Clean technology products have never been more important in our efforts to fight climate change. Joining the battle is MPOWERD, a greentech startup that manufactures affordable solar-powered lights, chargers, and accessories for people around the world. Founder John Salzinger joins Startup Savants to talk about MPOWERD 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 sustainable, affordable green technology products, including solar-powered lights and accessories.
Seeing a Need in Haiti
John traveled to Haiti in 2010 after the earthquake that year to help with relief efforts. During his travels, one particular need became very apparent: clean, reliable light that was solar-powered so that Haitians didn’t have to rely on their rickety electrical grid. He realized a portable, lightweight solar light would also help with another problem: widespread reliance on dirty kerosene lanterns that caused 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. The initial goal of MPOWERD, which John founded in 2012, was to produce just such a product: a durable, waterproof, inflatable solar lantern powered by a rechargeable battery. The company says this product, called Luci, is the world’s first inflatable, affordable solar light.
Leveraging the Power of NGOs and Patents
Today, MPOWERD produces an entire line of solar lights, chargers, and accessories. During his interview with Startup Savants, John said one of the most important ways the company has gained traction is to work with nongovernmental organizations to get its products to people in developing countries who really need them.
Thus far, MPOWERD has worked 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.
Also, during his interview, John discussed how important he believes patents are to protect innovative ideas. “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.”
Not only do patents protect MPOWERD’s intellectual property, but they also help consumers identify genuine MPOWERD products and avoid cheap knockoffs that probably don’t work well. “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 who 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 talks about founding MPOWERD and the lessons he has learned along the way, including how working with NGOs and patenting innovative products has helped his company succeed.
You can find the Startup Savants podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.