Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder, MPOWERD
It’s more than just a light, when people living in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia get Luci, it literally changes their lives in meaningful ways.
For back-to-the-landers and environmentalists, living “off the grid” is a philosophical choice to disconnect from traditional and dirty sources of electricity, such as coal or oil. But for the 1.5 billion who live in energy poverty, being off the grid means darkness, danger, inconvenience, and despair. These people make $2-3 dollars per day and spend roughly half that just for kerosene to power their lamps and stoves. It’s a crippling expense, in more ways than one. Kerosene is notorious for causing fires and health problems, and its high price precludes poor people from spending their money on other things, like food, health care, and education.
Jacques-Philippe Piverger T’07 has a one-word solution to this problem: Luci. It’s a low-cost, inflatable solarpowered lantern made by MPOWERD, the company he co-founded in 2012 with the mission to “eradicate energy poverty through solar justice.” The elegant, innovative LED light is waterproof and weighs just four ounces. It’s powered by a lithium-ion battery and can illuminate 10 square feet for six to 12 hours, depending on the setting. Luci also, according to Piverger, has a personality. “It’s more than just a light,” he says. “When people living in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia get Luci, it literally changes their lives in meaningful ways.”
Making an impact in the developing world is not a stretch for Piverger, who has spent most of his summers visiting relatives in Haiti. That Piverger chose to make his impact through a startup is also not a surprise. At Tuck, he was a research fellow at the Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship, where he studied developed-market distressed investing and private equity opportunities in South Africa. After Tuck, Piverger worked for AIG Asset Management and PineBridge Investments while simultaneously founding two nonprofits. Piverger has intertwined that background by registering MPOWERD as a benefit corporation, a new type of entity that can have a double bottom line—making a profit and serving a societal mission. “One doesn’t have to get in the way of the other; they complement each other,” he says.
MPOWERD has already produced and distributed more than 200,000 Luci lanterns in 50 countries, through wholesalers and non-governmental organizations. The light has also proven popular in the U.S., where people buy it for outdoor activities, in-home lighting, and for emergency preparedness. The company conducted a “Give Luci” campaign during the 2013 Christmas shopping season, where purchasers could choose to buy another Luci for someone in need. The campaign provided 1,800 lights to communities in Africa, the Amazon, and the Philippines, as well as to girls in a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya. “It’s really exciting to know we’re working on something that makes sense business-wise, but also has a tangible impact on people and families,” Piverger says.
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