Jonathan Cedar of BioLite Answers Four Questions for Founders
BioLite creates affordable, durable products that harness surrounding energy to cook, charge, and light daily life for off-grid households.
1. Tell us about the journey since BioLite’s launch.
BioLite was created on a mission to improve people’s lives and protect the planet through access to renewable energy. We were set up around this unusual dual market thesis which was looking at the fact that there’s this enormous market of folks who don’t have access to energy in developing countries and yet a problem that large is going to take a lot of time and iterations and capital to solve so we wanted to have a second market that was more easily accessed more quickly cash generating to help stabilize what was inevitably going to be a long bumpy twisty path to scale an emerging market. We call that Parallel innovation where we can invest deeply into core enabling technology and then commercialize them concurrently in both the emerging markets and developed markets.
The first 2-3 years we spent a lot of time in the market focusing on India and introducing our stoves to the community. As we continued to grow and understand how we could make a larger impact we decided to diversify into the solar lighting category in sub-saharan Africa. There is an incredible difference between a kerosene candle and a bright white light. The difference not only in the light it provides but the impact it has on their life. Whether that is cost savings on fuel or having more productive hours in their day after the sun goes down. With this change we’ve been able to scale our impact from thousands of people, to hundreds of thousands, and now millions of people in just a few years. Our aim is to provide clean energy to 20 million people by 2025.
2. How are you applying transformative technology to create a positive impact?
The way we use energy sits at the center of what keeps us safe, productive and connected. Most of our customers in emerging markets access energy currently through dangerous, polluting, and expensive methods. Methods such as open wood fire cooking or lighting through kerosene candles which emit smoke inside of the home. Most people are unaware that smoke from open wood kills 4 million people a year which is more than HIV, TB, and Malaria combined. By introducing these markets to clean energy through the falling prices of solar and rising efficiency of LED’s we can bring better and safer solutions to them and continue the relationship into clean cookstoves as well.
3. What has been your biggest challenge as founder, and how have you learned from it?
Being a founder comes with a myriad of challenges along the way, Every given year comes with unique challenges and problems that need solving. Each and every company goes through these stages of soaring and crashing. The challenge in those situations is to think to yourself and convince yourself that if you put one foot in front of the other long enough and work the problem, you will find your way to the other side of that momentary crisis.
4. What role has Newlab played in helping you advance BioLite?
Of course we have found it valuable to have access to the prototyping facilities that would otherwise be inaccessible, but what I really found valuable was the community of thought partners. Being able to connect with like minded people and organizations to overcome similar challenges and obstacles. Having that community has made all the difference, especially being a hardware team in a software city.
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