Experts concede that not all social problems respond well to the for-profit model. One example could be early childhood education. "If you set it up as a business, you might be able to raise money more quickly and grow more quickly," said David Bornstein, the author of "How to Change the World" (Oxford University Press, 2004), an often-cited book on social entrepreneurship. "But if you want to be profitable, you might find that you have to make choices that diminish the quality of your program and then children won’t learn to read as quickly. While Stanley Kaplan can make a fortune selling education to well-heeled people, providing the same services to low-income kids would probably not provide a very good income."
Mr. Bornstein said it came down to one crucial question: "As you grow, will the economics of your business work in favor of your mission or will they work against it? In the case of providing access to solar energy for people in villages, the bigger you get, the cheaper your product will be, so the economies of scale make sense."
D.light Design's mission is to replace every kerosene lantern in the world to provide everyone access to a basic human need: safe and bright light. By 2017, the company is aiming to have improved the lives of 150 million individuals. The following interview of D.light Design CEO Sam Goldman provides some additional background on the company:
D.light introduced its first lighting products earlier this year. The company's products are being sold in India and Africa, with market tests ongoing throughout the world. One of these products – the Nova – is shown below. It can be charged via AC or solar power (click the image for additional product information).
"D.light has a mission to eliminate kerosene lamps in our villages by providing high quality solar-based solutions at price points significantly below comparable products," said Sandeep Singhal, Partner at Nexus India Capital. "The productivity improvement from their solution is huge and we are very excited to be backing a team that has the commitment and leadership to fulfill this mission."
"We are delighted to receive the financial support of such a renowned team of investors. This is a high vote of confidence in our products and our business model," said D.light Design CEO Sam Goldman. "We look forward to better serving the millions of households who deserve and aspire for an increasingly higher quality of life – with greater economic and educational opportunities – that modern lighting provides."