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Business Model Replication to Accelerate Clean Energy Access

Enable more successful clean energy ventures that serve the poor by sharing best practice business models, training, and access to capital.

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Approximately 2 billion people lack access to reliable electricity. In some places population growth is outpacing energy access such that by 2030 there may be even more households lacking suitable energy. These poor households spend a relatively high percentage of their income on energy, thus trapping them in a cycle of poverty. Furthermore, their energy sources are vastly inferior in quality, providing poor lighting for nighttime study or work, or dangerous respiratory health hazards or fire-safety risks. Most of these households are rural, making connection to standard electrical grids cost prohibitive if not impossible. Miller Center and Acumen have worked directly with many of the entrepreneurs building companies to bring safe sustainable energy to the poor. However, we have observed that many such entrepreneurs often focus on re-solving the technical problems that others have already solved or they are making the same mistakes. Their capital resources and entrepreneurial energy would be more efficiently spent on solving the issues specific to their local markets. Through this program we will remove significant barriers for new clean energy entrepreneurs to start and scale their businesses to effectively serve specific market needs, thus accelerating the adoption rate for safe sustainable energy. New energy entrepreneurs will be able to growth their businesses faster, with less capital, and less risk while providing better quality of service to their local markets. Partnering together, Miller Center and Acumen will execute this program as follows: PHASE 1: Create Open Source Playbooks: We will convene an open-source consortium of actors working in clean energy access for developing markets. This consortium will articulate best practices in areas such as operating procedures, supply chain models, financing models, staffing requirements, impact metrics and data collection methodologies, value chain, customer segmentation, etc. Miller Center will document as a clean-energy venture Playbook. PHASE 2: Build & Run an Open Online Course: Miller Center and Acumen will create a +Acumen online course for aspiring entrepreneurs wishing to launch home electrification enterprises. The course will be based on the Playbook and will walk the participants through the required elements of establishing a complete business model that is adapted to their own local market. PHASE 3: Mentored Acceleration: We will select the most promising 20 social entrepreneurs, provide them with appropriate seed capital, and invite them to form a cohort in a Miller Center GSBI mentored accelerator program. Consistent with the learning from this program, the entrepreneurs will be building and growing their businesses, and preparing for additional investment. PHASE 4: Investment Facilitation: Participants who successfully complete phases 1-3 will receive invitation to an Investor Pitch Day, introductions to relevant investors/grantors, and facilitated 1:1 meetings.

Who Benefits?

Replicating entrepreneurs receive proven business models, training, and mentorship help them start new energy businesses, and scale them faster with less capital and less risk. By making the Playbook and MOOC freely available, we can perpetually benefit new social entrepreneurs, including those who may not already have energy sector expertise, but are passionate about solving the problems of poverty. Impact investors benefit from this program as we create a pipeline of clean energy investments de-risked by forming enterprises on proven models, adapting to local markets, and providing specific capacity development. The ultimate beneficiaries are the 2 billion people living without reliable electricity. Sustainable off-grid electric energy solutions provide better indoor air quality, reduced risk of fire, lower energy costs, and better quality lighting. Students are afforded better and longer study hours, and businesses additional work hours and increased earning potential.

How is your idea unique?

Compared to traditional venture creation, our replication approach will help new entrepreneurs overcome significant barriers to entry, avoid common pitfalls, and scale their enterprises faster with less capital and risk. Much work has been done (including our own) that have focused on 1:1 replication of a single enterprise into a single new market. However we have found it to be very expensive, resource intensive, thus difficult to create scale. As such, the benefits provided by these direct replication models are limited to only a few. Our open-source approach will facilitate massive parallel replication and aggressive scale of clean energy adoption. Entrepreneurs are equipped with the learning of multiple successful enterprises, allowing them to focus their energy on solving the unique problems of their local markets. Learning from new enterprises will support ongoing improvement in the Playbook for the benefit of future cohorts of entrepreneurs.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

MILLER CENTER FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP Miller Center at Santa Clara University is one of the leading contributors to the social enterprise movement. At the heart of Silicon Valley, Miller Center leverages the entrepreneurial ethos of its surrounds to end global poverty and protect the planet. GSBI Methodology – Creating Change through Entrepreneurship In 2003, Miller Center created the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) on a belief that the most effective way to help the millions in poverty is to foster “social entrepreneurship” – an emerging approach to solving global problems through the use of business principles and innovative thinking. GSBI programs provide these social entrepreneurs with capacity-building training and mentorship to improve their business models and plan their strategies for growth so that their enterprises can thrive and help more people. Through its various GSBI programs, Miller Center has trained more than 600 entrepreneurs at different stages working in 65 countries. Participants in all the GSBI programs learn how to articulate their business model and capital needs to appropriate investors and how to absorb investment to fuel their growth into the next stage of development. Many GSBI alumni are now demonstrating successful, scalable business models that are poised for replication into new markets. ACUMEN Acumen raises charitable donations to invest in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty. A pioneer in the impact investing ecosystem, we have invested more than $100 million in 92 companies, creating 58,000 jobs and impacting the lives of 189 million people globally. Now we are pioneering a new Lean Data methodology to address the unique and diverse needs of social enterprises, redefining what it means to align impact and business priorities. +Acumen – The World’s School for Social Innovation +Acumen is an online and blended learning community hosted by Acumen. +Acumen’s mission is to enable millions of people to become more active and effective at creating social change. To do this, +Acumen designs and runs over 25 massive open online courses (MOOCs) that have been taken by more than 300,000 participants in 190 countries and supports both a virtual community and an in-person network of volunteer chapters. +Acumen has an in-house team of instructional designers who have experience packaging curriculum into formats suitable for online delivery. They have worked with content partners including organizations like, Grameen Foundation, The Omidyar Group, and Philanthropy University; and thought-leaders like Chris Anderson of TED, Dan Ariely, and Adam Grant . +Acumen also has a small team of course operations specialists who have built an integrated backend database that enables seamless communication with online participants and tracking of online activity across platforms.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

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The model for massive parallel replication builds on previous research conducted by Miller Center which suggests that the energy access gap could be effectively served by a greater number of smaller market-focused enterprises rather than a few large ones.


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Photo of Javier Navas

Congrats on taking action in this relevant issue!I think entrepreneurs hold the key to bring new solutions in the energy field. Best of luck!

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