March 23rd, 2011

“Help the Good Guys Win”

Chris Williams

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TOPICS: BOSTON

BOSTON -

This is not shameless self promotion. Yesterday, I asked Brian Hayden, fellow GLD insider, the vision of his company, HeatSpring. He responded, “help the good guys win.”

First, it’s an amzing vision. Guy Kawasky always says to build a mantra not a mission. Missions are boring. Mantra is simple, emotional and clear. It’s something everyone can get excited about and rally around.

Without knowing it, Brian also highlighted why the industry has been going rough patches, culturally anyway….solar installations doubled in 2009.

Good vs Bad?

Who are the good guys? As Brian sees it, the good guys are the guys on the front lines, the plumbers, electricians, project managers, sales people, and engineers that are increasing the energy efficiency and clean energy infrastructure. But more broadly, good guys are the environmentalist.

Who are the bad guys? Well, who do we typically see as bad guys? Wall Street and the finance people, see The Recession. The evil VCs that invest money in a company then kick out the founder, see Silicon Valley folk lore. The evil politicans, see Washington DC. I’m not saying I think these people are “evil”. However, these are three groups of people do tend to ruffles feathers. Also, they are increasingly getting involved in the cleantech industry and at times are butting heads with the “good guys.” Miles Ryan in “Solar Inc and  The Balance of Values” has eluded to this in his career.

Can they work together?

I’ve noticed this struggle in my personal interactions. I’m equally afraid of someone interested in renewable energy that is either all for the money (the bad guys) or all for the environmental (the good guys). So, somehow the two cultures are going to have to mold together because each has their strengths and weakness, and too much of one is scary.

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Chris Williams

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams is the editor of Green Light Distrikt and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring . He has experience in business development, prototyping and new venture research with a focus on geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Chris is an IGSHPA accredited geothermal installer and NABCEP certified solar installer. Chris is focused on solving customer facing issues in the creation and adoption of clean energy technologies and products. Chris has installed over 300kW of solar and tens of geothermal systems. He's invented the PV Pal , developed many trainings at HeatSpring, publishes the NABCEP Study Guide , the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech and has done due diligence research for Urgent VC . Feel free to connect with him @topherwiliams , on Linkedin , or through email about new ventures, collaborating, writing, research or whatever is on your mind.

  • http://www.chaolysti.com Pamela Cargill

    I’ve brought up the question several times about whether or not you need to be a “true believer in the cause” to support solar. In the end which is more important, more solar installations on more roofs, or more true believers? This is coming from a “true believer:” If I had to chose it would be more solar on more roofs and here’s why:

    I think a problem with cleantech-related industries is that they have, in many cases, been born out of grassroots movements and as they are growing rightfully into professional industries, they are being a bit unfairly judged by the roots they sprang from. Residential solar adoption is most certainly indicative of this. Like the article by Miles suggests, the landscape of who is involved with solar is changing rapidly. Out of work construction laborers see solar as a job opportunity. I’m not sure it matters to them that solar produces energy without any point-source emissions.

    In order to move solar energy to mass-market adoption, we need the backing of the Silicon Valley Banks and Sequoia Capitals so we can make larger bulk purchases of equipment and bring prices down. We need to extend financing terms so consumers don’t get bogged down in the chase to close financing on their own, the complication of which often turns people away.

    We know that not all VCs and PEs who invest in solar companies are cut from the same cloth. A PE firm might have the money and a lot of traditionally great high-tech leadership management and executive connections, but, for the most part, they do not understand the specific challenges and market cycles of the solar industry and may not instate the right leadership to work through those challenges. Even worse, some might just put profits over people and leave a distaste for the “green economy” in the mouths of their employees.

    The next generation of problems in the solar industry will be solved by people who are highly skilled in finance, sales analytics, software development, and marketing. Solar enthusiasts have done tremendous work getting solar to where it is today but we to reach millions of solar roofs as opposed to the 120,000 estimated to be installed now. We need to start talking in a language that more consumers can understand and offering them attractive, low-cost, and low-risk keys to involvement.

    The great news about solar is even if everyone involved was to ignore the positive environmental impact and race to just build bigger and bigger businesses competing to install more solar…. we would have more solar energy on the grid and more jobs doing something beneficial. I think that’s a win.

  • http://www.thegreenlightdistrikt.com Chris Williams

    Pam, A serious comment. Thank you :)

    I completely agree with your perspective, especially your last sentence. I was simply not that from a personal perspective, although I want solar on as many roofs as possible, I trend to cringe when I talk with someone who says they’re into renewable energy for the money, even though I myself need to make (some) money. Perhaps I should write a post on the taboos of cleantech? You can’t say you’re in it for the money or the environment?

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