Blog Post

D.light's Lead Investor: Omidyar

While we reported earlier this week that solar LED lighting startup D.light had secured $5.5 million in funding, there’s another interesting aspect to the story out this morning: eBay (s EBAY) founder Pierre Omidyar and his philanthropic investment fund Omidyar Network were the lead investors in D.light, which makes LED solar lighting products to help the developing world replace kerosene lanterns.

The Omidyar Network invests in both for-profit and non-profit companies and has invested about $330 million into companies so far, across a variety of sectors like microfinance, social media (Digg, Linden Lab), government transparency and entrepreneurship in the developing world. He also invests through Ohana Holdings into Hawaiian clean energy projects like solar thermal company Sopogy.

D.light’s goal is to sell solar-powered LED lights to the consumer that spends just $2 a day. The Hong Kong-based company, born out of an idea from young entrepreneurs at Stanford, is looking to sell these lights to replace kerosene lanterns, which provide much of the lighting in non-grid connected places in India and China. Problem is, kerosene lanterns can be unsafe, cause respiratory problems, are generally pretty dim and are a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

As of March of this year, D.light says it has sold “hundreds of thousands” of solar lanterns to off-the grid households in developing countries and estimates it has impacted the lives of over 1 million people. The idea is to impact 10 million lives by 2010 and 50 million people by 2015, says D.light.

The company’s first solar-charging LED light is called the Nova which retails for around $12 to $25, and doubles as a cell phone charger (see photo). One hour of solar charge can provide one hour of LED light on the medium setting. The company also sells the Solata, which is a solar-powered desklight, priced between $12 to $16, as well as the Kiran, which is a solar LED that’s been designed to look like a direct kerosene replacement and costs just $10.

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