Pitch for Change Interview: Lesley Silverthorn

Note: The Harvard Social Enterprise Conference features “Pitch for Change” — an elevator pitch contest for people with an idea for a new social venture. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be featuring interviews with last year’s Pitch for Change participants. 
Lesley Silverthorn, is the CEO of Angaza Design, and was one of the finalist’s of 2010′s Pitch for Change. Angaza Design aims to improve the quality of life in East Africa by making clean and affordable electricity accessible to all. Currently, Angaza Design produces the Angaza SoLite, outputs clean light 65 times brighter than a kerosene lantern, and can save families currently living on less than $2 per day over $150 per year. Angaza’s ultimate goal is to “change the lives of our East African customers by saving them money from buying kerosene and batteries, raising their productivity at night leading to increased income, and improving their health and education.”

1) Where were you a student when you were participated in Pitch for Change?

My team was from Stanford University. We are composed of a mixture of graduate students from engineering programs and business school.

2) What are you doing now?

I am currently working part time at a design consultancy in Northern California and the rest of the time on Angaza to get our business fully up and running.

3) What was the best part of participating?

Our participation in Pitch for Change really helped our team define ourselves and our mission. The best value from participating because came from condensing our pitch down to a minute presentation. This process, and the final outcome, was actually very enlightening and sparked many interesting conversations that helped us to clarify our mission and vision.

4) What was the most difficult or challenging part of participating?

Not surprisingly, narrowing our pitch focus to a minute was also the most challenging aspect of participating.

5) If you could go back in time, what would you change about your Pitch?

If I could have changed anything about the pitch, it would have been to practice the pitch more so that we can take most advantage of our time spent presenting. It also would have been helpful if we had done a little bit of research and gotten to know our audience better.

6) What’s the current status of the social enterprise you pitched?

The current status of Angaza is great! We are entered production of our product in January and are in conversations with investors for seed funding to establish permanent, on the ground operations in East Africa.

7) What advice would you offer this year’s Pitch for Change participants?

My best advice for this years participants is, when preparing for the pitches, make sure to have strong visuals of your problem, need, and proposed solution. These will help you to tell your story in a way that will really reach audience members.

Randy Paynter, Care2′s CEO, will be speaking at this year’s Harvard Social Enterprise Conference. Register here to attend.

Photo credit: Angaza Design

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Chavonne Harvey
Chavonne Harvey4 years ago

it's always so refreshing and great to hear about people doing good things.

Bon L.
Bon L.4 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Julie W.
Julie W.4 years ago

The things we take so much for granted , like power and light, can make the world of difference in developing countries.

Having light to read by at night will help children with their studies, which will affect their future.

Ann P.
A P.4 years ago

I love the idea. Here would be some of my questions:

Are you building a self-sustaining business model? What is the cost/per unit? How affordable is that for the people of Tanzania? Will they purchase them? If so will they pay up-front or will they pay on credit at monthly kerosene rates? Will they be built in country/countries where they are being sold/installed also providing employment? Will the parts/materials be imported or supplied in country? Will they, are they made sustainably - have the life-cycle costs and environmentally impacts been considered in design/engineering process?

The light seems brighter than the dim (almost useless) solar/led outdoor/landscape lighting that is currently marketed in the U.S. Is this new or improved technology that can be designed and marketed to western markets increasing funds and spreading the clean/green?

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson4 years ago

interesting ideas

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman4 years ago

noted :-)

Ireven G.
Ireven G.4 years ago

Thanks for posting

Jailene Santana
Jailene Santana4 years ago


Olivia Schlosser
Past Member 4 years ago


John A.
Past Member 4 years ago

Very good! Thank you.