I’ve only been following the EV space for a couple of months, but sporadic announcements had already given me a sense that, despite the growing economic and political significance of environmental issues, with the exception of the much-heralded press darling, Tesla, the popular press was largely ignoring the state of progress on this important front.

So, today I Googled “2010 EV launch U.S.” and the results confirmed my vague sense.  The specialty online press is robust and all over this sector.  Here is a sampling of just the individual makers’ announcements.  (This does not include the many parallel announcements of EV recharging infrastructure development, which gained temporary notoriety recently when the mayors of Seattle, Portland and San Diego engaged in some media smack talk about who would be first to claim the title of most EV-supportive city.)

According to the director of EV [electric Vehicles] solutions at the California based company Aerovironment, full EVs currently in the development stages and expected to be ready for production within the next three years outnumber the plug-in hybrids and EREV [extended range electric vehicle] expected to reach the market within the same time frame. Aerovironment director Kristen Helsel said, “I thought the majority would be plug-in, but by our numbers, 60% are full EVs vs. plug-ins.”

  • August 23, 2009: According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the Warren Buffet-backed Chinese automaker BYD has moved up its plans to sell a fully electric car right here in the United States next year. Interestingly, the automaker had originally planned to sell its first products here in the U.S. in 2010 before delaying that projection by a year. The new announcement puts BYD back on track for its initial target of 2010 and, perhaps not coincidentally, in line with the launch of the new Nissan Leaf.
  • August 22, 2009: Electric Cars: Mitsubishi (Now), Nissan 2010, BYD 2010, Toyota 2012, Honday by 2015
  • July 27, 2009: Nissan today revealed its electric-vehicle platform on a Vera-based prototype, showcasing its pure zero-emission vehicle ambitions which are expected to hit the U.S. and Japanese market as early as next year.
  • June 4, 2009: A California upstart plans to bring an all-electric sedan to market by the end of 2010.  Coda Automotive will initially sell the 100 mile range car only in California, for a $45,000 pricetag.
  • June 4, 2009: Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), the maker of Subaru automobiles, today announced the launch of its Subaru Plug-in STELLA electric vehicle (EV), which is equipped with a high-performance lithium-ion battery. The model will be sold in Japan directly through FHI. Delivery will start from late July and around 170 units of delivery in total will be planned in this fiscal year (by the end of March 2010). After-sales services will be provided through some Subaru dealerships designated by FHI.
  • May 18, 2009: Chrysler is getting charged up about electric vehicles.  In a surprise move, last year, the ailing American automaker rolled out a trio of battery-powered vehicles that it announced would go into production during the coming decade.  Vice Chairman Jim Press has since said that one of them is set to debut as early as 2010.
  • April 20, 2009: As we draw closer and closer to the Chevy Volt launch day, we might wonder if GM has an exact target date within November 2010 for the launch. Greg Ceisel is the Volt Program Manger. I asked him whether GM will begin to ship Volts to dealers closer to November 1st or November 30th. “The exact date in November is about the middle of the month,” he said. “There is a target date. In this program, every hour is scheduled.”
  • December 12, 2008: Following its debut at the London Motor Show earlier this year, Britain’s answer to the Tesla Roadster, the Lightning GT electric sports car, is expected to move to the next stage of development in 2009. The team behind the Lightning GT has announced that they will be producing two prototypes by the second quarter of 2009, with a view to start the first customer deliveries in early 2010.
  • October 22, 2008: Chrysler has announced plans to launch its PeaPod electric car worldwide in 2010. The compact city EV will be available as a one-seater, a two-seater or a utility van, at prices starting from around $20,000.
  • September 25, 2008: Chrysler LLC announced today that the Company and its ENVI organization have new production-intent, advanced electric-drive technology packaged in three different vehicles – one for each of its brands, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge.  Chrysler will select one electric-drive model to be produced in 2010 for consumers in North American markets, and European markets after 2010. Additionally, approximately 100 Chrysler electric vehicles will be on the road in government, business, utility and Chrysler development fleets in 2009.
  • July 25, 2008: Daimler was not so forthcoming about their EV Smart till it didn’t pass around a hundred tests or so, and apparently since the car has done sufficiently well in those tests, the car will be on the roads by 2010. This tit-bit was announced by none other than the company CEO Dieter Zetsche.
  • June 19, 2008: General Motors and Toyota have are already that they are moving forward with their plug-in hybrid plans for 2010, and it looks as though at least one more automaker will be joining the party. Volkswagen has announced that it will be launching three hybrids in 2010 – including one plug-in – alongside an all-electric vehicle.
  • Think is back, part of an apparent resurgence of interest in battery-powered electric cars.  The Norwegian electric car maker, once owned by Ford and headquartered, briefly, in Southern California, has announced formation of Think North America with plans to begin selling a sub-$25,000 EV in the U.S. in 2010.

For car junkies who may fear that the evolution away from the internal combustion engine (ICE) would mark the end of exciting cars, the good news is that EV performance figures are amazing.  The instant-on, full-torque nature of electric motors produces stunning acceleration and torque.  Further good news is that these cars are good looking.

Let the future begin.


For some time now (much longer than I’ve been following the space, I’m sure), the tech blogosphere has been vibrating with a really robust debate about the proper role of intellectual property protection in the age of “infinite goods” on the Internet.

At the risk of gross oversimplification (and irritating the hell out of the IP lawyers I worked with), the gist of the two sides’ positions seems to be along the lines of:

  1. Copyrights, patents and the like are necessary protection to allow innovators time to recoup their investment.  The absence of such would inhibit innovation.
  2. In its current form, IP protection actually serves as a barrier to innovation.  The “patent system is fundamentally broken and clearly hinders innovation much more significantly than it helps it.”

I’m neither a lawyer nor a technology inventor, so I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do have many friends who are stakeholders across the spectrum — some who perceive that the current system helps them (and innovators generally), and some who perceive the opposite.

For those interested, today’s Techdirt blog post offers a reading list that seems fairly comprehensive.  You decide.

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Those who have been following this blog since I fired myself from the lawyer training biz to seek out my next big thing may recall that my expectation was that, by following the conversations in a handful of industries undergoing transformational change, I would spot a high-impact problem I could solve (in the parlance of my former business, a Demand Trigger) and that would form the basis of a new venture.

I still believe that’s true, however, after absorbing information through a firehose since June, I’m reminded of some wisdom repeatedly offered by my friend, Mike Shetzer, who raises capital for some truly unusual stuff: “Whatever it is, it will take twice as long and cost twice as much as the entrepreneur projects.”  Right again, Mike S.

It seems that demand-triggering problems are easier to spot in mature business categories, perhaps because more of the conversation is centered on problems, whereas in emerging industries the conversations seem more frequently to be about opportunities, milestones, etc.  Why, you may ask, would conversations about opportunities not be exactly what I’m looking for?  IMHO, if people have already found the opportunity, I’m inherently trailing the play. I realize that I might recognize a way to improve someone’s approach to their opportunity, but it’s been my experience that, until a strategy or tactic proves itself deficient, there is limited appetite to challenge it.

Now, it may simply be that I’ve not yet figured out how to leverage “opportunity” conversations as well as I know how to do so with “problem” conversations, and I may have to learn how to break out of an old thought pattern to get out of my own way.

So, I guess it’s back to crowd-sourcing.  (With a nod to Blanche DuBois, I’ve always been comfortable depending on the kindness of strangers.)

Here is a short (certainly not exhaustive) list of industries that I perceive as undergoing fundamental change:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Construction
  • Automotive
  • Media, publishing
  • Mobile tech

What do you see as some of the most significant strategic or operational issues/decisions facing these industries?

What information sources would you suggest to help me answer this question for myself?

To whom would you encourage me to speak to progress down this path?

Thank you in advance for your thoughts, suggestions and, where needed, bops upside the head.

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I’ll admit that when Suzi first said we were going to see Charo at the Riviera tonight, I flashed back to my parents’ living room, recalling her doing her “cuchi-cuchi!” routine on TV.

She opened her show with the flamboyancy that has long been her trademark, and while that’s not really my cup of tea, I have to admit the act was polished and professional, and her sheer joy at performing infectious.

During the interstice while she changed costumes between the two halves of her show, we were treated to some amazing flamenco dancing.

After the break, though, I had my eyes opened.  She returned in a rhinestone tuxedo to dazzle with flamenco guitar playing that absolutely affirmed her claim to have studied with none other than Andres Segovia for seven years.  She was nothing short of incredible, and I eagerly rose to join the standing ovation that she so richly earned.

For me any other Boomer anticipating a tired bimbo act from our parents’ era, this was a graphic (though thoroughly enjoyable) reminder that there is often much that we don’t see and know about anyone, performer or otherwise, and that I’m not the only one who has to reinvent myself in response to changing times.

So many lessons; so little time.

According to an article by Russell Gold in the August 12 Wall Street Journal online, a major environmental threat may be getting some help — not from passionate enviro activists, but from entrepreneurial capitalists who see it as a potential solution for another environmental threat.  Here’s the lead from this “two-fer” story:

“Every spring, fertilizer runoff from the U.S. Mississippi River floods into the Gulf of Mexico, causing a massive algae bloom that leads to a giant oxygen-deprived “dead zone” where fish can’t survive.

Now, this annual problem is getting new attention, not from marine scientists but from entrepreneurs looking for a new domestic source of fuel. And one start-up sees fish themselves being part of the process.

The algae blooms are spawned each year as the farmland runoff from as far away as Montana flows into rivers, eventually reaching the Mississippi and flowing into Louisiana bayous and out into the Gulf of Mexico. These nutrients are a buffet for the floating algae, or phytoplankton, which are simple sea organisms that eat and reproduce quickly. This algae bloom eventually sinks and feeds an array for bacteria, which suck up so much oxygen that fish and plants either move away or perish.”

Read the entire article at WSJ.com.

This type of symbiosis, if it proves feasible, may illustrate the way that we must re-orient ourselves away from single-purpose, stovepipe solution thinking toward more integrated approaches to the complex problems that have environmental, economic and political ramifications.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about crowd-sourcing which according to Wikipedia, is “a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call…The term has become popular…as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies…”

On the Sgt. Pepper album, the Beatles said it more succinctly: “get by with a little help from my friends.”

So, with that, I’ll attempt to crowd-source some aspects of the project that Suzi and I are working on right now.

We invested in Speed Raceway, an indoor electric go-kart track under construction in a former Home Depot facility in Highlands Ranch, a Denver suburb.  We’re pursuing LEED certification, and intend for it to be the first green racetrack in the U.S.  Keeping with that theme, we plan healthy (organic, wherever possible) food and drinks in minimal-waste, recyclable packaging.

Much of the basic description is found at the Speed Raceway Facebook page.  This is an exciting new family recreation category at an early stage in the U.S., where there are only 20 such facilities, compared with over 600 in Europe.

As you see from the FB comments, our pre-construction reception in Denver has been fantastic, suggesting a lot of pent-up demand for our category and facility.  No surprise there, really.  Who has ever gotten off a go-kart expressing anything but enthusiasm for the next ride?

Here’s where the crowd-sourcing comes in.  We want to deliver a Nordstrom or Ritz-Carlton level of customer experience and service.  Here are just a few of the things we’re investigating:

  • RFID-tagged key fobs or racing gloves connected to membership accounts to eliminate unnecessary delays at check-in, food ordering, payment interactions, etc., or awkward cash transactions for hosts and their guests
  • Maximum use of social networking media to create real community and constant feedback
  • Trackside webcams to enable real-time remote viewing by friends and family unable to join the racers in person

I’m soliciting ideas to make this consistently a “wow” experience that people will buzz-, blog-, post- and Tweet about.  Your thoughts most welcome.

I know I’ve gone dark for a couple of weeks since my return from Silicon Valley.  Suzi and I have been absorbed by due diligence for an investment that we’ve now decided to go forward with.  More on that in a later post.

We’ve also been thinking through Suzi’s new consultancy. It’s based on her 30-year immersion in the most advanced wellness, nutrition and alternative health philosophies and practices.  More on that later, too.

Today’s thoughts organize around the challenge of extracting something actionable and useful out of the tons of topical reading I’ve been doing since firing myself from the training biz.  In support of my strategic goal of identifying an emerging, high-impact problem upon which to base a high-value new business, I embarked on the (indulgent, though necessary, I felt) first step of reinserting myself into the idea stream.  It proved as intellectually stimulating as I’d hoped.  Unfortunately, each blog exposed me to other interesting ones, etc., until the stream became a torrent, fed by a fire hose.  My RSS reader is now at paralysis density, so it’s time to thin the herd in a serious way.

One benefit of ingesting so much information in a short period is that you’re able to see patterns.  One that I’ve noticed is the degree of product-centricity that defines much of the dialog, i.e., most of the innovation conversation is about product.  Far less is about distribution, pricing, business-building, etc.  This appears true to a lesser degree in the tech world, where there is a robust debate about how pricing, distribution and user behavior are driving entirely different business models.  So many other industries, however, appear to be focused largely on divining ways to revive dissipated demand within their existing business model, which implies — to me, anyway — that they may not see or acknowledge the need to do things completely differently.

This brings me to a wonderful, feet-firmly-on-the-ground blog post today in Venture Beat by Dharmesh Shah, “10 Things Business Schools Won’t Teach You.”  It qualifies as a wise reminder that although much is changing radically in the global economy, certain principles never fade in importance.  Number two on Mr. Shah’s list is “There are always more things to do than there is time to do them.  Startups are a continuous exercise in deciding what not to do.  You can sometimes win by just not doing things faster than your competition.”

These two sentences crystallized for me my need to dial back the information flow, arbitrarily if need be, and start testing some of the “seems like…” observations I’ve accumulated in recent weeks.