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Photo by Caitlin Kleiboer

Recently, our co-founder and Chief Product Officer Sam Goldman got a chance to reconnect with one of d.light’s early mentors through a unique program called Unreasonable Impact US. George Kembel, Global Director and co-founder of the Stanford University d.school, mentored Sam and d.light co-founder and CEO Ned Tozun, back when d.light was just a wild idea for a class project. Now that d.light’s a high-growth company, expanding in many markets around the world, Sam met with George and other mentors to strategize on how to usher d.light into further growth without losing its focus on high quality design, extreme affordability and scalability to deliver energy access equality.

“The ultimate goal of the Unreasonable program is to create a global network centered around scaling impact entrepreneurs as job creators worldwide,” said Sam. “With d.light expanding quickly and planning to train thousands of solar entrepreneurs in the coming years, the insights provided by this unique ecosystem will be essential as our solar products spread across Africa and Asia.”

An innovative multi-year partnership between Barclays and Unreasonable Group, this event is a highly exclusive two-week intensive accelerator that represents a first-of-its-kind international network, with programs also launching in the UK and Asia. The US program is designed to help entrepreneurs rapidly scale-up beyond where they are today, to create thousands of new jobs, while addressing key environmental issues, with highly profitable business models.

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Sam with George Kembel

Beyond Kembel, mentors included Time Magazine Hero of the Planet Hunter Lovins, co-founder of Google Glass and Google’s self-driving car Tom Chi, CEO of Barclays Joe McGrath, founder of Priceline Jeff Hoffman and Managing Director of Startup Lab at Singularity University Pascal Finette. Other companies who attended included Thread, a textile company that transforms trash into fabric, re:3d, a venture pioneering affordable 3D printing using waste materials, and BreezoMeter, an organization that uses advanced algorithms and big data infrastructure to democratize air quality data.

“I expected to bond with, and learn from, the highly diverse, fascinating and ambitious entrepreneurs and mentors at the accelerator, but I wasn't quite prepared for the breadth of the program. Every day, I spent three to four hours speaking to educators, specialists and mentors who continuously offered interesting, deep and impactful insights into everything from compensation, hiring and organizational design, to fundraising and optimizing systems for scale,” said Sam.

Within the next four years, it is estimated that 212 million new jobs will be needed to accommodate current unemployment and projected job loss due to new industries. Scale-ups are fundamental in driving economic growth. By supporting ventures that have scalable solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges with resources and mentorship, Unreasonable Impact is not only helping to address significant societal and environmental issues, but also facilitating in creating the jobs of tomorrow.

“Learning was a major theme at Unreasonable Impact, and I had never had access to that many amazing mentors and specialists before, whom I was able to have such valuable discussions with. Each day was composed of one-on-ones, issue-based deep dives, feedback sessions, fireside chats, and workshops on design thinking and rapid prototyping," said Sam. “With the amount of new hires that will be joining our team in the coming year, this has inspired me to build a culture of learning, not just outcomes, at d.light that empowers everyone to innovate. We also have to take risks to innovate, and the winter program was no exception. I’ve certainly never zip-lined into a freezing lake before!”

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