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Sam Goldman


I'm Jessica Harris. This is from scratch. My guest is Sam Goldman Co founder of delight a company that sells affordable affordable solar lighting and power to consumers in developing countries roughly twenty percent of the world's population does not have access to reliable electricity delight is is focused on providing cleaner cheaper safer lighting and energy in over sixty countries. Sam started delight in two thousand seven with Ned chosen whom he met at Stanford Hanford Business School Prior Starting Delight Sam served in the Peace Corps in Benin West Africa. Welcome thank you your first foray into the developing developing-world was not in the Peace Corps after college. You grew up with a family who caused you to live in several places your mother <hes> for example was focused on maternal health right in your father. I am agriculture. What are some memories you have of that well a lot of them? Especially when I was growing up where some of the amazing vacations vacations we took actually flying into a drug trafficking strip in the Amazon rainforest. You had to take a boat up the Amazon for three four hours and it's just surrounded it by animals howling at night things like that which are pretty unusual and very sticky in a child's mind. What are some impressions of what Your Mother did for instance that stuck with you outside these exotic <hes> well? I just remember especially in in India. She got a plaque saying you know thanking her for making a contribution into the lives of ten million women and children in India and it was sort of like oh my gosh my mom's doing these really interesting work and she wasn't trying to make huge technological shift. She was trying to make sure that women understood that they should breastfeed. How was the experience of the Peace Corps different from what you expected since you had tangentially been in this world previously <hes> that's a good question? There's no substitute for actually doing it in living at yourself you can you can read about it. You can watch movies about it. You can theory here at us is about it but when you go out and actually do it and you live there and you feel the seasons and you eat the same food everybody else does and you go and you work in the fields and see how long and how much effort it takes to grow yams and then to turn them into a food food and and how unreliable your source of income is when you're dependent on the weather and the and the crops and food prices globally and all these little things that after a while you start to really I understand what is important to people and it was in the Peace Corps where you had your first experience with kerosene lamps were you discovered how ineffective and dangerous they are Dr and that had a deep impact on you. What was your exposure to kerosene lamps firsthand when you're in the Peace Corps in in many countries certainly west Africa you're giving issued by the government <hes> and kerosene lantern and so I use that for my three and a half years of Peace Corps Service <hes> and you don't want to use it and the really the game changing experience appearance for me was when a a friend had bought from Walmart Kmart or somewhere l._e._d.? headlamp and they left the country and I got there headlamp and so I I just switched over and started wearing this headlamp all of a sudden I could see things and I could cook inside and I wanted to read because it was more pleasant. I didn't feel sort of <hes> lightheaded when I was reading under the lamp and so and that's when I started writing l._e._d.. Companies and saying hey here's this unmet market need. Can I distribute for you. We gotta make this happen and just simple battery-powered l._e._d.. Lamps and saying what like why isn't this wise. There's a total market failure. Why isn't this happening literally? Not One person responded to an email or a letter so when did the idea for a solar lamp arrive the thing that really took me over the edge my next door neighbor who's a fifteen year old boy at the time he got in cares he had a cursing fire fire accident and he almost died and he got third degree burns all over his body but he survived and he's he's fine now <hes> but that got me researching I found out that like a million people a year die from increasing fires. Once it starts spreads all over the place. It causes a lot of harm so people are they're scared of kerosene. They're spending a lot of money on it. It's unhealthy for them. <hes> and it's really terrible source of light it doesn't it's not very bright. Solar magical is you put it outside and it just delivers you free power and this notion that you're not going to be dependent on somebody else to charge and you don't have to walk or drive to a charging station. You won't have this constant outlay of cash. It totally changes the end they've never been had they've ever PAT independent power control over their power independently before so you had this grievance with kerosene lamps kind of in your back pocket you made your way to Stanford Business School. How does a biologist and Peace Corps enthusiasts <hes> decide to go to business school planning to And I was an anti-capitalist. I was violence environmentalist. I'd ride my bike across Canada kind of doing this. Climate Change your out. It was doing all these things and then when I got to have been in. I realized the only thing that was really really changing. The country and changing quickly was business not none of but a lot of the NGOs and the public sector activities I was seeing in my distant village village of two thousand people they just weren't having the same impact so I decided I wanted to go become a social entrepreneur and applied only to the schools that were really on the vanguard of that and Stanford one of them <hes> so I was told that you <hes> used to have a beard used to wear a lot of necklaces. What did SAM look like ten years ago well well so. I didn't have any money <HES> <HES> and I didn't have anybody I had to impress for any reasons so you were a lot of the local garb so very long flowing khloe close. <hes> you know my best friend in my village was. Taylor you know could be a living patterns of living room all over my body or bananas or it was really sort of fun. <hes> you know if you've seen West. African close they're beautiful and they're gorgeous and their their creative <hes> yeah and a big beard and sometimes colored hair and yeah just when. I was having fun fun. This is your Peace Corps years come Stanford Business School. How long did that last <hes> well. You know you drive up that palm-lined Boulevard and and you know every leaf that falls off a tree get somehow miraculously swept up by someone somewhere. It's hard to be quite so and you don't realize that you just you know we're humans right. We adapt to our circumstances so when I was in a village there's no washing machine anywhere you do it by hand. Nothing ever gets clean and so that was just the way I kinda was but then once I shifted Focus Lucas. She is kind of cleaned up my act. I'm Jessica Harris. You're listening to from scratch. My guest is Sam Goldman Co founder of delight a company that that produces solar lighting and energy products to consumers at the bottom of the pyramid in developing countries were one out of three people does not have access to reliable energy. The idea and prototypes for delight grew out of class that Sam took at Stanford Business School with Co founder. Ned toes him called all design for extreme affordability. Now I say it was out of the business school but it was really out of the Stanford Design School <hes> where Pioneer David Kelly. He founded did this program. Can you talk to me about how the idea went from just that to something more concrete <hes> in in that in that space yes absolutely the <hes> design school was almost a startup within within Stanford. The first semester was essentially learning how to do design and human centered designed the way Idaho kind of teaches it with all sorts of mini projects on the second semester was we had a client a customer which was an NGO based in Myanmar and we had to go and actually produce a produce something valuable for them that they could take the market and they worked in the water space predominantly and for whatever reason there was a small group of us who we just weren't as excited excited about doing something in the water spice and we really wanted to energy and I personally was pushing a lot for doing something in energy because I'd been in Peace Corps and I had lived for a couple years with a kerosene lantern iron and I knew that there were better options and so I am I knew that was true also in Myanmar and so we kind of coalesced and talk to this Ngo about whether we could go and and would they be interested interested if we could come up with a better source of lighting than what the typical population in Myanmar would have if we could design something they'd be interested in taking it to market and they said yes that would be a good project. Let's do it what how did you discover in Myanmar specifically because of a totalitarian government I mean the country <hes> used to be a source where people would go to me on mark for higher education education all over. South Asia was recognized. There was actually somewhat of a grid that went out to these villages and there was electricity and it's all falling apart. They didn't even have kerosene which is sort of the worst farmer lighting for most people on the world that you carry sing was banned so people would burn diesel as their only source of light if they could get it or if you didn't WanNa burn diesel which is you can imagine pretty noxious way to live your life life you would pony up for very expensive tiny little candles burn quickly <hes> and then if you had a little more money in wanted to splurge you could buy these really noxious office lead acid batteries which would run for like a day or two and they would charge them up on these massive like Nineteen Twenty nineteen thirties generators <hes> and they would tell us like Oh yeah you know that the batteries are being charged well. If the acid is boiling the whole thing was so amazingly wrong and backwards that that it really it blew our minds and I think the story some of the stories were what allowed us. I think ultimately to get some of the venture funding we got in the valley. What are some of those stories you know we we participated in this one called the F._D._a.. Venture Challenge Being Draper Fischer leading venture firm and what they do is they take all the winners at the various business school. Competitions and they pick them all up against each other in this one D._J.. Venture Challenge we went into just sort of tell the human story and the story we told was about a woman named Mia and and we had gone to her village and less than some very early prototypes look nothing like what we have now it was a large family and they would essentially get up at like ten pm go out and dig up the earth and work all night making these mud bricks which they sold for half a penny each later and they would have to work all night and then get done in the morning and leave them out so that during the during the day they baked by the sun and then they could sell the bricks and so these lice completely changed my life but she literally started crying when we said you know we have to take these prototypes back they don't. They're not gonNA work long term. This is just something we've put together. This is like one lady out of two billion and this is going to matter and it's going to matter a lot. What did the initial no prototypes out of the D school? Look like yeah there. Were I mean and obviously the D school methodology is get it done and get get done fast and learn as quickly as you can right so I mean we just had we you know you'd slap a battery into a box and run a naked wire off it to a little circuit board with some L._E._d.. Sutter to it I mean it was not a consumer product in any way shape or form and we just wanted to experiment with how much power how much light is enough what are kind of the price points that we need to hit <hes> to make this to make this viable and then also is it to have have to be solar. Can it can be a combination of you know just fast. Charging technology batteries are not distribution was harder for you than you had expected. Can you talk to me about what that landscape is because that's really the gating factor in a way yeah you're absolutely right. We don't realize that the you know. The average base of the pyramid family or individual is not a consumer a lot of them are subsistence farmers. They grow their own food. <hes> they by just a few essentials that they absolutely need they are used to word the mouth and they're used to testimonials that come from people they trust not from companies <hes> that come from some other land <hes> and that's that is the hard and expensive part is to get out out in actually build a new category that does not did not exist even a couple of years ago. Can you give some examples of just firsthand experience that you had in educating. Well absolutely yeah I mean and you know we were. We were at this award ceremony yesterday. In one of those speakers who came <hes> and we're honored to have him was the C._E._o.. Of S._A._S. microfinance <hes> which is is one of the world's largest microfinance institutes and we have partnered with them and we originally started. I did in two thousand eight when I went to India because by micro finance loan officers there's are actually going out into the deepest communities and you know groups of women come once a week and meet together <hes> and they distribute loans of two hundred dollars or less to these women but it's an opportunity to say here's a new technology and it's coming from somebody they trust who they know and have known for many weeks to say here it is here's how it works. If you'd be interested we'd be able to offer it to you on some kind of financing so that it doesn't become a burden and they can go and try it and experience it and that's an example of a distribution channel which has been very very powerful for Russell very good partner another partner for you. Is the French company Tall. Who are they absolutely so? That's another really interesting one that you would immediately really think about but you know tall has an interest in being an energy company not just in being an oil company even though that I you know I don't know exactly their revenue split but they have <hes> retail's almost like mini marts gas stations all over the world and they have a very high concentration of them in Africa and South Asia also <hes> and so we've partnered with them to be able to put our lights into their stations which is a trusted well known place that people can go to if they WANNA buy the technology the price of <hes> your technologies range from is at seven dollars to forty dollars depending You don't have to go through all these learnings and can just get it right the first time we're talking a little bit at ten thousand feet on the impact that these lights and these products have had can you talk to me on in a more granular level on how you've changed. <hes> these people's lives absolutely you know we are this was in in depredation India. <hes> pushes a one of the largest states and we were coming back and talking to a farmer at night and he was saying. Oh and he was using Hindi and I don't know the exact phrase we use essentially saying thank you delight is is almost like a God. It's you know thank you so much for having brought this. I was coming back and snake almost Bitney but I saw this because I have your light and then proceeded to tell us all these stories of other people who'd been bitten by snakes <hes> and leading to often fatal accidents. I heard that you were bit by a snake at some point and you had a kerosene lamp yeah I did. I did actually during walking. You can't really see anything so I did walk into my house once and got bitten by a snake. Drop the lantern at smashed. I'm sitting in the dark. I know I've been bitten and it turned into quite an adventure because my health center didn't have any vaccines and a friend of mine like put me on the back of his motorcycle drove me seven kilometers I get to this health center and the and the guy says oh great yeah I have. I actually have the serum for you. <hes> and you're really lucky because somebody came in last week for it but they couldn't afford it so. I can give but to them. It's like Oh gosh. You've spent the majority of time in the developing world. You're living in Vancouver now in Canada. You're living in India prior hire. How long were you in India after business school in getting this off the ground after business school <hes> I moved to India my co-founder move to Shenzhen China and essentially I started up the sales sales and marketing was running product development. He was doing more operations and finance part of the company <HES> SO India for a couple of years but I'd actually done my high school there so I had some familiarity and I knew some people in India and moved to Hong Kong and opened the office there as we started to expand more internationally and now I live in Vancouver <hes> the my wife I'm Canadian in my wife's also Canadian and speaking of your wife. I was wondering what you're kind of. <hes> private social life was life. You know you've you've had had a nomadic existence and then I saw you walk into the office here. <hes> with your wife. Rosie who is pregnant. It's nice to see that that part of your life was able as you be enriched simultaneous with the you know your your professional one. How did you meet your wife. How did you meet your originally yeah. I met Rosie and undergraduate and we we were together. <hes> and there was something magical about the way we were but school ended. We both went our separate ways and sort of kept in touch with each other. Maybe once every five years or so <hes> but a group of friends from undergraduate we do kayaking trips every once in a while now we've turned it into a habit in British Columbia Canada and so we saw each other one year and the next thing I know she was coming over to Hong Kong on a one way ticket things going from there. What are your parents make of evolved nece. Though of course they're ridiculously excited and proud of all the work that we're we're doing and it's it's so much an extension of what they had done beforehand just opening up their they had very good personal relationships with people all over the world whether it was in India India with the business or or health communities or whether it was in Rwanda with the government communities and just being able to link me back into those families and individuals because in the end whether it's business business or whether it's development work it's all personal so they had a they had a vast rolodex. Yeah it's an interesting how we use the term. Rolodex now you spent your life shifting back and forth between developing countries and Canada or the United States. What are you find most striking striking when you return to let's say Vancouver. How lucky we are the world's not fair the work that people have to do for a couple of dollars others today even in your daily in your daily life like what do you find striking the landing at you know you land in. Vancouver if you're coming from Beijing coming from New Delhi and all and it's like you have to squint because it's so bright and the son like the sun's just blaring so clean and pure in the air so you know there's a little thing the the air is so pure like where else do I get this kind of air that I umbrella. You'd think everybody would get and it's so silent. The streets are more or less empty. Nobody's bothering me and I can go home to my house where I can drink the water out of the top and it's just all these really kind of banal start which we take totally granted but everything works. Thank you very much for joining us. My guest has been Sam Goldman Co founder founder of delight. If you'd like to learn more about the show please visit our website at from scratch radio dot org you can also follow us on twitter at Jesse Harris or find us on facebook. I'm Jessica Harris. This is from scratch.

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