This is the story of social entrepreneurship at its finest, introduced to me by my friend Bob Pattillo at Gray Ghost Ventures.
The problem? 1.5 billion people in the developing world do not have electricity (25% of the people of Africa, for instance) and many of them rely on kerosene lamps for light. Every year, kerosene lamps claim the lives of 1.5 million people through the inhalation of deadly fumes and fire. They also chomp up 5-30% of a family’s income.
The solution? D.Light’s Kiran lamps — super-bright, pollution-free LED lights that cost $10 and pay for themselves in as little as six months. Each Kiran lamp lasts five years and saves 1000 pounds of CO2 emissions a year, while using solar power to store energy.
The man behind the light? Sam Goldman who grew up in Mauritania, Pakistan, Peru, India and Rwanda. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, Africa and got his MBA from Stanford, when one day he learned his neighbor’s son in Benin had been badly burned by a kerosene lamp. Then and there, he committed to finding a new source of light that would be clean, economical and safe for all people to use.
His light was embraced by philanthropic venture capitalists and perfected with the help of serious market research conducted by social investment fund manager Heidi Krauel and Christina Riechers. They traveled through some of the most impoverished and dangerous parts of India to find out what customers and vendors liked and didn’t like about D.Light. The result is a product that serves the poor, improves their lives, and is poised to become a profitable, thriving enterprise. And it’s totally cute to boot.
My $100 contribution will go to “Give Light,” an innovative financing program that provides solar lamps on credit to families who live on less than $1 a day. As the lamps allow the families to increase their income through longer working hours and improve their educational opportunities and health, the loan is gradually repaid at a pace the family can afford, into a fund that benefits community projects. Very cool.
D.Light. Shine on. www.dlightdesign.com