Counterintuitive Innovation that Works: Five Takeways from Stima Systems at SOCAP
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
“We don’t sell our products, we don’t market them, and we don’t take them to our clients”
– CEO Konrad App of micro-leasing solar energy company Stima Systems.
Showcasing at the SOCAP/Europe conference last week, members of the Stima team, Konrad App, Matt Jervis, Homayoon Shahinfar and James Kimisoi, caught my attention with their counterintuitive yet successful social business venture.
App explains: “Stima sells the service of a portable solar charger through a pay-per-use model to those living at the bottom of the pyramid, BoP.”
Stima works in rural Kenya, where energy to charge a cell phone often costs more than making a call. This is the case across much of the developing world, as a result, most cell phone users will turn off their phones between calls to save power. This greatly limits their communication capacities, information sharing and business potential. Stima provides a charger that lets a user charge three cell phones for every six hours of sunlight. This often amounts to more than is needed by one household so can also be a secondary enterprise for users.
How did Stima start?
In 2007 App met James Kimisoi. As the head of the Justice & Peace for the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret, Kimisoi coordinates 60 civil society organizations, reaching over 6 million in the rural regions of Kenya.
Matt Jervis: “We were supplying solar chargers as aid relief to refugees displaced after the post-election conflict in Kenya and saw that power change lives; a woman became a village role model, generating a daily income charging phones. A brick layer doubled his business by keeping his phone on. A girl rose to the top of her class reading by LED light at night. From this, grew the idea of the social enterprise Stima Sytems and the goal to find a way to profitably reach a quarter of the world’s population who spend more on energy, but have no money to buy energy-saving products. With James on the team, Stima has a Kenyan super ’alpha node’- to connect to rural communities. Soon after, James started to pilot the pay-per-use service by telling people ’This brings peace! Which communities are interested?’ James and the rest of the Stima team have worked together ever since to develop the Stima model to where it is today.”