With the catastrophe of climate change, clean technology products are more important than ever. MPOWERD is doing its part by manufacturing solar-powered lights, chargers, and accessories that are accessible and affordable for people around the world. Founder John Salzinger joins Startup Savants to talk about his greentech startup and the lessons he’s learned.
- Startup Savants is a business podcast that tells the stories behind up-and-coming startups.
- John Salzinger joins Startup Savants to talk about his greentech startup MPOWERD.
- MPOWERD makes solar-powered lights and accessories with the goal of providing sustainable, affordable technology products to everyone.
Seeing a Need in Haiti
Before founding MPOWERD, John traveled to Haiti in 2010 to help with an earthquake relief mission. He saw profound needs everywhere he went, including for clean, reliable light powered by electricity that didn’t come from the country’s unreliable grid. A portable, lightweight, affordable solar light fit the bill. He realized that such a device would also help replace the dirty kerosene lanterns that Haitians relied on that caused widespread pulmonary disease, the leading cause of disease in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“There’s a small company called Coleman that sort of has a handle on the lantern market, but we were naive enough and brave enough to go into that market, aggregate technologies, see what was out there, [come up with] a better design, and add solar,” John said during his podcast interview. He founded MPOWERD in 2012 to produce a solar lantern that’s durable and waterproof, as well as inflatable, so it can fit into a bag or pocket. The lantern, dubbed Luci, also has a rechargeable battery. The company says Luci is the world’s first inflatable, affordable solar light.
Leveraging the Power of NGOs and Patents
During his interview, John said one of the keys to MPOWERD’s success (it now manufactures an entire line of solar lights, chargers, and accessories) has been working with nongovernmental organizations to get its products to the people who need them most.
To date, the company has partnered with more than 700 NGOs like Save the Children, React, and World Vision. Through these efforts, “We’ve brought clean light to some extraordinary places: from the towns of Nepal to the villages of Uganda to the mountains of Peru and beyond,” John told Startup Savants.
He also discussed another issue near to his heart: the importance of protecting innovations with patents. “We believe that part of innovation means protecting innovation,” John said. “And we wanted to patent our products, so the person in Sub-Saharan Africa using our product knows that they’re getting the exact same quality, design, materials that a hiker purchasing our light at REI receives.”
In addition to protecting MPOWERD’s intellectual property, patents also differentiate the company’s products from cheap, ineffective knockoffs that permeate many developing countries. “In some of these emerging markets, there are companies that make a ‘like’ product that is not really the genuine product,” he said. “Then they flood markets with these subpar products, and they basically destroy marketplaces.”
Startup Savants Podcast
The Startup Savants podcast is a business podcast created by The Really Useful Information Company (TRUiC). Listeners can hear the stories behind startups, as told by their founders, that are in the midst of growing their companies.
Ethan, an entrepreneur, and Annaka, a branding expert, host the Startup Savants podcast. They bring disparate skills and life experiences to their interviews, providing listeners with important business insights and a holistic perspective on the startup ecosystem.
Hear from a variety of real startup founders from around the globe and with varying backgrounds, making their startup idea a reality. Learn from experts sharing their industry knowledge on venture capital, securing funding, and more on the Startup Savants podcast.
In his interview on Startup Savants, John Salzinger discusses his journey in founding the greentech startup MPOWERD. He reveals how he got the idea for the startup, how his company has worked with NGOs to distribute its solar-powered light, the importance of patenting inventions, and other lessons he has learned.
You can find the Startup Savants podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.