Let There Be Light: Stanford Startup Aims to Bring Light to 1.5 Billion

d-light.gifSam Goldman and Ned Tozun are hard at work figuring out how to bring light to the more than 1.5 billion in this world without it.
In 2006, Sam, now the CEO, and Ned, the President, founded D.light Design (www.dlightdesign.com) with the assistance of classmates in an entrepreneurship class at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
Their goal is to eradicate kerosene lamps, a desire bourne from Sam’s experience in the Peace Corps in Benin, after seeing many children burned and scarred by oil lamp spills.
The team views kerosene as a dirty, dangerous, unreliable and expensive form of lighting that current technology should be working to supersede, replace and eliminate.
nova.jpgD.light’s mission statement reads: “We will replace every kerosene lantern in the world with high quality and affordable light and power solutions, thereby providing everyone access to a basic human need: safe and bright light.”


The Company has set up a manufacturing and production shop in Shenzhen, China, sort of a lawless-cowboy-town meets special-economic-zone just over the border from Hong Kong, where Ned moved with his wife in 2008 in order to be an active, on-hand President. The company has a product design team along with a sales and marketing center in Delhi, India. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is D.light’s East African sales and distribution point, and the US corporate headquarters are located in Palo Alto, California.
D.light Design’s product development teams and engineers spend significant time in the field interviewing their target customers in order to ensure they are applying their design principles to meet the needs of households at the bottom of the pyramid. As a result, D.light is currently producing two types of portable, LED (light-emitting diodes) lamps that are strong enough to withstand challenging weather and are even able to charge during cloud cover.
All of their lamp products have a solar panel charging option as well as a fast-charge battery option in order to maximize the customers’ specific situation, from minimal- and unreliable-access-to-electricity to none. Another selling point is that these lamps provide much brighter light than typical kerosene lamps, allowing for intricate, income-generating activities in the home or studying.
When further considering people, planet, and profit, D.light products continue to score high in the face of the traditional light source in the developing world. Kerosene lamps burn black soot, contributing to indoor air pollution (leading to deaths by lower respiratory infections), and are the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the developing world. Finally, kerosene is an expensive fuel source for families, costing up to 30% of a household’s monthly income. If a family can afford the upfront purchase price of a D.light lamp (models retail for between US$15-20 and US$25-35), the family will break even on not-buying kerosene after approximately eight months- – with no further maintenance or upkeep costs.
solata2.jpgPerhaps unsurprisingly, D.light has raised attractive venture capital and investment financing from the Acumen Fund, Gray Matters Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Garage Technology Ventures, Nexus India Capital, and Mahindra & Mahindra.
D.light also plans to establish a charitable arm of their business, in order to access end users whom D.light Design does not target- – as even the low-end cost of US$15 is out of reach of the poorest potential end users.
Ned Tozun remarked: “We do recognize the fact that there are families out there that cannot afford commercially available products, no matter how low the cost. The charitable arm is a way to reach these families and expand our impact. Some of these goals can also be achieved by partnering with good NGOs or relief organizations.”
By 2010, D.light Design plans to bring light to ten million customers.
Let us hope they do.