On February 1, 2013 I retired from my role as the Chief Marketing Officer for GE Energy. Much of my career was spent in power generation, transmission and distribution. So I have a good understanding of the economics of generating and delivering electricity. My position required global travel, so I got to see some of the billion plus people in the world that live without electricity. My job also required that I understand new technologies and their potential impact on the markets we served. Combined together, my experiences have allowed me to realize that the models that we use for generating and delivering electricity in the developed world are not the best solution for developing and delivering electricity in the world that does not have power today. As an analogy, if you were starting a telephone company today, you wouldn’t build a copper wire infrastructure. Technology allows you to jump directly into a mobile, wireless infrastructure. Similarly, in the electricity industry, technology allows you to start with a new and different approach.
I have thought about trying to do something to help bring electricity to people who live without it for some time. I always had the excuse that I was too busy working. Retirement changed that part of the equation. I now had time, but I was not sure that I wanted to commit myself to the years of work, the financial commitment, and the travel that it would require to actually make a difference. Added to that was the fact that when you retire, you begin to lose contact with the people you know around the world that can help you in this type of effort. So I knew that if I was to start this undertaking, I couldn’t wait too long to decide.
Shortly after retiring, Kathy my wife, Katie my daughter and I were on our traditional spring skiing trip. We had dinner reservations at the Alpenglow Stube at Keystone ski resort. After two gondola rides from the base of the mountain, you arrive at a back county restaurant like no other. Over dinner we discussed the plan for my next chapter. These decisions impact your whole family. We kept returning to two thoughts. First, how thankful we were to be able to go to a restaurant like the Alpenglow Stube. Second, if you have the ability and capacity to help people in a meaningful way, shouldn’t you do it? I strongly believe that we can bring lighting to hundreds of thousands of people who live without electricity by changing the electricity delivery model. At the Alpenglow you are looking out at mountains in pure darkness, like the dark of places without electricity. After much discussion we agreed to start Light the World. After dinner, we asked the hostess to borrow a pen so we could sign the menu page as a memento. She asked us what Light the World was going to do, after we told her she said that was just the kind of charity she would donate to. We were encouraged, and have been working to make Light the World happen ever since.
Mark & Kathy