Alexie Seller: Co-founder and CEO, Pollinate Energy
A major in Spanish and Latin American Studies logically meant a career in Central or South America, instead engineer Alexie Seller found herself drawn to India on a mission to provide clean energy to families in urban slums. Her company, Pollinate Energy, aims to improve lives by giving people access to sustainable products, such as solar lighting, and by empowering local Indian entrepreneurs.
Article by Australia Unlimited
How did you start? What made you choose this career path?
My passion for working in the development sector started after high school when I went to the Dominican Republic to volunteer in a primary school. I knew that I wanted to devote my career to community and international development...I went on to study a combined degree of Renewable Energy Engineering and Arts (international studies and language). By the time I graduated I was set on finding an opportunity that allowed me to use my technical and professional skills to improve lives. It was then that I joined Engineers Without Borders to lead the energy hub, and began researching energy poverty and the various business models for distribution of energy clean products. Immediately after that I met my cofounding team and launched Pollinate Energy to take these models to the shanty slums of India where families are chronically underserved.
What made you take the leap overseas and why India?
I heard about the challenge of energy poverty for families in urban slums in India....families were going unserved simply because they looked transient, when actually they were living for decades in these conditions. I was motivated to start the company when I realised that I already had the skills that were needed to assist these people.
Is there something particular about the Australian character/culture that drives people to search out international experiences?
Australians are adventurous, they take the opportunity to travel, and are very conscious of global politics and events. For me personally, I had the opportunity to travel independently overseas at a young age on exchange, and then again as a 17-year-old having completed my Higher School Certificate (HSC). These experiences gave me perspective on the world and my position in it. They prompted me to consider how I could devote my work to improve equality and opportunities for those who didn’t have a privileged upbringing, and it boosted my confidence to try to explore global opportunities and know that I could manage living away from my home environment.
What’s one of your most favourite things about living and working in India?
The lessons I learn every day about a new culture which has such an incredible history. I love that my days are unexpected, and that I am required to think on my feet, and that my team are so welcoming in sharing more about who they are and how this country works!
What do you think is the single most influential factor in your success?
Probably my reluctance to give up – there have been many times in our journey where I could have stopped going. We were (constantly) running out of funds, we were unsure whether people would pay for the products, or whether people would want to work in this job. But ultimately we have come out the other side – we’ve directly impacted over 120,000 men, women and kids in these slums, and we have a team of 40 dedicated Pollinators who are out there every day trying to find new families to serve.
What do you know today that you wished you had known when you first started?
In a way I think that being naïve and having not started a business before was probably a blessing in disguise. It meant that I took every challenge as it came and didn’t overthink what we were doing.
What makes you proud to be Australian?
I am proud to be part of a community in Australia of people who work tirelessly to improve lives, and the environment, both in Australia and globally, and I am incredibly positive about the next generation of Australian leaders – particularly in business and the community – who are motivated to make the world a better place.
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