How Tech Entrepreneur Angela Homsi Leverages Sustainable Innovation to Bridge Global Boundaries
Born between two worlds, this entrepreneur is bridging countries together. Watch my exclusive interview with Angela Homsi, co-founder of sustainability focused tech-solutions company Ignite Power, to learn more about how her experiences as a cross-border investor are making an impact in developing economies. And below are excerpts from our conversation.
Share more about yourself and the environment you grew up in as a child. How did you get started?
I grew up between East and West, between religions and cultures. I was born to a Lebanese, Egyptian, Israelite family in the middle of the Lebanese civil war, with Christian and Jewish parents. The conflict was all around us, inside our country, cities and in our own family. I experienced man-made disasters, with differences and short-term interests causing mayhem. Previously, we had and still should be embracing our diversity, richness and potential as one of the most fertile, entrepreneurial and naturally rich regions and people. I refused to accept what was, when I knew what could be. It is my personal mission to try to bridge through our differences to make the best out of them and to turn such challenges into great opportunities.
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What was your a-ha moment that set you on the path you are on today?
My teenage years were in the golden age of globalization and the rise of the multinationals, which then had become big buzzwords — stronger and more powerful than politics on the global scene. This led me to start my career at Goldman Sachs. I wanted to understand capitalism and allocation of money from within, to use them as powerful tools to bring to reality the impact I wanted to see in the world. Money and business can generate greed and crisis if mishandled, but can also be extremely powerful if used as a means to an end based on sustainability, long-termism and shared prosperity.
The second a-ha moment was years later after I digested Bill Gates’ commencement speech, redirecting my heart and mind to focus on triggering that change now — which meant leaving Goldman and starting to build myself the future I wanted to live in. Working alongside Al Gore, Sir Ronald Cohen and many others, I refined my own theory of change to a more sustainable world and launched several initiatives to make it happen.
Tell us about your company, Ignite. What services do you provide?
In short: technology and innovation that are game-changers to our world. Through our divisions, we have a systemic impact on many sectors that are simply essential and vital, i.e. not the nice-to-have things but the critical things, like access to power and energy, water and irrigation, financial services and internet connectivity, advanced health solutions and technologies. We do that in Africa, Israel and the Middle East as our test-base, but with global applicability. We have changed the lives of millions of people for the better and reshaped national strategy based on sustainable technology, with the constant goal to operate at large scale. Yet beyond that, the biggest impact will come from traditional systems’ rethink and re-shape — which are in turn putting into question the inefficient, costly, dangerous, hazardous foundations on which we build the developed world’s infrastructure — because when we did so, we didn't know better and did not have the technologies and scientific knowledge we have today.
You started this business in a competitive industry and became successful quickly. What’s your secret to success?
All our industries are competitive, but most usually crowded with solutions rooted in the past with actors that seem to think it's OK to keep doing things this way. Whenever we launch a new solution, it's always founded on a strong vision, uncompromising sense of excellence, discipline and professionalism which leads to top execution. We partner and work with amazing people and organizations that can help execute exponentially and have the ability to question everything radically, while we stand grounded on unwavering values and pillars. That enables us to grow and break new highs while knowing what to say no to, which is often harder than getting a yes. It enables us to make the right choice and not get lost on the way.
What is a key differentiator in how you run your business verus others in the industry?
The way I think about our identity as a team is a mix of experienced veteran investors/financiers, together with top entrepreneurs, technologists, and executives; all of us driven by sustainability and positive impact, scalability and commercial success. All of us have been top of the league in our previous careers and assembled around a vision of completely revolutionizing access to vital solutions and technologies in massive untapped markets. And more often than not, if a challenge or market seems too easy or obvious, we leave it to someone else. We start with the hard problems.
What advice would you give people seeking to make sustainable and fruitful investments today?
First, identify the roadmap you believe in, i.e. the long term vision. In this area of interest, clarify the belief of what things will look like in 10 or more years. Evaluate the economic system that is structurally important and has the potential to go through major secular shifts. We believe that current modern infrastructure — hard, such as electricity, water treatment and internet access, or soft, such as health, education, etc. — were built on foundations that are now not only obsolete but understood to create massive negative externalities (social and environmental), have economic and structural fragility and often already stranded. Today, thanks to cutting-edge technologies and innovation in renewables, storage, data, clouds, AI, and more, we can completely overhaul our infrastructure, build it where it was not feasible to go previously and do so highly competitively through digital and distributed models. That’s what we invest in and operate all over the world.
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What is your vision for the future of your industry?
Not just my industry, but all of our lives. We see access to vital solutions for electricity, mobility, agriculture, healthcare, connectivity and education being democratized, decentralized and distributed in a commercially attractive way. Solutions will be ever-more transparent, affordable and accessible without negative externalities going unchecked and causing hidden damages through lack of understanding or asymmetry of information. The last 50 years have generated incredible industrialized progress, but lacked understanding on its limitations and around critical social and environmental consequences resulting from that growth. Today we have both, so the sky's the limit to build stronger and better.