Something happened this week that made me stop in my tracks.
I had just returned from a trip to China and India and was fully caught up in the details of our new product launch (the A1, the most affordable quality solar lantern to ever hit the market!) and the flurry of interest we’ve had since having the serendipitous chance to demonstrate the product to President Obama.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day challenges for a business like d.light, which operates in more countries than many multinationals but still tries to be as nimble and innovative as a startup. Tweet This Quote
It’s easy to get distracted and caught up in the day-to-day challenges for a business like d.light, which operates in more countries than many multinationals but still tries to be as nimble and innovative as a startup—all while tackling enormous problems nobody has solved before.
That’s when I got a note from my co-founder, Sam Goldman. He had just stopped to do the math and realized that at our current scale, we are impacting over 2.6 million people per month, amounting to one new person every second benefiting from a d.light solar product.
One person every second with the freedom to generate their own power from solar.
One person every second freed from the toxic fumes of kerosene.
One person every second with more time to study at night.
One person every second freed from the stress that her children will be burned by an overturned kerosene lamp.
One person every second that can reallocate money previously spent on kerosene toward more milk for kids, school fees, or a business investment.
One new person every second benefits from using a d.light product. Tweet This Quote
It’s been almost ten years since we started d.light. But I still remember our very first customer.
Her name was scrawled in our notes as My Ya. She was a woman in Myanmar who made bricks for a living with her six children. They would burn diesel lamps and make the bricks during the evening, letting them dry during the day. We were doing research in Myanmar and left her with an early prototype solar light.
When we returned a few days later, the light had so impacted the life of her family that she wept and showed us the money she had saved to buy the prototype. Her family became more productive in the evenings. They could work without having to breathe in the terrible diesel fumes.
Our vision was clear—to eradicate kerosene lanterns from the face of the earth. Tweet This Quote
At that moment, I knew we had to make d.light happen—for My Ya and the millions like her. She wasn’t asking for a handout; she just needed the opportunity to improve her own life and that of her family.
A decade ago, technological advances in solar and LEDs were just beginning to make it possible to revolutionize the lives of the 1.2 billion people not connected to the grid. But technology companies weren’t taking these markets and customers seriously. Our vision was clear, though—to eradicate kerosene lanterns from the face of the earth.
It’s been an amazing journey since then, full of exhilarating heights and near-death lows. I’ve come to realize that starting a company is like scaling a mountain.
Perseverance and tenacity are the most important characteristics for an entrepreneur to succeed and to scale the mountain. Tweet This Quote
When you start out, you can see the mountain ahead of you. It’s big and challenging, but it’s also beautiful. You see the big picture and feel the thrill of trying to climb it. But when you actually climb the mountain, you can get lost in the thicket and lose sight of the big picture. Day-to-day, your experience is of the rocks, the trees, your twisted ankle, your empty stomach, the dust and heat.
In my experience, perseverance and tenacity are the most important characteristics for an entrepreneur to succeed and to scale the mountain— more important than intelligence, eloquence or even financial resources. Every day, I am grateful for the amazing d.light team and our incredible partners who could see the mountain early on. They raised their hands to join us on the ascent and persevered with us to climb the mountain together.
In the end, the heart of our work is the people—those who make it happen and those whom we serve. Reaching the milestone of one person per second helps me see how far up the mountain we’ve climbed and remember anew the vision that initially inspired us.
In the end, the heart of our work is the people—those who make it happen and those whom we serve. Tweet This Quote
With solar paving the way for universal energy access for the 2.3 billion people that don’t have reliable electricity, we’re on track to eradicate kerosene lanterns. And the world as a whole will be better for it, as we reduce the need for building out the grid or burning additional fossil fuels.
With the peak of the mountain in sight, it’s time to take a deep breath and keep climbing. It’s an adventure we hope you’ll join.