Mitra Ardon of Lumeter Network interviewed by MCN on July 29, 2013.
Today we’re talking with Mitra Ardron, CEO and Co-Founder of, second round finalists Lumeter Networks. Mitra shared with us the new technology his team has developed to provide affordable off grid electricity to NGOs and consumers.
Where are you located?
We are based out of San Francisco but we operate in various markets, including India, Zambia and Peru.
How many people do you employ?
We’re a pretty small team with three to four employees at one time. Currently its three full time employees, two engineers who work for a separate company, and then two people working part time in India.
Are you currently in business?
Yes, we just completed a trial run with four of our units in Peru. Eight shipped to Zambia earlier this month and we’ve just received an order for 77 from an Indian social enterprise.
Who are your customers?
Our customers are renewable energy companies who serve BOP markets. In our philosophy, we’re a second generation socent, in that we build a service for companies in the field (who are themselves Social Enterprises) to deliver to a customer base which they are familiar with. Our customers are the companies themselves because it is through this model that we feel our impact will be the largest. This way we can impact multiple regions and cultures where if we were distributing the products we could only work in one or two regions.
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
We are aiming to provide answers to three main problems:
-How do you collect small amounts of money from lots of poor people on a weekly basis? Right now you can’t send a paper bill, this market doesn’t have access to a bank or mobile money account.
-How do you deal with management of small electricity grids, through security and providing the lowest prices.
-Where does the finance come,though we don’t directly provide finance we’re talking with partners who do. who’s gonna make a loan if you not gonna get.
How did you become interested in this problem?
I was running an incubator that was helping people solve problems in developing countries and I saw this as a repeated problem that I knew how to solve.
What is your solution to the problem?
Lumeter Networks’ solution are the meter and sms enabled cloud system that we’ve developed.
What are you major challenges?
I would say the the biggest challenge is raising capital from investors who don’t understand the technological innovation that we have. Many impact investors simply don’t understand the whole process of technology development.
Our non investment related challenge is that this is concept of mini grids is a new technology in a sub market and so its hard to explain to people why it is so small at this point.
(Customer making a mobile payment)
How has your time with the William James Foundation helped you?
I have been a judge with WJF before and its been a useful to interact with people who are solving these types of problems. With that experience it was really interesting to come in as an entrant. I know that this experience will affect my judging and give me a better idea of how to relate to entrants. Its difficult to fit your idea into the page limits so now that I know that I will be more tolerant of missing information.
What other resources did you find to be particularly useful?
We’re in GSBI which has been great. I have also found the SOCAP, Sankalp (India) and IIX is great.