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Paul Polak
Dr. Paul Polak is Founder and CEO of Windhorse International, a for-profit social venture with the mission of inspiring and leading a revolution in how companies design, price, market and distribute products to benefit the 2.6 billion customers who live on less than $2 a day, combining radically affordable technology with radically decentralized supply chains
to earn profits serving bottom billion customers.

The first division of Windhorse International, Spring Health Water (India), sells affordable safe drinking water to rural Indians through local kiosk owners using a simple electro-chlorination technology. Spring Health aims, within ten years, to reach at least 100 million customers who
live on less than $2 a day.

Prior to founding Windhorse International, Dr. Polak founded D-Rev: Design Revolution, a non-profit design incubator for technologies that serve customers living on less than $4 a day. In 1981, Dr. Polak founded International Development Enterprises (IDE), a non-profit organization that has brought nearly 20 million of the world’s poorest people out of poverty by making radically affordable irrigation technology available to farmers through local small-scale entrepreneurs, and opening private sector access to markets for their crops.

Dr. Polak has been recognized by Scientific American as one of the world’s leading 50 contributors to science, he was named Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the western states, and received the Florence Monito Del Giardino award for environmental preservation
in 2008. His work has been featured in articles in Business Week, the Economist, the New York Times, Forbes, and National Geographic. In 2009, he was named one of the world’s “Brave Thinkers by Atlantic Monthly, along with Barack Obama and Steve Jobs, for being willing
to “risk careers, reputations, and fortunes to advance ideas that upend an established order.”

Dr. Polak’s book, Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail, has become a renowned resource for practical solutions to global poverty.

In 2013, Paul Polak and co-author Mal Warwick published a book, The Business Solution to Poverty which shows how their design principles and vision can enable unapologetic capitalists to supply the very poor with clean drinking water, electricity, irrigation, housing, education, healthcare, and other necessities at a fraction of the usual cost and at profit margins attractive to investors. Since its release in September the book has gained popular support in the social entrepreneur community as well as in other fields.

Entries by Paul Polak

Will Ending Poverty Require Endless Economic Growth?

(0) Comments | Posted March 30, 2014 | 1:52 PM

Co-authored by Mal Warwick

What is progress?

If you ask this question of most Americans, they'll probably say something that implies continuing growth in material wealth -- more stuff for more people, in other words. The overwhelming majority of professional economists would agree: progress means ever-higher economic output, which in...

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Is There a Limit to the Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid?

(0) Comments | Posted February 3, 2014 | 2:37 PM

Co-authored with Mal Warwick

It's a rare honor for an author's work to be addressed in the pages of Foreign Policy magazine, as is The Business Solution to Poverty in Daniel Altman's recent column. However, in our case, the pleasure is multiplied because Mr. Altman's column provides us...

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Eyeglasses for the World

(1) Comments | Posted January 30, 2014 | 5:38 PM

By Paul Polak and Mal Warwick

On January 2 this year, the Guardian revealed that a German physics teacher had been inspired by Paul's book, Out of Poverty, to produce $1 eyeglasses and market them in Rwanda.

Martin Aufmuth, founder of OneDollarGlasses, created a hand-operated milling machine...

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End Poverty or Bust: Creating a Runway for Profitable New Multinational Businesses to Transform Poverty

(0) Comments | Posted October 22, 2013 | 11:57 AM

Five years ago, Steve Bachar and I decided to create a venture capital fund that would only invest in companies capable of achieving three goals:

  • Transforming the livelihoods of at least 100 million customers living on2 a day or less;
  • Generating at least10 billion in annual revenues; and
  • Earning sufficient...
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How to Solve India's Poverty Crisis

(1) Comments | Posted October 14, 2013 | 8:35 AM

Economic debate swirls around the question of how to end poverty, and no wonder: today there are still 2.7 billion people living on $2 a day or less. How should a nation that contains nearly one in three of the world's poorest people address this very real problem? At one...

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Achieving Scale From Trash to Cash

(0) Comments | Posted September 17, 2013 | 3:27 PM

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...

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How Much Money Is Enough?

(0) Comments | Posted January 31, 2013 | 4:13 PM

How much money is enough, and what will I do with myself when I get there?

This question is just as challenging for multimillionaires as it is for dollar-a-day farmers. The dilemma is tantalizingly similar for both.

For the one-acre farmer whose family now has enough to eat for the...

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The Future Corporation

(0) Comments | Posted January 28, 2013 | 1:04 PM

The Future Corporation will remain competitive in the global marketplace by creating vibrant new markets serving $2 a day customers at scale. Three years ago, General Motors, the biggest, most powerful corporation in the world, was brought to its knees by failing to react quickly and effectively to competition from...

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4 Transformative Business Opportunities in Emerging Markets

(0) Comments | Posted December 31, 2012 | 7:13 AM

I'm going to describe a little bit about the four businesses and then we'll have a little bit of time for question and answers.

Here's an example in the area of health. The four businesses I talked about are: health, education, water, and energy.

One opportunity in health...

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4 New Global Businesses

(0) Comments | Posted December 27, 2012 | 3:51 PM

My dream is to create four new global businesses. Each one of these businesses will serve at least 100 million customers, generate at least ten billion dollars in sales, and show attractive profits. To create businesses like this is a much higher risk because of the unknown nature of the...

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Simplicity Brings Hope to the Digital Age

(0) Comments | Posted November 28, 2012 | 11:03 AM

Business leaders today spend all their time trying to serve the richest 10 percent of the world's customers. We need a revolution in business thinking to create products and services for the other 90 percent, not because it is the moral thing to do, but because there are vast new...

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Building A Better Mousetrap Is Only The Beginning

(0) Comments | Posted October 11, 2012 | 6:04 PM

My response to Acumen Fund's Lesson #6 - "Great Technology Alone is not the Answer"

Question: If you build a better mousetrap will the world beat a path to your door?
Answer: Without superb marketing and distribution nobody beats a path to your door.

In my work with...

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Is It Immoral to Earn Attractive Profits From Poor Customers?

(0) Comments | Posted September 20, 2012 | 1:11 PM

There are at least 7 billion different perspectives on morality, but the viewpoint I like best defines sin as the failure to reach your potential.

By this definition we have at least 2.6 billion deep sinners -- the 37% of people in the world who live on less than $2...

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At Least a Million

(0) Comments | Posted June 26, 2012 | 9:58 AM

For many years I have been a vocal advocate for what I call the "Don't Bother Trilogy" in the practice of design, which states:

1. If you haven't had good conversations with at least 25 customers before you start 2. If the product or service you design doesn't pay...
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