Xavier Helgesen Finding Impact

FIP 23: Local Talent and Learning to be a CEO, with Xavier Helgesen

Xavier is a veteran entrepreneur, having founded two million-dollar businesses in his 20’s, including Better World Books – a profitable social venture with $60M in revenue selling books online to fund literacy. In 2011 he received a Skoll scholarship to study an MBA at Oxford Saïd Business School, and it was there that he became obsessed with energy access. So in 2012, after Oxford, he landed in Tanzania with just a business plan and some seed funding to kick off Off Grid Electric, the world’s first distributed clean energy utility, providing affordable, solar energy to households that struggle with spotty or nonexistent grid access. They sell solar energy systems on a pay-as-you-go, lease-to-own model – costing some homes as little as $7 a month.
There he started everything from scratch, building the hardware side, the sales & distribution component, the consumer finance piece, and finally the software to track and monitor the hardware.

On this show, you’ll hear:

  • Why Xavier went after energy as his problem to solve.
  • How they made the decision of which country to expand to and the strategy they employed for expansion, including setting up dedicated expansion team.
  • The practical approach to discovering their expansion market.
  • The kinds of talents the expansion team need to have.
  • What their first milestone of customer sales were, that proved the broader market to their investors.
  • Why local staff and not expats are key to embedding faster and achieving sales, and who deeply know the local market.
  • Some of Xavier’s hard won lessons, that he’d definitely try to avoid next time.
  • What Xavier had to learn and get good at as the company grew, and how he thinks about talent and building a team.
  • About the role of a CEO and some tips for how entrepreneurs can grow into the role.
  • The role of mentors and peer relationships, in terms of their skills and expertise that you can specifically learn from.


Contact Xavier

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