Magic Johnson Funds Uncharted Play’s Ball That Generates Power

  • Series A round led by African renewable-energy investor NIC
  • Unchartered makes soccer balls that also generate electricity

Uncharted Play, a startup making toys that also generate small amounts of electricity, raised $7 million in venture capital.

The Series A round was led by NIC Fund, a renewable energy investor in Africa. Retired basketball star Magic Johnson’s investment company, Kapor Capital, BBG Ventures and Lingo Ventures also invested.

Magic Johnson.

Magic Johnson.

Photographer: Greg Doherty/WireImage

Uncharted Play’s flagship product is the Soccket, a soccer ball that converts and stores the kinetic energy it produces inside a lithium-ion battery. Kicking the ball around for an hour renders three hours of light when the ball is plugged in to its lamp. The New York-based company also makes a jump rope -- the Pulse -- which can light up a room for 12 hours after only 60 minutes of play.

The technology can be used in anything that is in motion to power small electronics, mobile devices and sensors for the so-called Internet of Things. Baby strollers and shopping carts may be next. Uncharted Play sees its technology as a potential replacement for some power systems, especially in developing countries, where large swathes of the population don’t have stable access to energy.

“We not only aim to disrupt how energy is generated, but how it is consumed,” said Jessica Matthews, founder and chief executive officer. “We envision a world where people shift from a ‘hoard & save’ energy mentality to a ‘continuous and on demand’ energy experience.”

Off-grid electricity has taken off in Africa and developing Asia, accelerating from virtual non-existence a decade ago to a market valued at $700 million last year. The industry is dominated by solar developers, selling rooftop panels that power lights, mobile phone chargers and even small televisions and fans.

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