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Hugh Whalan, 2011 Anthill 30under30 Honourable Mention

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What is 30under30?

30under30 is an Anthill initiative launched in early 2008 to encourage and promote entrepreneurship among young Australians. This year saw more outstanding entries than ever before. So, we thought we would highlight some of the bright and innovative nominees who just missed Top 30 by a wink. Behold, our 2011 30under30 Honourable Mentions! More.

Hugh Whalan, ACT (b. 1983)

Name: Hugh Whalan
Age: 28 (Born: August 1983)
Gender: Male
Territory: ACT

Despite his young age, Hugh Whalan is already a pioneer in bringing clean energy solutions to the developing world.

The problem is not that there aren’t enough innovative products to aid the poor, says Whalan. It’s that supply and distribution challenges make it difficult for those products to ever arrive.

Impact Energies was founded to combat these challenges by pairing microfinance with a new model to coordinate product distribution from factories to villages in West Africa.

Begun at the end of 2010, Impact is an outgrowth of Whalan’s first business, Energy in Common (EIC), for which he was previously lauded. EIC makes use of crowd-sourcing to provide energy loans to entrepreneurs, who can acquire greener energy supplies with lower carbon emissions, like solar LED lamps and micro-solar home systems.

For all of its success, running EIC presented difficulties. “We would often have the money to fund projects, but the suppliers we worked with were often out of inventory for months at a time,” says Whalan, who remains with EIC in an advisory capacity. “Prices in the countries we worked in also fluctuated wildly, making it hard for us to predict costs.”

Which is where Impact Energies comes in. Whalan sees supply-chain solutions as an enormous market opportunity: “Supply chains that deliver products to the poor can be significantly improved with sophisticated financing know-how, and by gaining real-time field data using IT platforms with mobile phone integration.”

Whalan has also formed alliances with microfinance partners and with Cool Company Barefoot Power, who also has a lasting role in Africa. 2011 will see over 30,000 people in Ghana’s poorest communities become recipients of solar products thanks to these partnerships.

“I measure my success by how many millions of people I reach,” says Whalan.

Remarkably, he hasn’t invested a penny in marketing either of his ventures. Yet his media presence has been significant, with appearances on CNN and in the New York Times, and a column for the Huffington Post with which he writes about the role of social entrepreneurs in fighting global poverty.

“It is easy to create buzz when you are doing something truly unique,” he observes shrewdly.

Anthill asks: Hugh Whalan, what’s your superpower?

“Being ridiculously persistent. People are busy, and unless you give them a good reason to speak with you, they will find a reason not to. Being persistent is a sure-fire way you will get in front of them eventually!”

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To check out the full list of Anthill’s 30under30 winners, click here.

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