Nir Marom is the co-founder and president of Lumos Global, an off-grid solar provider operating in Nigeria.
Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
The process your company goes through as it graduates from a start-up to a fully-fledged business is a much bigger challenge than I had anticipated. There is a very difficult skill set between getting a project and company off the ground – making an idea a reality – to running a growing business. It has many different demands, requires different skills and a very different management style.
Ultimately though, the biggest challenge I face is also why I started this company in the first place: how do you bring power to 1.3 billion of the world’s poorest people who don’t have access to electricity?
People left behind by the conventional grid tend to be tricky for businesses to reach, to communicate with, and to service.
We overcame this by partnering with other organisations, leveraging their strengths in respective areas. We know that MTN have better billing, payment and sales systems in Nigeria than we do – and they know that we make better solar systems. This is the future of business and its working for us right now. We just celebrated reaching our 200,000th customer in Nigeria.
What entrepreneurial achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of all the people at Lumos who work tirelessly to spread our message in sometimes really difficult conditions. Through sweltering heat and floods our team on the ground have grown Lumos through their work, and we owe our success to that.
I am also proud to have helped create a company that is providing for people. We have created 1,100 jobs in Nigeria and are helping thousands of homes, stores and clinics stay open longer.
Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Being an entrepreneur and being a successful business manager are not the same thing. It is necessary to make sure you play to your own strengths, but also recognise the skills of others around you. The most important thing about setting up your own business is surrounding yourself with people who complement your skill sets. Davidi (my founding partner at Lumos) and I had the perfect combination – his expertise in the telecoms industry and my background in energy meant Lumos had everything it needed from the get-go.
What popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
In a world with a million clichés, “move fast and break things” sticks out. I don’t like the imagery of breaking an industry – we have a much more complementary approach. Our idea is not going to break or replace other means of providing energy. More than often, nor is yours – and nor should it seek to.
Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you started?
I wish I knew the value of a partnership – every partnership creates more value than the sum of its parts. Often it can seem so appealing to go and do it on your own at the beginning of your career. Our partnership with the biggest mobile provider in the Africa, MTN, might have seemed risky for a start-up, but it has made us what we are today. Partnerships are a key component of our expansion model.
Name one business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
We want to take off-grid solar to the rest of the world. We believe we are at the beginning of a global revolution, akin to the one ongoing in mobile communications. With costs coming down and more and more people in the developing world becoming able to access affordable, reliable, clean electricity, we are ready to lead that mobile energy revolution.
We also have ambitions to create even smarter solar panels. We can already communicate with our customers through our panels and increase efficiency of the service. The next few years are going to see a revolution in the way we consume energy.