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David Auerbach, Founder of Sanergy (INTERVIEW)

— December 2, 2011 — Social Good
There is an urgent need for sanitation systems in the developing world, which is exactly what Sanergy aims to address in Kenya. A lack of accessibility to hygienic toilets can lead to environmental degradation, as well as to myriad diseases. The founders of Sanergy -- MIT grads -- saw an opportunity for innovation, not only to create a system to provide regional sanitation systems, but also to recycle the waste and offer employment through franchise sales to local entrepreneurs.

We did a full profile on the social enterprise last week, and this week we had a chance to interview David Auerbach, one of the Sanergy's founders. Below he shares where the idea for the social enterpise came from, some scary stats on the lack of clean sanitation systems, and how he resets himself to be creative.

4 Questions with David Auerbach, Founder of Sanergy

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
We started in a class at MIT that challenges students to come up with a business solution to a poverty challenge. We were fixated on the idea of taking a systemic approach to the sanitation challenge. We looked around and saw that most sanitation solutions only focused on providing a toilet. Most viewed the collection and proper disposal of waste as an afterthought. In fact, they are critical to any scalable solution. We saw value in the waste – both in terms of saleable by-products and job creation – and created a business model that ensured we could make use of the waste and provide hygienic sanitation at the same time.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?
The lack of sanitation in the developing world is a massive challenge. 2.6 billion people lack access to a clean toilet and it kills 1.7 million children each year. We did not see many market-based approaches out there to provide sanitation in urban slums and thought that we had an idea that might just work. The verdict is still out, but we are excited to now be fully immersed in this movement.

3. How do you get your inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from working with incredible people. There are a lot of tough challenges that we face on a daily basis, but our team is determined, positive, pragmatic and energetic.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
We have been fortunate enough to undertake a variety of fellowships in the past couple of years. These fellowships have given me a chance to meet and learn from other incredible social entrepreneurs across a variety of fields. They help me step back from our work and take a fresh look at what Sanergy is trying to achieve.