Black Swans and the Future of Energy by Paul Polak and Krish Desai

Energy experts now confidently predict that by 2040, solar and wind will drive no less than 60% of global power; natural gas will replace the lion's share of the burning of coal, and the market for electric cars will soar. Nassim Taleb, on the other hand, questions the ability of experts to predict just about anything. He asserts instead, in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, that the future is consistently shaped by unexpected, high-impact outlier events, which we do our best to rationalize after the fact. Who could have predicted the Black Swan disruptive transformative impact of Henry Ford's Model T…

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Who Will Grab the Fortune at the Base of the Pyramid?

Re-posted from NextBillion Blog, Next Thought Monday: Who Will Grab the Fortune at the Base of the Pyramid? by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick In a recent post on NextBillion, Stuart Hart, who coauthored The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid with C.K. Prahalad, wrote with concern about the potential of creating disruptive innovations for poor customers that can trickle up to Western markets. He fears “the risk that corporations [will] gradually come to view the world's slums and rural villages primarily as laboratories for incubating innovations for the rich.” We don’t believe Professor Hart has anything to worry about — because major corporations have demonstrated no meaningful interest in the…

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Why Entrepreneurs Will Beat Multinationals to the Bottom of the Pyramid

Re-posted from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network. See the original post here.   Why Entrepreneurs Will Beat Multinationals to the Bottom of the Pyramid by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart’s seminal book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid gained a wide audience when it was published in 2004 and has continued to be widely read ever since. Its iconic phrase, “bottom of the pyramid,” entered the English lexicon. The book was a call to action to the world’s largest companies to develop new products for the four billion people living on $4 a day or less—a market representing what was…

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University Innovation Fellows Respond To Paul’s Open Letter to Larry Page with a Letter of Their Own

April 7, 2014 Larry Page 1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy Mountain View, CA 94043 Dear Mr. Page, We are writing to you on behalf of a group of over 100 student leaders from around the country to express our support for Paul Polak’s ambitious challenge to Google to help end poverty. We are the University Innovation Fellows. We believe that poverty can be ended, and we are thrilled with the opportunity that Mr. Polak has presented you. By taking on this challenge, Google can help change the lives of over 100 million people, and can inspire millions more to address one of the world’s greatest challenges in…

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An Open Letter to Larry Page

In response to a recent article in which Larry Page, CEO of Google, stated, "I would rather give my billions to Elon Musk than charity" Paul Polak wrote Larry Page this open letter:   Dear Larry, In your recent conversation with Charlie Rose at TED, you said you’d rather hand over your cash to Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City) instead of donating it to a philanthropic organization. I understand the sentiment. The nonprofit sphere has generally proved itself incapable of solving many of society's most intractable problems. In particular, 2.7 billion people left behind in the most extreme poverty—40% of the world's population, living on $2…

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Achieving Scale

Scale is the single biggest unmet challenge in development and impact investment today. IDE, the development organization I founded, has helped some 20 million people living on a $1/day move out of poverty, but this is a drop in the bucket compared to the 2.7 billion people still living on less than $2/day.  About the only big business to reach poor people at scale is mobile phones, and that happened pretty much by accident.  I think it’s entirely feasible to help 100 million poor people at a time move out of poverty with technologies they need to raise their incomes, with the right distribution systems, and…

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