Most people retire at the age of 65. Paul Polak, however, is not most people.
The former psychiatrist — Polak holds a medical degree and was a practicing psychiatrist for 23 years — founded iDE in 1982, an international nonprofit that uses market-based solutions to address poverty. The organization claims to have lifted nearly 20 million $1-a-day, one-acre farmers out of poverty by making low-cost irrigation technology available and giving them access to markets for their crops.
After a “painful three-year process,” Polak left iDE — a company he ran for 25 years — but not to retire. In 2007, Polak founded D-Rev: Design Revolution, a nonprofit design incubator for technologies targeting customers living on less than $4 a day.
Just a short year after, and applying the lessons learned from iDE, he then founded the first of what Polak calls “frontier multinationals,” for-profit companies that aim to address basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid by selling products that are cheap enough for $2-a-day customers to purchase and install. There are now three such companies — Spring Health, Transform Energy and SunWater.