Interview With John Salzinger and Seungah Jeong
Describe your product or service:
“In 2012 MPOWERD created Luci, the first inflatable solar light with the goal of making an affordable clean energy product that people could use in any situation. Since then, our vision hasn’t changed too much; we create sustainable, affordable, and thoughtfully designed products that suit the needs of the many.
Luci lights are fully waterproof and shatterproof, with a built-in rechargeable battery. All-in-one Luci lanterns hold a charge for up to 12 hours and stay bright all night. Perfect for camping, boating, hiking, emergency breakdowns, power outages or hurricanes, home décor, weddings, or celebrations. Our mission doesn’t stop there — we’ve expanded our catalog of sustainable products with mobile charging units, string lights, a bike light, a portable speaker, and color lights, from home and lifestyle to emergency preparedness.” — Seungah Jeong
Describe your company values and mission:
“We’re on a mission to transform lives with thoughtfully designed clean technology. From concept to creation, every detail of our business is deliberate. As a Certified B Corporation and a benefit corporation, we set strict standards for ourselves, ensuring that our work enhances both society and the environment. Our innovative products give people the power of self-reliance as well as moments of wonder — because we believe everyone deserves to be empowered and inspired regardless of where or how they live.
With over 700 NGO and nonprofit relationships in over 90 countries, we’ve brought reliable, clean light to some extraordinary places: from the towns of Nepal to the villages of Uganda to the mountains of Peru and beyond.
We believe that everyone deserves access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy, no matter how or where they live. We also believe that the Earth deserves a little more love too and have averted over 2.5 million tons of CO2. For over 3 billion people, everyday tasks are made more difficult (and dangerous) than they should be. Access to clean energy can improve health, and create education equality, and economic empowerment, all the while combating climate change.” — Seungah Jeong
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“Private equity. A mixture of various shareholders from impact private equity in venture to angel investors. As a private company, that’s all we are willing to disseminate.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them!
“Under 20 people. One operational founder for 10 years. Barely any outside vendors. CEO came from environment and development education and P&G background.” — Seungah Jeong
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“MPOWERD Inc. was founded in 2012. John Salzinger was in a consulting group looking at several tech and impact-oriented technologies. After traveling to Haiti, shortly after the devastating earthquake of 2010, as part of a disaster relief mission trip, John realized a clear need for this underserved population — access to clean, reliable light and power. However, not just any light. There was a specific need for a portable, lightweight solar-powered light that people could use without access to the grid. Thus, through dedicated work and a mission-focused mindset, the MPOWERDⓇ Luci Light™ was invented.” — Seungah Jeong
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“After a progressive upbringing and seeing people without the simple tools we take for granted, John Saliznger developed a consumer-subsidized business model to deliver clean, affordable, portable light and power to those in emerging markets and emergency response.” — Seungah Jeong
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Not John Salzinger’s first business. He has been a small business owner; however, this was his first foray into the impact space.” — Seungah Jeong
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“Many, many, many! Knockoffs, theft, death, etc. Every challenge is an opportunity in disguise. As one example: If a retailer was selling a knockoff, we would approach them and let them know we had the IP and they were being duped. Then we would present the real brand with true product quality and a mission behind every purchase and, 10 times out of 10, we would drake on the account.” — Seungah Jeong
Feeling inspired? Learn how to launch your company with our guide on how to start a startup.
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
- “Outdoor as they are in need of fun, reliable, durable, portable, environmentally friendly light and power.
- Impact and Preparedness sector as our transformative, waterproof solar solutions are made for emergency situations.”
— Seungah Jeong
What's your primary marketing strategy?
“Research the market, aggregate and improve upon technologies and add solar, file for IP, sell in both brick and mortar and online — the exact same products to the developed world as well as emerging markets at localized pricing.” — Seungah Jeong
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Digitally and through an aid organization simultaneously. This was our proof of concept. We were also featured on the front page of Yahoo Finance early on.” — Seungah Jeong
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Developed world retail, D2C, and corporate sales margins are key, so that we can afford to reduce pricing to localize the same products to those who need the tools we sell.
To date we have:
- Impacted 4 million lives without access to clean electricity
- Averted 3 million+ tons of CO2”
— Seungah Jeong
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“‘Striking Thoughts’ by Bruce Lee (Not a startup book — a book of aphorisms)” — John Salzinger
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“Anything by Bob Marley” — John Salzinger
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“How hard it is, but how many people you can impact positively.” — Seungah Jeong
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Work is life and life is work — passion in whatever you do while working or playing is key.” — Seungah Jeong
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“If you do not swim, you sink. Swim very hard!” — Seungah Jeong
When did you know it was time to quit your day job to focus on your startup?
“It takes a village to accomplish anything material, so openness to working with others and partnerships are essential.” — Seungah Jeong
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“Delivery boy. Humility, hard work.” — John Salzinger
More on MPOWERD
John Salzinger & Seungah Jeong of sustainable startup MPOWERD shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.
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