Meet Luci—she's a compact, waterproof, very cool-looking solar-powered lantern on a big mission to provide affordable and portable light to those who play or live "off the grid." From recreational campers, to those in the aftermath of a natural disaster, to the Samburu tribe in a remote part of Africa, the makers of the Luci say, “Let there be light!” The CEO and co-founder of MPowerD Jacques-Philippe Piverger believes his little light will help change the world.
He’s certainly seen the light and you can too in the above video.
But can little Luci really make a big difference? Piverger says, “YES” but we want him to prove it. So CNBC gave him 60 seconds to shed some light on his big idea. See if he and Luci have what it takes to convince you and the Power Pitch panel it’s the real deal.
Let there be light ... for all
The International Energy Agency estimates that 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity, and an additional 1.5 billion have irregular access.
Piverger said generally people who live off the grid use kerosene or wood for light, which not only impacts the environment but also compromises health and safety. He also estimates people typically spend $5-$20 a month on fuel for their kerosene lamps.
Luci is the first product developed by the team at MPowerD. The solar-powered lamp is made of primarily see-through plastic and weighs just 4 ounces. With 10 tiny LED lights the company says it can shine about 15 square feet of light, and on a full 8-hour solar charge, the light will last between 6 and 12 hours. The time varies because there are two different brightness modes as well as a flashing mode.
Piverger told CNBC he knows the market firsthand. As a social entrepreneur he said he helped communities in Haiti rebuild, and was the founder and chairman of the nonprofit Soleil Global, an organization dedicated to using renewable energy solutions for developing countries. He also has investment experience from his work with PineBridge Investments.Sudanese girl studies with Luci
MPowerD is not the first company to enter the marketplace. Competitors like Solar Sister and Waka Waka also aim to eradicate energy poverty with high tech, low cost solar powered lamps. But Piverger believes the experience of his team combined with his product's design gives him a competitive edge. "We understand what it means to design something that's elegant and useful across multiple platforms. So whether it's in a developing world or a developed market, people find our product beautiful and useful."
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The question is will they buy it? The Luci retails for $14.95 and Piverger told CNBC his company has already sold more than 100,000 lights with backorders for 100,000 more.
"In the U.S. for example we have gone now from zero to 60 retailers in the last six months," said Piverger.
Reaching remote customers
A concern raised by the Power Pitch panelists was how MPowerD would access potential customers in the world’s most remote markets. Piverger said along with governments and NGOs, companies in the private sector who want to sell his product have helped penetrate Luci’s reach to remote corners of the earth.
Piverger told CNBC the biggest problem facing the company right now is keeping up production to meet demand.
"We feel as many as we can produce, we can sell, and we're trying to augment capacity to 200,000 a month within the next two to three months," said Piverger.
MPowerD was founded in 2012 and headquartered in New York. They currently have seven full-time employees and have raised $1.6 million from friends, family and the former CEO of Hasbro Toys, Alan G. Hassenfeld.
See whether the man behind the little light can convince you and our Power Pitch panel that his idea is the next big thing. The Power Pitch @CNBCPowerPitch is hosted by CNBC’s Mandy Drury @MandyCNBC, and this episode includes panelists: Charlie O'Donnell from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures @ceonyc, and Mamoon Hamid from Social+Capital Partnership @mamoonha.
--Additional reporting by Joanna Weinstein
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