Innovation Lab Lead

CrossBoundary Innovation Lab

About the Firm

Founded in 2011, CrossBoundary is a mission-driven investment firm committed to unlocking the power of capital to make a substantial return while creating a lasting difference in frontier markets. We take a transaction-centered approach to frontier markets. CrossBoundary provides investment advisory services, having developed a specialized expertise in unleashing investment across all sectors in fragile and frontier markets. Our advisory clients include governments, development finance institutions, private equity firms, Fortune 100 companies, and research institutions. Learn more at [...] have an essential role to play in achieving rural electrification and delivering on SDG 7 in Africa - universal access by 2030. The building blocks of mini-grids are getting cheaper and today, mini-grids are cheaper than main grid extension for at least 100M of the 618M people living off-grid in Africa. But the sector isn’t delivering on its potential. The sector needs billions of investment, which mini-grids haven’t raised. The underlying business model needs to become more commercially viable. The Mini-Grid Innovation Lab partners with 20 private sector mini-grid developers across Africa to identify, test, and scale innovations to the business model to make developers’ operations commercially viable. By improving the unit economics of mini-grids, the Lab aims to enable mini-grid developers to provide more power, to more people, at less cost and realize universal electrification on the continent. The Lab is currently testing 9 distinct prototypes across 88 mini-grid sites in 4 countries, and has published five publications to date. Started in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Innovation Lab is now additionally supported by DFID, Shell Foundation, the DOEN Foundation, and P4G.

Job Description

CrossBoundary’s Innovation Lab is recruiting a full time Associate Principal to lead the Mini-Grid Innovation Lab. You will lead the Innovation Lab’s work, which has two main groups of activities. The first is working with mini-grid developers to identify, test, and scale innovative solutions to the mini-grid business model. The Lab manages an iterative process of piloting and refining ideas, and is increasingly focused on building the tools and partnerships needed to scale those innovations proven successful. Based on the results of these experiments and the data collected, your second set of activities will focus on data analysis and promoting the results to the sector. With support from academic institutions, you will analyse the results of pilots and their impact on mini-grid business models, and support the dissemination of these results to the rest of the sector.

CrossBoundary is not a development firm and is not seeking typical development skills – the Innovation Lab will look to you for practical insights on how to improve the mini-grid business model to bring more power, to more people, at less cost.

Who We Are

CrossBoundary operates in frontier markets that also hold immense investment opportunities. The chosen candidate will play an important role in a unique team with the opportunity to make a large impact on the renewable energy landscape in Africa. Team members come from diverse backgrounds, but share a number of qualities: curiosity, humility, integrity, a drive for excellence, and a bias for action.

Who You Are

  • Self-starter who is passionate about creating lasting change in frontier markets
  • Experience in, interest in, or willingness to learn about the off-grid energy sector
  • Belief that innovation is at the heart of finding solutions to the world’s biggest challenges
  • Willingness to take on new types of work, even without prior experience or direct supervision
  • Ability to juggle multiple workstreams at once, and ensure everything is done on time and to the highest standards
  • Natural leader and people person who believes in the power of relationships
  • Willingness to work and live in a sometimes challenging environment

Primary Responsibilities

  • Lead the Lab team to deliver on the Lab’s quarterly objectives
  • Ensure the Lab’s financial sustainability and manage its P&L
    • Manage the Lab’s funding needs and requests to ensure continual sustainability
    • Identify, engage, and win over donors to fundraise for the Lab’s ongoing operations
    • Own relationships with the Lab’s five existing funders and ensure routine reporting requirements are met
  • Oversee field trials of innovative business model improvements across Africa
    • Work directly with mini-grid developers operating mini-grid sites across Africa to field test prototype innovations that might reduce cost or increase revenues
    • Lead quarterly workshops with mini-grid developers across the continent, to ideate new prototypes, solicit their feedback, and introduce them to technology and industry partners
    • Lead developers and the Lab team to develop creative iterations to the most promising innovations, based on early findings of business model impact and hurdles developers face in implementation
    • Oversee the deployment of $2.2M of R&D funding to mini-grid developers conducting iterative, cutting-edge trials to change the mini-grid business model
  • Oversee the Lab Data Lead and larger team to assess each innovation’s impact on the business model using the Lab’s unique dataset of over 800M data points on rural customer behavior
    • Support the team to use the Lab’s financial model to evaluate the impact of each tested innovation on the mini-grid business model
  • Communicate the Lab’s findings on the potential of each innovation to key governments and leading funders and advocacy players in the sector
    • Oversee the Lab team in developing Innovation Insights and shorter articles on tested innovations, incorporating lessons learned from developers on the ground and insights gained through the Lab’s data analysis
    • Advise the Lab team on publication avenues and strategies for every piece published
    • Organize and execute roadshows bringing mini-grid developers to top donors and investors in the sector, to share findings from the Lab’s most promising innovations and realize the funding support needed to scale those innovations
  • Lead the Lab team to develop the tools and partnerships needed to enable developers to incorporate the most promising innovations into their day-to-day operations
    • Guide the team to create commercial frameworks for mini-grid developers to partner with leading technology and industry partners
    • Direct the team to build the business case for the most promising innovations tested by the Lab’s community of mini-grid developers
  • Manage and develop relationships with 58 of the leading institutions and companies in the energy access sector, including:
    • Mini-grid developers: 20 leading private sector mini-grid developers across Africa
    • Funders: donors making big bets in the energy access space, including the Rockefeller Foundation and DFID
    • Technology partners: companies on the cutting edge of innovation in energy access, such as Angaza and ZOLA Electric
    • Industry partners: organizations building the sector and leading advocacy efforts, including the Africa Mini-Grid Developers Association and Power for All
    • Thought partners: top tier academic institutions conducting new research on off-grid energy, including University of Massachusetts Amherst and Duke University
  • Identify and engage new partners that could help the Lab more widely publish its findings and scale successful prototype innovation


The ideal candidate will have the following skills and qualifications:

  • Ability to think creatively to find innovative solutions to business model gaps
  • Excellent analytical ability and discipline; ability to think clearly, structure problems logically, and then design and implement solutions that focus on the core issues
  • Strong project management skills; ability to juggle and deliver a multitude of projects across contexts, geographies, and stakeholders
  • Strong communication skills; ability to distil complex findings into convincing, compelling messages and present results in a clear and simplified manner
  • Strong people skills; ability to coordinate and manage diverse range of stakeholders in challenging environments
  • Entrepreneurial mindset to creatively and independently solve new problems in ambiguous contexts

Required skills and qualifications:

  • Project management; planning and executing programs in remote locations to time and budget
  • Post-MBA/Masters candidate with 4-8 years of work experience in high impact organisations
  • Experience in developing countries, and an engineering degree or technical background (preferred)


Nairobi, Kenya

Equal Opportunity Employer

CrossBoundary is an equal opportunity employer.

Innovation Lab Lead

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