D.Light Design a “Most Promising Social Entrepreneur”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Goldman and Tozun first met in 2005 while MBA students at Stanford University’s Institute of Design, where they worked together on projects during a semester-long class called Designing for Extreme Affordability. Goldman had spent four years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, where he experienced the problems of living without electricity and relying on dangerous kerosene lamps. As a result of that experience, the two decided to focus on an affordable, scalable light solution.

They turned their class assignment into a solar-powered LED lamp prototype, and in 2006 decided to commercialize it, working around the clock to refine the lamp for rural households without access to electricity. By last October, the pair had raised nearly $6 million in venture funding. Today, D.Light’s 50 employees manufacture and market to those living on $5 a day or less in Africa and Southwest Asia. Goldman says the lamps are making an impact in a test market in Orissa, India, where they are available via a payment plan. “Families making less than $12 a day crushing rocks were able to double their income, [Because they are now able to work on handicrafts] into the evening hours.” Goldman adds that participants also saved money because they no longer needed to travel two days a month to buy kerosene. He says that so far all families have repaid their lamps that cost between $15 and $40 in full, and the company expects to earn at least $5 million in sales this year.

Source: BusinessWeek (link opens in a new window)