Rebeca Hwang: Small Acts and Big Impacts [Entire Talk] | Summary and Q&A

June 8, 2012
Stanford eCorner
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Rebeca Hwang: Small Acts and Big Impacts [Entire Talk]

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In this video, two entrepreneurs, Rebecca Hui and Tom Raftery, share their experiences and insights on social entrepreneurship and technology solutions. They discuss their personal journeys and the challenges they faced in their careers. They also talk about the importance of aligning business interests with social causes and the need to assess talent and values when partnering with others. Both entrepreneurs emphasize the significance of passion and obsession in driving success. They also address the issue of work-life balance and highlight the importance of having a support system. Finally, they discuss the challenges of implementing technology solutions and the importance of considering the people and cultural factors involved.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Rebecca's early experiences in Colombia shape her perspective on life?

When Rebecca was nine years old, she visited Colombia and had a transformative experience. She encountered a young boy who had no shoes and was waiting to see what she would leave behind after lunch. This paradox, witnessing poverty while having enough to share, left her with a perspective on the impact of small acts and limited resources.

Q: What is StorWatts all about?

StorWatts aims to bring energy to grow to 3 billion people. They are building a micro compressed air energy storage system that will be affordable, reliable, and clean. Their goal is to redefine the energy landscape for 3 billion people, providing a cleaner choice for their energy needs.

Q: How has Patricio Boyd supported StorWatts' mission?

Patricio Boyd, a co-founder of StorWatts, has been instrumental in providing insights and introducing the team to people with operating experience in the field. He has connected them with individuals who have energy service companies in Laos, India, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras.

Q: How has Rebecca's experience in India influenced her career path?

Rebecca went to India during her junior year in college and worked on solving the water issue. She fell in love with the cause and realized that she wanted to pursue a career that would bring her meaning. This experience led her to study the institutional factors that affect the success of social entrepreneurship projects.

Q: What are the challenges in balancing work and personal life?

Both entrepreneurs acknowledge the challenge of achieving a work-life balance. Tom emphasizes the importance of having a supportive family and team to help him juggle multiple responsibilities. Rebecca admits that she does not have a perfect balance, but she tries to avoid crashing by recognizing when she needs to take a break.

Q: How do you assess talent before and after hiring or partnering with someone?

Tom looks for people with a complementary skill set, a shared value system, and an obsession for something. He believes that the ability to recover from failure is also an important aspect of talent assessment. Rebecca emphasizes the importance of shared values and morals when evaluating potential partners or employees.

Q: How do you keep the passion in the company after you leave?

Tom mentions that he is mentoring someone who could potentially take over as CEO when he leaves. He is also focused on creating a company personality that aligns with the values and passion he has instilled. Rebecca highlights the importance of having a strong team and a clear company personality that survives beyond the founder or CEO.

Q: Which is more challenging: solving people problems or developing technological solutions?

Both entrepreneurs agree that the greater challenge lies in the business model, which involves both the people and the technology. They acknowledge that implementing technology solutions can have cultural and institutional challenges, such as theft and resistance to change. It is crucial to consider both aspects when addressing social issues.


Rebecca and Tom's stories highlight the importance of passion and values in driving social entrepreneurship. They emphasize the need to align business interests with social causes and establish a strong company personality that can survive beyond the founder. Balancing work and personal life remains a challenge, but having a supportive network can help. Assessing talent based on shared values and skills is vital for success. Ultimately, addressing social issues requires considering both people and technology in the business model.

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