Can you briefly introduce yourself? Where you are from? What do you study?
My name is Paul-miki. I am from Ghana, and I’m studying math and biochemistry as a double major.
What is Kadi Energy?
I am a firm believer that energy is the differential between those on the bottom of the pyramid and those in the developed world. The cost of energy in Ghana and Africa is really high. For example, if you take charging your iPhone once a day for 365 days in terms of a bill, you pay less than a dollar. If you go to Africa, people pay around 50 cents for one charge. It’s interesting that the poorest people in the world are paying more for disproportional amounts of energy.
I started Kadi Energy with a hope that we can create a very viable energy solution. We wish to create energy independence that would allow people to have the luxury of being able to power their lives and create viable businesses. We are using an original battery technology. A lot of the energy products that we have in the market in Africa don’t really address the African problem. We have a better understanding of what the problem is and how best we can solve it.
What was your inspiration for Kadi Energy?
It is more of a personal experience. I grew up in Ghana until I was 17, and then I went to high school for two years in Hong Kong. When I was in Ghana, even when I was in middle school, a lot of the time we would have to study with the lights out. Your best bet would be a candle or some other form of solar product, which were very expensive at the time. It was really difficult for students to study. My grandmother, too, who lives in the more rural part of Ghana, has to give her phone to a driver who drives many miles just to charge it. I needed to find a way to address this problem.
What are your overall goals of the company?
I think my biggest goal is for Kadi Energy to be the “next big thing.” We have a lot of interesting product designs that we haven’t even touched yet. We are aiming to launch a company that will not only provide really good energy products but also yield positive social impacts. Currently we are employing people who will be distributing our product but we also looking into supporting NGOs. A few years from now I see Kadi being the biggest energy solution across Africa.
When did you start the company and how has it progressed?
I have been working on the battery technology for four years now. The company officially started in September 2013. At the beginning it was pretty slow. At that time I was focused on assembling the right team. One of the biggest things we have achieved is getting invited to pitch at Harvard Business School and going to a business summit at Northwestern University. There we met a lot of investors who are interested in putting money into our company. Now we think we are ready and the market situation is plausible at this point for us to start distributing our products.
How did you create this product? What was that initial product creation like?
I get that question a lot. I wouldn’t say I am an engineer, but I grew up in engineering camps. When I was little, organizations would come from the states and other countries to install solar systems in our villages. I was very young but those people just took me along and showed me how to install most of the stuff. When I was 12, I started working on my own and I built a solar collector for my village, which is currently in use. From there I started thinking about batteries in general. I destroyed a lot of my dad’s radios and televisions. I wanted to figure out a battery that would work best for Africa. I also worked in Israel last summer, where I helped build a solar power computer. I have been constantly working on projects in the energy sector.
What are your plans after you graduate?
At first I thought about going into the medical field, but now I am looking more at either going for an MBA or working on this company full time and establishing other corporate offices in surrounding countries.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I always say this and people think it is funny, but start-ups or starting your own company is not for kids. It’s for grownups. People think it’s kind of funny, but not in the literal sense of a kid and a grownup. The kind of decisions you have to make are not easy. It needs a certain mental focus to control a team and lead a business.
What is it like being a student and a CEO at the same time?
It’s really tough. It’s about always answering your emails. It’s about always keeping up with developments and businesses. At the end of the day, it’s hard figuring out how to balance them. For me, it’s usually going to class, and then from class until around 8 p.m., I make sure I am done with school stuff. I usually work on the company very early in the morning. It’s all about splitting your time and finding a very good balance; making sure that school doesn’t affect your business and business doesn’t affect your school.
Who is the most significant role model in your life?
I think my role model is Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb. His story is amazing. His attitude is what defines a successful entrepreneur.