Abraham Cambridge

Chief Executive Officer | The Sun Exchange

This article first appeared in The African Power & Energy Elites, 2019. You can read the full digital magazine here, or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

WHO WERE YOUR ROLE MODELS DURING THE PIVOTAL STAGES OF YOUR LIFE?

My uncle Matt. He was a Royal Marine commando and a great adventurer. He told me that to be bored is a sin as there are billions of things to learn in the world – always be curious. My parents also played a key role. My father was an airline pilot who travelled for most of my childhood; however, it was his highly-skilled job and dedication that inspired me as well as his sense of humour, which is important to keep when things are down. My late Mother – she passed away when I was 14 years old –had an incredible sense of justice and innate fight for what she believed in. What inspired my understanding and appreciation for renewables was my mother’s shared fondness of the resource all those years ago. I vividly recall a diagram of a geothermal plant that she drew when I was 10 years old and how I clearly understood it.  She also showed me a wind farm in the early 90s, which was Britain’s first wind farm, in Cornwall.

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?

A leader needs to have a degree of empathy, a high emotional and intellectual quotient, and make people feel part of the team that is unified and working toward achieving a common goal.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS?

I am a good sales person with a good technical understanding of the holistic objectives we are working toward achieving. I am able to take a complex idea and convey it as a simple message to an audience in an engaging and enthusiastic manner – ultimately achieving greater buy-in and support of a model/approach.

WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST BLIND SPOTS?

My futuristic outlook on how the world should be operating – running off solar power –and certain futuristic ideas I have may not necessarily have the technical know-how or technical capacities to be implemented at this stage; this draws out a level of frustration and impatience from me.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING IN YOUR OPINION THAT PEOPLE COMMONLY MISCONCEIVE ABOUT YOU?

Getting into the field of business that I am in – FinTech – people may think that it is about making money to get rich and be wealthy, but that’s not really it for me. I fundamentally believe in these technologies – blockchain and solar – and I am totally committed to seeing them develop as this is what the world needs. I genuinely want the world to improve – it makes me sad and frustrated that things are operating in modes which are incredibly outdated and no longer required.

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR KEEPING A TEAM MOTIVATED?

Always remember the Why? Remind the team of the bigger picture, the objectives, and why you are building something to achieve specific outcomes.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

I left a very secure job in the United Kingdom five years ago to pursue a new venture – The Sun Exchange – in South Africa, which I had never visited before. I saw the potential and gap that The Sun Exchange could fill and I had to take that leap and build it from the ground up. I could feel in every ounce of my body that this model was needed.

WHEN CONSIDERING A NEW PARTNERSHIP, WHAT FACTORS ARE DEAL-BREAKERS FOR YOU?

They have to be businesses/partners that share the same vision – supporting disruption between finance and energy – and have the dynamism and belief to move rapidly with the pace that the sector is moving.

WHICH OF YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS WERE THE MOST DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP?

Attention to detail is something I have always struggled with as I am a dreamer and big-picture thinker, often neglecting the complexities involved in achieving these big ideas. Achieving the balance between having the micro and macro perspective is what I am still learning. Thankfully, I have an excellent team that rounds that out, along with any of my other blind spots.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT LEADERSHIP LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED?

To not take the ‘easy’ route as it could end up costing you a great deal of time and money in the long run. Rather do things properly and create solid foundations from the ground up in all aspects of the business.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER?

After three years of building a core team, I am most proud of the team that is today working together to achieve our common objective.

HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE?

That’s an easy one [laughs]. Every morning before I even look at work I have to have at least done some exercise, been in the ocean, had a healthy breakfast, done some yoga/meditation and read something. Going into work with full cylinders I can function optimally throughout the day without having to worry about leisure time if I need to work after hours.

WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR?

Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek

WHAT TREND IN THE GLOBAL ENERGY SPACE DO YOU SEE BECOMING INTRINSIC TO THE OVERALL POWER NETWORK, AND WHAT TREND WILL REMAIN A FADE?

Solar with storage is an incredibly powerful combination of technologies – to have dispatchable energy that is totally distributed is incredible. It will take utilities some time to catch up on how to call upon this energy demand but ultimately having modular battery and solar storage systems is going to be a winning combination. In the long-term, storage technology will see graphene-based super capacitors: graphene technology that will replace silicone and most of the current battery technology that is currently on the market.  It has been in R&D phase for 10 years and is on the cusp of being commercially viable. Graphene can be manufactured using carbon only and should be reasonably cost-effective to produce.

Hopefully the age of fossil fuels is going to die off. It has served its purpose and continued investment to keep satisfying archaic legacy technological systems can’t continue. As a qualified climate change scientist, I can confirm that the planet can’t support it.

This article first appeared in The African Power & Energy Elites, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.