Spotlight On: Solaris
How Tech and Ambition Are Powering Entire African Villages
Since winning emaze’s PITCHUP ’15 competition last month, the Spain-based startup Solaris has done more than afford electricity deficient rural Tanzania with portable power. If generating solar energy to power entire villages is not enough of an undertaking, Solaris is introducing social-entrepreneurship to a continent unfamiliar with the concept.
The Company’s Mission:
Solaris CEO, Siten Mandalia and Operations Director, Claire Baker were idealistic university students with a vague desire to do something good in this world, when a course in sustainable living set their entrepreneurial spirits on fire.
The decision to work in Africa was a no-brainer. Looking to implement concepts of sustainability, cost-consciousness and improvement to basic human quality of life, Solaris set its sights on Sub-Saharan Africa where one in every three households lack access to energy, isolating them from even their neighboring villages and deepening the remoteness of rural Africa.
In an age overtaken by entrepreneurship, a society that idealizes the spirit of innovation, Solaris founders made a point of reimagining entrepreneurship and repackaging all they have been taught about it.
The Ripple-Effect of a Worthy Cause:
More than just good karma, putting the human element back into the mix was a marketing stroke of genius. There is something infinitely attractive to investors about a do-good investment, and there is something downright fabulous about helping Africans help themselves by creating a micro-entrepreneurship network that is actually putting money back in your pocket.
Struggle is in the DNA of entrepreneurship. This is certainly the case if the founders of a startup are 4 bootstrapped students, committed to a 20 plus hour study week and at times working weekends to earn some pocket change. The work is done on the guys’ personal computers and phones, and the transatlantic travel expenses come out of their own pockets. This makes for a far from seamless operation, but curiously one that piques the interest of investors.
Investors like to see two things: they love it when you make do. When you make a great big beautiful pie out of mud and smile big while doing it. And they adore when you mooch. When you collect freebies like trophies and gobble up Freemium software!
A Two-Way Street:
Hell bent on finding the best free presentation software out there to create an impressive investor pith, Solaris heard about emaze’s software through the grapevine. As a fellow startup, emaze still uses word of mouth to let our community know of our activities. “Once a startup, always a starup” jokes Daniel Glickman, emaze CMO. “Although we’ve grown quite a bit since those days when we had no other option but guerilla marketing, it’s something we still employ because it works so damn well” he explains.
Intent on finding a promising startup that it could foster and watch grow, emaze set up the PITCHUP contest allocating a sweet $10,000 for its winner. Solaris came through as a clear favorite, unanimously winning over the contest judges and the hearts of our staff. As a micro-investor, emaze took notice of Solaris’ foolproof business plan. But it was being smitten with the tug-at-the-heart-string touch that sealed the deal …
Check out Solaris’ pitch presentation, because THIS, boys and girls, is how it’s done!