D.Light Solar: Making the World a Brighter Place
Social responsible investing (SRI) is any investing strategy that looks to maximize financial return and social good. Maximizing social good often involves targeting the less fortunate in this world and can be very lucrative. “Sell to the poor and live with the rich” as the saying goes. One startup company that epitomizes this investment thesis by making products that use renewable energy and better the lives of the less fortunate is D.Light Solar.
Founded in 2007, D.Light was the brainchild of two Stanford MBA students, Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun, both of who were recognized by Forbes as two of the world’s top-30 social entrepreneurs. The company’s goal is to empower the 2.3 billion people in this world who do not have access to reliable electricity. The CEO, Donn Tice, used to be the CEO of Nano-Tex from 2003-2006, that nano textiles company that made the cool pants you could pour wine on and not stain, and which was sold to Crypton last year. D.Light has taken in $22.5 million in funding so far from investors such as Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Garage Technology Ventures, and Nexus Venture Partners.
D.Light makes four solar lighting products that are simple, durable, and affordable.
The S2 LED solar rechargeable task light sells for a mere $13.68 and can fully charge from solar or AC in 8 hours to then provide 4 hours of portable light The S20 lantern sells for just $18.95 and can fully charge from solar or AC in 8 hours. Fully charged, the lantern has two brightness settings which can provide 4 hours of light on high and 8 hours of light on medium. The s300 light sells for $40.00 and provides bright white light at a wide angle allowing for an entire room to be illuminated. The s300 has the same brightness settings as the S20, but also a “low” setting that provides 16 hours of light. Additionally, the S300 has a USB output that can charge mobile phones, smartphones, and other low-powered USB devices. The D20 solar home system sells for $164.58 and includes 2 hanging lamps and a portable lantern—enough to illuminate three rooms at once. Each hanging lamp comes with a separate wall switch that has a low and a high setting which provides an electrical grid-like experience.
All products come with a 2-year replacement warranty, and have a > 5-year expected lifetime. If you have any questions about durability of these products, this video showing D.Light staff seriously abusing their products should help alleviate those concerns.
We first came across the S2 in Vanuatu, and were amazed by how effective this cheap and simple product was in the hands of people with limited access to electricity. It’s no surprise that D.Light products can be found in such an obscure place, as D.Light has now sold over 6 million units in over 60 countries.
Since the barrier to entry for most emerging market consumers is the cost of the solar home systems, D.Light has taken to providing pay-as-you-go options for consumers that now account for 20% of sales:
D.Light has the goal of none other than providing universal access to energy for 2.3 billion people. With the progress they’ve made so far and a first-mover advantage, this goal certainly looks achievable.
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