Agora Accelerator Provides Birds-Eye View for Entrepreneurs in Latin America


Luciérnaga distributes small solar lighting technologies that affordably meet the
lighting and device charging needs for energy poor populations in Central America. Luciérnaga fights energy poverty, delivers clean energy, and strengthens markets. The company has sold 3,400 solar lights, providing 17,000 people with access to light and allowing them to save up to $220 per year.

Luciérnaga participated in the 2014 Agora Accelerator. We interviewed the Founder and Managing Director, Sebastian Africano, to learn more about why he decided to apply for the Accelerator and what value he gained.

Why did you decide to apply for the agora accelerator?

I was in the process of starting Luciérnaga at the time and had many gaps and questions about the business model that I wanted to answer. I was looking for support in different places and wanted increase the visibility of the company.

What I liked about Agora was the focus on Latin America and the fact that Agora had an office in one of the countries where Luciérnaga has operations and where I have worked regularly over the past 10 years. This regional focus makes Agora more aware of the situations and circumstances that are particular to Latin America. Agora also offered a broad diversity of enterprises, peers and colleagues. So I did some more research on the program, applied, and got in.

What were the two things about the consulting that were the most helpful in developing your business model and preparing Luciérnaga for growth?

A)   The process.  Looking at every part of the business model and looking at where the gaps existed was very helpful. The process allowed me to zoom out and view my business model from a 10,000-foot vantage point to identify the strong components as well as the weaker ones that needed to be removed or changed. I saw everything from new perspectives and found a number of blind spots that had previously been ignored.

In addition, having an Agora consultant, Maria, working with me each week provided a new set of eyes that were objectively looking at everything. Maria provided very helpful support in financial planning and modeling in particular. I had someone pulling their hairs alongside of me! Finally, I appreciated having someone who really understood the Central American context and the challenges of running a business in Latin America.

B)   The contacts that Agora has. Agora’s network is really impressive. I made a lot of good contacts from Agora’s partnership with the Mentor Capital Network (formerly known as the William James Foundation) and during my participation at the Biennial of the Americas’ Mexico City Summit where I hosted an Agora Deal Discussion. I also had the opportunity to participate in a business plan competition with the Mentor Capital Network where I had access to even more mentors and feedback on my business model.

IMG_6034 (1)What would you tell someone who is unsure about applying for or participating the program?

Be realistic about the time and financial commitment.

It’s worthwhile because you will be in a community that shares a lot of the challenges that you have in your new business, that shares opportunities, and introduces you to new networks. You will gain access to many new opportunities including feedback on your business model and endless communication/network opportunities.

 

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Applications for the 2015 Agora Accelerator are open until November 3rd.

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