(UPDATE! We're running this as a 7-day "dash for cash" rather than spam our friends for months. Campaign ends 10 October!)
Our six-month mission is to develop and test a business-in-a-box franchise concept for the developing world. The finished product should be easily replicated in under-served communities, enabling local entrepreneurs to change the lives of one billion of the world's poorest people.
The "bottom 20%" of the global population has an average household income of just US$50 per month, and spends US$5-8 of that on oil for lighting. That's 10-15% of household income being spent on dangerous, dirty oil that doesn't produce enough light to work by! Governments and charities are not solving this problem, even though the technology to do so already exists. We think it's time for local entrepreneurs to do it, with your help.
us send a "business-in-a-box," containing a generator and one hundred
lanterns each, to forty barefoot entrepreneurs in Nepal and Uganda. We
will observe them, coach them, teach them, learn from them, with the goal of turning this into a
viable franchise business that can be replicated across the developing world.
This cheap simple electricity generator, developed in Bulgaria, turns honest work into electricity, the most valuable commodity on the planet. It's a labour-intensive solution, in a world where labour is cheap. (Solar panels are expensive, and capital-intensive in countries where capital is expensive.)
According to our tests at our development base in Bulgaria, one hour of work is enough to charge five batteries. And each of those batteries can power a bright LED lantern for up to 40 hours. That's enough to light a room every evening for a week. So in theory, a hard-working guy (employed by a smart girl) can serve a hundred customers and give them light that's better and cheaper than they have now!
(Hand-made prototype circuit board with five18650 lithium batteries. The production model will have all the electronics integrated underneath the battery holder, and much greater efficiency.)
How It Works
- We provide a complete business-in-a-box and the entrepreneur owes us money. We take the risk that they won't be able to repay it.
- They offer electric lamps to their friends and family - people they know and trust.
- Nobody pays for the lamp they take home, but when the battery runs down they have to come back and pay for a recharge.
- Our entrepreneur makes electricity, and sells it more cheaply than oil, but still makes a good profit.
- (Her customers may "rent to own" the lamps, or just pay for light without ever buying the lamp. This is something for us to test.)
- In time, she repays the money she owes to us.
- We use the money to finance the next entrepreneur - someone sponsored by the entrepreneur we know and trust.
- In time, we build up a network of people we can trust, all sponsored by one another, who will introduce new entrepreneurs and customers to us.
- We continue to work with the entrepreneurs so they have access to new technologies, capital, and ideas, in exchange for a small share of their profits.
Why Is The Entrepreneur A "She"?
We've noticed that women are usually in charge of household budgets in the developing world, so it follows that the customers are all women. But we're puzzled as to why there always seems to be a man in charge of every attempt to do something for them. This photo is of Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winning head of Grameen Bank, illustrating the problem nicely.
Women generally have certain qualities that are especially relevant to this opportunity. They're usually more financially astute, better at talking to other women, and most importantly they're more social. This business rests ultimately on the power of social networks, because the entrepreneur is effectively lending very small amounts of money to her customers when she lets them take a lamp. The concept of social capital underpins the whole micro-finance industry, and our new "pico-finance" approach to helping customers obtain the lantern they need.
We don't see any reason why men should be making the decisions. They should be in the background, pumping the pedals, while the women run the business.
Who Is Behind This Project?We're an international team of engineers, business people and social activists, united by our belief that human ingenuity and hard work are more likely to solve the world's problems than big NGOs. Three of us are World Bank Institute Certified Social Innovators. two are RSA Fellows, and we're supported by the RSA Catalyst program. (The Royal Society for encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce is a worldwide organisation promoting innovation for the greater good since the Enlightenment 260 years ago!)
We're doing our product development in Bulgaria, because it's cheaper than China and people there need jobs.
Chris is the project founder and leader. He's from the UK originally but has lived for many years in Asia. He's now living in Bulgaria, working with several technology startups, and focusing mostly on moving Ujilayo from idea to reality.
Emil is an engineer and entrepreneur from Bulgaria, who also likes barbeques. He is responsible for the Ujilayo generator project, and is losing a lot of weight by testing it.
Javie is a Computer Science graduate and social activist from Kampala, Uganda. He has helped with our original research, working with poor villagers to understand their needs, and has found candidate entrepreneurs who are ready to test the Ujilayo idea.
Niraj has just completed his Master's degree in Agricultural Science at Rampur in Nepal, and we hope he can become our first full-time employee. He has done a lot of original research for us with poor communities in Nepal, and will run our first field trials there.
Anna is a UK-based supply-chain specialist with lots of experience in the developing world. She is also working on other technologies that are related to our core project.
- 16 September 2013 - campaign launch
- 10 October 2013 - campaign ends
- 30 November 2013 - kits are shipped from Bulgaria for field trials in Nepal and Uganda. We start collecting data about how things really work on the ground, how entrepreneurs and customers behave.
- December 2013 - benefits shipped to our wonderful community of backers.
- January 2014 - our entrepreneur partners are asked to agree payment terms to buy the business-in-a-box we have provided, any money raised is used to fund the next development cycle based on what we are learning from them.
- March 2014 - end of project, publication of final report. Strategy meeting for the team, founding partners and sponsors. Decision time: can we make a real business out of this?
What We Can Do If We Exceed Our Funding Goal
Our "official" goal is very low because if we exceed it then we have more chance to be featured and promoted by IndieGoGo, which means we can be seen by more people. We already have a grant from the RSA (matched by our own funds) to pay for a small proof-of-concept trial, and any extra money enables us to increase the scale of that.
Our real goal is to start 40 new businesses, each serving more than 100 families! That's 4,000+ families, with typically five people per household. Your support enables 20,000+ people to get electric light for the first time, and by learning from them we can create a scaleable franchise business model to tackle this problem globally!
- £1000 is enough to provide one entrepreneur with a generator and 100 lanterns, enough to start a business, enough to prove that she can earn a living from this.(Sponsor this with a few of your friends!)
- £5000 enables us to start five new businesses in Nepal, and support our volunteer helper, Niraj, to work full-time on this project for six months.
- £10,000 means we can also do field trials in Uganda! Different cultures do things differently, so it's important to get feedback from different places early on in the product-development cycle.
- £25,000 starts ten businesses each in Nepal and Uganda, and pays for one member of our team to visit each country. This is enough to give us "robust" data about what works, and experiment with different ways of doing things.
- £50,000 is the limit we can usefully invest in our entrepreneurs. Twenty businesses in each country, support from us in making those businesses work, and the foundations of a real entrepreneur community.
- £50,000+ Anything beyond this amount goes to further technical development, with some support for the team so we can give up our real jobs and try to turn this into a real business!
- £100,000 is game-changing. We can conduct a further trial in South America, and develop our "ultimate product" - a series of plug and play devices that use power from human work, the wind, or eg a Stirling engine powered by biogas and/or concentrated solar power. The devices we see a need for in future include water-pumps and filters, flour mills, sewing machines, and tools like saws and drills.