Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Charlie Puth didn’t become famous overnight. For several years, Puth used simple tools — his voice, a video camera, Youtube — to build a following online. He started writing theme songs as a side hustle, and used the money from those jingles to buy more equipment. 

He did what most entrepreneurs do: he used the tools available to him to create added value. He didn’t reinvent the wheel. He just found his niche within it. 

Puth’s entrepreneurial spirit made him the perfect headliner for Global Citizen’s first-ever Accelerator Series concert, presented by Cadillac. 

Take Action, Win Tickets: See Andra Day Perform in New York City on August 19!

The event, which took place Tuesday at the Cadillac House in New York City, celebrated those who “dare to drive change,” and presented the Accelerator Award — a $10,000 grant for entrepreneurs who are creating change around the world — to David Auerbach, whose company, Sanergy, helps provide clean sanitation to low-income communities in Kenya.

“In New York, we have toilets, we have sewers, and it's a luxury more than half the world doesn't have access to,” Sanj Sanampudi, Sanergy CFO, said. “This award will go to serving 2,000 additional people and getting them up on our network forever.” 

Image: Global Citizen Co-Founder and CEO Hugh Evans speaks with Cadillac Associate Director, Brand Partnerships and Experiences, Nathan Tan. Photo by Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for Global Citizen

Global Citizens from around the world completed an action journey to win tickets to the event, held at Cadillac House in Manhattan. They took actions on women’s education, water and sanitation access, and other issues. 

Tais Gregorio, who moved to the United States from Brazil four years ago, took action with Global Citizen to win free tickets to attend the Cadillac House event. 

“I care about water in the world and everything that is happening in Houston right now is really important, so I did my donation and I always try to help,” she told Global Citizen. 

Take Action: Tweet at World Leaders to End the Toilet Crisis

Image: From left to right: Global Citizen Co-Founder and CEO, Hugh Evans; singer, Charlie Puth; Sanergy CFO, Sanj Sanampudi; and Cadillac Associate Director, Brand Partnerships and Experiences, Nathan Tan. Photo by Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for Global Citizen

Gabriel Peralta also took actions related to increasing water and sanitation access, and as a pharmacy student at Columbia University, is passionate about healthcare. 

“I care about people’s sanitation, so I do a lot of the sanitation actions,” he said. “I do it because it’s bigger than me. Yes, it’s a great thing that you win concert tickets, but it also makes you feel kind of good inside.” 

The Accelerator Award will benefit residents of 11 slum communities in Kenya, who are served by Sanergy. The company has built more than 1,000 toilets that are used by more than 50,000 people each day. Sanergy then collects the waste and turns it into fertilizer, which can be used by local farmers to increase crop yields. 

Read More: Meet David Auerbach, an Entrepreneur Bringing Toilets and Clean Water to Kenya 

After the award was announced, Puth took the stage to play some of his biggest hits, including “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” “See You Again,” and “Attention.” 

Image: Charlie Puth onstage at the Accelerator Series. Photo by Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for Global Citizen

“In 2017, [music] has never been more relevant,” Puth told Global Citizen. “It’s one thing just to stand on a soapbox and convey a message in that way, but if you can embed it into the art and put a melody to a great message, people from ages three to 97 can just sing that back.” 

“The mathematical chord changes can make you feel an emotion and make you want to do something without even hearing a lyric,” he added. 

Read More: 7 Gross (and Important) Facts You Should Know About Water & Sanitation

Puth’s message on-stage was one of love and togetherness. Before playing his hit “Some Type of Love,” the artist told the crowd, “It's great that we can all love each other in 2017.” 

“My message to all the Global Citizens is don’t ever think that your small act of kindness is too small because about 100 other people are thinking that their small act of kindness is too small,” Puth told Global Citizen before the show. “You’re all doing it together and it becomes a big act of kindness.”

“You’d be surprised as to how valid your words are.” 


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