The Economist newspaper has a reputation for world-class reporting, with a sardonic British twist. Is the publication bullish about green innovation? I sat down with Martin Giles, the Economist’s US Technology Correspondent last week to get his global perspective on green innovation and the greening of Silicon Valley tech companies. Giles conducts interviews for the delicious Tea with the Economist series and other high profile conferences, but when the tables were turned, he didn’t disappoint. In this Fresh Dialogues interview, we talk GREEN, from data centers to smart grid; and green jobs to political bluster.
Is GREEN and sustainability important to tech companies today?
“It’s definitely on everybody’s agenda. It’s an opportunity to save money. If we can find ways of powering our server farms…our production lines more efficiently, we can save money and do a favor to the environment. That’s a win-win.”
What lasting green trends are happening today?
“E-waste is a big issue…How do we create products that don’t leave a massive footprint on the environment?”
“Smart grid… It’s classic Silicon Valley – it’s technology on the one hand and power on the other…let’s bring them together and create a whole new paradigm.”
“When did you see a $10 Billion market grow three orders of magnitude in 20 years?”
(That’s Platshon’s prediction for the growth in the lithium ion cell market as we drive more hybrid cars and new generation Electric Vehicles).
What will attract the attention of venture capitalists?
“We are looking for novelty and creativity…materials, systems, cooling…no one is going to find an execution plan because you are up against Samsung and Panasonic, the gorillas. You gotta do something that is truly novel, truly different and run like hell…cos they’re after you.”
You’ve no doubt heard about the November ballot measure (Proposition 23) which aims to to scupper California’s landmark climate change legislation, AB 32. In this Fresh Dialogues interview, Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, didn’t pull any punches in his response to those behind the plan.
“We’re not going to sit idly by and watch you dismantle our environmental achievements… which are also economic ones,” says Carl Guardino.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents over 300 major companies in the valley, including Google, Hewlett Packard and IBM (approximately one in three private sector jobs) provides a proactive voice for Silicon Valley businesses on public policy issues, locally and in Sacramento and Washington D.C.
Here’s a recap of the issue:
AB 32 is the Golden State’s attempt to cap carbon emissions to 1990 levels by introducing a version of a cap-and-trade carbon tax which would hit power plants, refineries and cement manufacturers hard.
What is Proposition 23?
Supporters call it “The California Jobs Initiative,” and point to the high cost and potential job losses of implementing AB 32; but Proposition 23’s main impact would be to suspend (and effectively repeal) the provisions of AB 32. In turn, AB 32 supporters have launched a Stop Dirty Energy Prop Campaign to thwart the proposition. As of today, Proposition 23 is way ahead in the social media popularity index with over 4,500 Facebook “likes” for Prop 23 compared to just under 3,000 for its opponents.
And here’s how Guardino describes it:
“A veiled attempt to dismantle California’s environmental achievements.”
Who is behind it?
Two Texas-based oil companies, Valero Energy Corporation and Tesoro Corporation, provided the initial funding to launch the campaign. Valero donated over $4 Million to the cause.
“This is an economic engine not a caboose and we’re not going to let folks ruin the engine that continues to fuel the renewable energy, clean green economy. It’s not only good for our environment – and it’s critical – it’s also good for our economy and jobs; and we’ve proved that through innovation of products, processes and what we do with our people every day in Silicon Valley.”
“What’s wonderful about Silicon Valley is that it’s never been an ‘either or’ – it’s never been about the environment or the economy,” says Carl Guardino. “We can have our cake and eat it too.”
Reid Hoffman’s concept of leveraging the power of entrepreneurship was echoed again this summer when I talked with Lesa Mitchell, VP for Advancing Innovation at the Kauffman Foundation. She shared her enthusiasm that, for the first time, the Federal Government is waking up to the enormous impact entrepreneurship can have on the economy and recently created an Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It has limited staff and funding, but it’s a start. I wonder if it will one day include a department of GREEN entrepreneurship? It’s widely accepted that “picking winners” is not the best use of government resources, however, there is much government can do to create a fertile ecosystem for startups to thrive.
Lesa Mitchell recently testified before Congress and shared some of her top recommendations with me:
1. The need to development world-class commercialization boot camps for university students and faculty and entrepreneurs, to get innovation out of labs and into commercial production – this she says is the “low hanging fruit.”
2. Before giving grants, the government must set rules to encourage transparency, sharing data, resources and outcomes. Mitchell cited Kauffman’s iBridge Network (a Craigslist for innovation) as a suitable model to create a “lens into universities.”
3. A free agency licensing model should be adopted to encourage more rapid commercialization of innovation. This idea has created some controversy, but the Kauffman team should be applauded for not pulling its punches.
For more information on the Kauffman Foundation’s work on entrepreneurship and startup trends click here
June 24 marked the 13th annual SDForum Visionary Awards, a celebration of the innovators and chutzpah that make Silicon Valley unique. Although the four visionaries come from diverse backgrounds, Silicon Valley was the common theme for the evening. The visionaries gave a revealing glimpse into the Silicon Valley State of Mind. What exactly is Silicon Valley? What’s its role in the world?
This week, we look at Reid Hoffman’s viewpoint. He’s co-founder of LinkedIn and a renowned innovator in Silicon Valley. He had some strong words to say about the power of entrepreneurship and its ability to jumpstart the economy.
Jeff Weinerof LinkedIn introduced Reid Hoffman as someone with a brilliant strategic mind and ability to invent the future. As well as being Executive Chairman of LinkedIn, Hoffman is also a partner with venture capitalists, Graylock Partners. Pointing to his colleague’s multidisciplinary background (Hoffman studied symbolic systems and philosophy at Stanford and Oxford respectively), Weiner concluded that education provided the building blocks to create an outstanding public thinker and social networking pioneer. Weiner reminded the audience that Hoffman understood the ability of technology to inform and connect people, inspiring him to launch Socialnet (a precursor to LinkedIn) before Facebook and MySpace existed.
Hoffman walked to the podium with some reluctance, saying that listening to the introduction made him “want to run and hide”; yet he started his speech off by grounding us in time and place.
“It’s an enormous privilege to be at this center fulcrum of how we change the world, that we call Silicon Valley,” he said, and posed the powerful question, “What more should we do with that?”
Talking like a true Silicon Valley techie, he suggested not two “answers,” but two “vectors” to his question. And, the visionary he is, Hoffman thinks BIG. First, he recommended leveraging entrepreneurship as a powerful way to get the world economy back on track. Drawing from author, Tom Friedman’s thesis, Hoffman said,
“We live in a world that is increasingly flat and increasingly accelerating. When you have challenges like economic turbulence and uncertainty… entrepreneurship is a really good pattern…we need to make it more available globally.”
Provoking wry laughter from the crowd, he pointed out that there is no entrepreneurs’ lobby in Washington DC, and implied there should be one to encourage entrepreneurship as part of the stimulus package, both here in the U.S. and around the world.
His second “vector” or call to action was: how can we take business models to the non-profit sector? Drawing from his work at Kiva.org and Endeavor.org, he suggested hybrid models of self-sustaining nonprofits that can help spread entrepreneurship and create high impact change.
“I love to play at the heart of what we do best in Silicon Valley,” said Hoffman. “To take risks, develop technologies and use financing and inspire entrepreneurship to create a lever by which we move the world.”
Guy Kawasaki, the renowned Apple evangelist shares his top tips on how to become a great evangelist and how to leverage your success. This segment is part of a longer interview which took place in front of an audience of over 500 on July 7, 2010 at UC Santa Cruz Extension, and introduced my upcoming course in Green Entrepreneurship. First up: I asked Guy for TIPS ON EVANGELIZING
“The starting point for a great evangelist is to have a great product….” e.g. the Apple iPad: how hard could that be? Guy Kawasaki
“The thing that has made me successful is that – unlike a lot of people – I’m willing to grind it out.” ie long hours, hard work. Guy Kawasaki
On leveraging your success
“With a psych(ology) degree and a marketing background (diamonds), I’m living proof that you can fool most of the people all the time. I’m also living proof if you do one thing right (evangelize the Mac) – you can live off your reputation for decades.” Guy Kawasaki
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