicating where their car is and why they want it charged. Rapoza said the company also recently reached an agreement with KIA – if drivers own a Kia electric vehicle where Currently is available, they can get two months of service for free.

“It’s really about creating access,” Rapoza said.

In his spare time, Josh reads books like “Work Rules!” by Laszlo Bock and is an avid video game player. Whether it’s playing when Sega Genesis comes out or playing Call of Duty and Apex Legends on current-gen consoles, Josh said he feels like his generation has been playing for a lifetime. .

Building the first ultra-fast mobile EV charger was a tough feat to accomplish, but thanks to the right team around it, it’s something the company was able to achieve, Josh said.

“We spent a lot of time building this product,” Josh said. “I think it took three years of development just to launch a product, right? So that’s something we’re extremely happy about.

Contact Siron: [email protected] | @sironthomas

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