Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.
In 2009, I co-founded Quetsol, now Kingo Energy, to sell distributed solar power systems to BoP families in Guatemala. The company has been successful, has sold thousands of kits, we sold the company at a good valuation, and has now moved to a pay-as-you-model and selling systems internationally. That experience was a phenomenal educational experience for me. It validated my belief that it’s possible to solve a social problem while making attractive financial returns. I received much local and international press, awards, and spoke at international conferences, and learnt a lot about the process of ideating, launching and growing a social enterprise. Perhaps most importantly, I also spent countless nights with hundreds of BoP families in their homes, installing systems, and learning about their hardships. I realized energy was only one of several interdependent variables (water, energy and sanitation) which all related back to housing quality.
So I used my exit from Quetsol to work on a sustainable housing solution that integrated a suite of appropriate techs to provide clean water, energy and sanitation, at an affordable price. A lot of the mechanisms, from everything from customer interaction and long-term relationship development, to product R&D, to capital raising, to media management – were tried, largely successful with Quetsol (now Kingo), and produced many great lessons, all of which we are building upon in CASSA as we continue to evolve and grow.
Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?
A bit tenet of our strategy for scale is built on collaboration, so partners are very important, at all scales, and across sectors. These include, but are not limited to: the largest construction material providers in Guatemala, one of the big national banks to provide housing loans to our customers, multinational second-tier banks that want to facilitate green micro mortgages, local governments and municipalities, multilateral organizations like the Interamerican Development Bank, the government of Taiwan and USAID, the Guatemalan Green Building Council, appropriate technology suppliers, visual media producers, universities, among others. We believe that such a large problem as social housing needs a system-wide effort and we hope to catalyze this by creating broad and in-depth partnerships with all sorts of partners that would benefit from this development.
As for mentors and advisors, we are privileged to be supported by amazing people. Pomona Impact Fund, are a group of impact investors in Central America who have supported CASSA from the beginning and were our first and so far only investor, and close advisors. We are also participating in the I3 Latam accelerator, sponsored also by Ashoka, Swiss Development Agency, Hystra and New Ventures. http://i3latam.com/generation-2015
We’ve also recently won a “Gratitude Award” at the SOCAP15 conference in SF, USA. Only 4, out of 550 entrepreneur applicants, received this, which rewards us with a year of mentorship with Silicon Valley executives, industry leaders, investors, donors, and mentors in different strategic areas, as needed for our particular business needs.
We would greatly value the opportunity to augment this process with the Unilever Awards Program and network of coaches and support.