Celebrating the success of d.light

By Jacqueline Novogratz on August 10, 2015

Last week, d.light’s co-founder, Sam Goldman, welcomed President Obama in Nairobi and had the opportunity to share the company’s impact of bringing affordable, clean light to more than 50 million individuals in 62 countries. This is real change.

d.light was one of our first investments in clean energy. Sam and his co-founder, Ned Tozun, were two young Stanford grads with a big dream to eradicate kerosene. In 2007, their solar lamp was still in the prototype phase, but we believed in their vision and could sense their conviction. Since then, we’ve supported the company with different kinds of financing through the years. We placed 10 Acumen Fellows with the company and connected it to partners like IDEO.org and DOW. Today, the company sells 500,000 products every month and is on track to reach 100 million in the next two years.

This is incredible progress for them—and for the world. While the company itself obviously did the heavy lifting, many players have contributed to its success. Indeed, it takes the power of many, working together, for any company or organization to create disruptive systems change. When I saw that photo of Sam and President Obama, I thought of the many hands connected to that light, how it takes a leader to spark a movement, but many to build it.

When we see the success of d.light, it is critical for all social entrepreneurs and those who support them not only to celebrate but also to recognize that we all gain from it. When Sam and Ned started d.light, most thought they were on a path to failure. The story goes that they looked at one another, holding one small lamp and an enormous dream and asked themselves a critical question: What is the worst that can happen?

They decided that at worst, they’d bring light to 10,000 people and call it a day. Not daring at all was a bigger failure. So they started. The road hasn’t been an easy one but, in part because of d.light, an entire sector is taking off. In Kenya alone, 30 percent of all rural households now own one of their products.

May d.light’s story inspire every one of us to action. This is a moment in history that demands we make the impossible possible,and remember that none of us will do it alone. If we are truly to make poverty history, it will take all of us.

Thanks to the d.light team for choosing to dare and pursuing their dream with persistence and grit, And to all who have touched the company in one way or another, know your efforts matter. At Acumen, we couldn’t feel prouder for the partnership and for this next chapter of growth and possibility.

Warmly,
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