Thank you very much for all of the good wishes and prayers you sent my way during my open-heart surgery to replace the aortic valve on February 12th. It has now been 9 weeks since my surgery and I am pretty much back to abnormal…as usual, we are making great progress and facing great challenges.
SunWater – as we near the end of the proof-of-concept design stage, we’ve been able to reach our affordability objective of reducing the cost of conventional solar pumping by 80%. You often hear the phrase “it ain’t rocket science,” in this case it is. Working with a team of space engineers at Ball Aerospace has been a remarkable experience. For one, it has worked extremely well, but it has taken longer than anticipated because each of the volunteer engineers has his/her own day job. Two, this way of collaborating with corporations and harnessing the talent of some of the world’s best engineers and designers can very well be a model for future zero-based design initiatives creating break through technologies serving $2/day customers. Three, while we’ve reached our target retail price, we think we can still do better, so the design team will keep working during the proof-of-concept prototype stage scheduled to begin in May-June in Gujurat, India. Four, most of the design breakthroughs are not really rocket science. They involve very simple strategies like manual tracking within a systems design framework.
GreenCoal - we are now at the proof-of-concept stage with a green coal company and are working with colleagues in Utah to build the first $25,000, 7 ton per day output torrefaction plant.
The Challenges Faced by Radically Decentralized Frontier Corporations -
SunWater is ready to enter the Beta test stage and GreenCoal is beginning proof-of-concept prototype stage. Spring Health, our affordable drinking water company in India, is now operating in more than 200 villages in the state of Orissa, India and delivering 4 million liters of water each month to more than 100,000 customers. If things go as planned we should reach at break-even point within 10 months.
I think the major challenges we are facing are likely to be usefully instructive for all the future radically decentralized frontier multinationals that are implemented. For example, collections are a major challenge. Because Spring Health is radically decentralized in 200 villages, people who actually collect money from customers include the rickshaw water delivery person, the Kirana shop owner who is our partner, the fulltime business associates on the Spring Health staff assigned to the village, and their direct supervisor. It is quite a challenge to find a way to bank the money collected everyday by each of these players in 200 villages and it will be immeasurably more complicated to make this happen with minimal losses in 10,000 villages. We are now designing institutional micropayments through cell phones and this will likely provide the best solution two years from now, but in the interim we are working on the systems required to address this problem now. Lowering customer acquisition costs are the other major challenge at this stage.
I’m excited by the progress we are making and accept that every challenge we face is an opportunity to make the breakthroughs required to create a revolution in poverty and a revolution in business at the same time.
In response to a recent article in which Larry Page, CEO of Google, stated, "I would rather give my billions to Elon Musk than charity" Paul Polak wrote Larry page this Open Letter
University Innovation Fellows Respond to Paul's Open Letter to Larry Page with a Letter of Their Own
Foreign Policy Blog, Dec. 24, 2013:
Curb Your Social Entrepreneurial Enthusiasm
by Daniel Altman
Outlook Business, Feb. 24, 2014
Filling up Fast
by Vikas Kumar
The Business Solution to Poverty Book Review, April 8, 2014
by Liz Alexander
VIDEO: Paul on "learning from mistakes" at this year's NCIIA Open Conference, March 20, 2014
NCIIA Open 2014
RADIO: A Conversation with Dr. Paul Polak, Co-Author of “The Business Solution to Poverty,” April 16, 2014
Studio Tulsa Interview