Hugh Whalan grew up in Australia, has been based in the US since 2006, and travels to Africa too frequently for his lovely wife’s taste. Along with the good looks and charm that naturally occur in all Australians, Hugh had the good fortune to travel to 31 countries by age 25 – mostly with a backpack and too little money in his pocket. The more time he spent traveling around and meeting people, the more opportunities he saw to build interesting businesses in the places he visited.
He first took the leap into business with Energy in Common, which pioneered international crowdfunding for energy loans to the developing world (funding stuff like solar home systems and cookstoves). It received money from lenders in 35 countries, and supported projects in Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria. His second company, Impact Energies, which provided innovative financing for solar home systems in Ghana, was acquired by a Manhattan-based investment firm – the first-ever sale of an off-grid clean energy company. Hugh is now the CEO of his third company in Africa, a venture-backed asset financing company which provides productive assets (such as solar home systems) to rural and remote customers in West Africa. His businesses have reached tens of thousands of customers who earn $1-$6 per day.
In addition to starting things in interesting parts of the world, he dabbles in angel investing (which apparently sometimes works out in his favour) and was the board chairman of the largest food waste composter in the North America. He is a frequent guest lecturer at Cornell University on social enterprise and entrepreneurship, was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and was recognized as one of Australia’s top 30 entrepreneurs under 30. Hugh has been covered in a wide range of mainstream media, including the New York Times, CNN, Forbes, and Fast Company. He is also an occasional contributor on blogs such as Fast Company and the Huffington Post.
Hugh is the first to admit he’s still figuring it all out, but hopes his experiences and the stories he shares of others will provide that extra little shove you need to start your pursuit of a life filled with adventure, profit and impact.