4 February 2020
Dr Somayeh Taheri established UrbanChain in 2017 as a way to make energy affordable and bring renewable energy to the mainstream market by using blockchain and AI technologies. UrbanChain has developed an innovative energy exchange platform which directly links energy consumers to energy generators and enables its customers to switch to the best deal in almost real time.
Blockchain is a complex technology but one that can be used in a variety of applications. UrbanChain has harnessed its capability and is working directly with the energy regulator, Ofgem, to transform the energy market, make energy cheaper and more accessible, and cut out unnecessary and added costs.
Somayeh graduated in 2016 from the School of Environment, Education and Development with a Ph.D. in Planning and Landscape and began research for her postdoc position on climate change, resilience of critical infrastructures, and cold homes. With her background in data science and self-directed research into blockchain, Somayeh began to uncover the potential of the technology to manage distributed energy resources and enable peer-to-peer trades.
In 2016 Somayeh was put in touch with the Masood Enterpreneurship Centre and went on to receive support for her start-up business from groups across the University. This was the beginning of UrbanChain’s growth journey. 2018 saw UrbanChain win 14 awards and 2019 was more successful still with the award total coming in at 16, ranging from Innovate UK (four times), IBM, AWS, Tech Nation Rising Star, VentureFest NW, and GBEA Disruptor of the Year. 2018 also saw Somayeh bring in two colleagues, a commercial officer and an information officer and by November 2019, Somayeh had built a full-time team of six and taken up permanent office space at Manchester Science Park.
Somayeh said of her time at the Masood Enterpreneurship Centre, “I hit upon an idea but I didn’t have a business background. The Masood Enterprise Centre gave me so much support around entrepreneurship, business creation and research.
“I was invited to networking and business events and I received help with funding and pitching opportunities. I was awarded a Momentum investment from UMIP’s Innovation Optimiser programme and an Innovation Voucher from The Manchester Growth Company which helped to fund further research and development activities. I also won the research category in the Enterprise Centre’s annual Venture Further competition in 2018 which enabled me to hire two people part-time. I felt that this was when UrbanChain moved from being a good idea to a real and viable business."
“Without the Masood Enterpreneurship Centre I don’t think my business would be successful. They taught freedom of thinking and to be more open to risk.”
Urban Chain continues to grow at an exponential rate. Turnover has risen from 30k in 2018 to 500k in 2019. They have a growing customer base and are working to improve their services, provide the best solutions and to be the best in the market.