Business Insights

November 28th, 2011

Reincarnating “Skunk Works” approach in Cleantech

London -

1943, is the year in which the antecedents of Lockheed Martin’s “Skunkworks” can be found. Since those early days the famous division has produced famous planes such as the U2 and the Blackbird. These tremendously innovative projects were all founded upon the idea of small, unconventional teams of engineers and innovators operating in a large corporation.

Greenbird

The ground breaking innovators in the “Skunkworks” were shielded as if working in start-up firm, isolating them from bureaucratic interference. Considering their main customer was the government, this was a huge and extremely effective achievement.

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March 29th, 2011

You Never Know Who’s Sitting Next to You (at the MIT Energy Conference)

BOSTON -

Especially if it’s Lady Gaga or Banksy, they’re always incognito.

But seriously. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been at a conference or event and bumped into an incredibly valuable contact just by chance. You know the drill. You walk into a room with 25 tables, each half full of people. You chose one at random, and awkwardly avoid making eye contact for 2 or 3 minutes. MMmmmm this coffee is good… Wow, I bet I have three emails. Oh, and a text!  They’re probably all really important… “Hi. I’m Angel,” comes the introduction out of the chair to your left. “Oh, hi!  I’m Jesse. Tell me, Angel, what do you do?”

Ten minutes later, everyone who sent you an email is anxiously sitting at their keyboard, “Jesse NEVER takes this long to respond to my emails!  It’s been TEN MINUTES!”

And you’ve found an angel, The Angel, actually, who you were looking for. They may have advice, they might have contacts, or even a little cash. Depends on what you’re looking for.

The important thing is, you put yourself out there, and you were rewarded.

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February 28th, 2011

Low Tech Rally: What I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2011

BOSTON -

My wife has a female friend who wore a turtleneck to a party at the Playboy mansion. It was a work event and she was not psyched about going – “I decided to zig where they zag”, she said. The genius of that quote has always stuck with me.

I’m currently working on publishing a print magazine for my business. In the age of social media and digital publishing it’s a curious project to embark on, but I think the death of traditional publishing has been oversold. Rather than dying, I think it’s just changing. It’s not about actually delivering news, it’s more like a big, huge Christmas card / love letter we’re writing to anyone who cares enough to pay attention to us. It’s been a great excuse to connect with the people who are important to me and think about what the company values. Most of all, it has been fun.

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January 6th, 2011

Clean Energy is Filthy, Dirty, Hot, Itchy, Sticky, yet Awesome Work

BOSTON -

This is a picture of my hand after a typical day at work. What this picture doesn’t show you it the tiny fibers of insulation that have found there way up my sleeves, and the gobs of duct seal that may or may not have found stuck onto my pants, sweat-shirt, or hair. Installing duct work for geothermal systems may be the cheapest and cleanest way to heat and cool your home, but it is dirty and hard work.

You can hear in peoples’ voices how excited they are about solar power, ‘its the way of the future’ everyone says. I always think about lugging a 50 pound solar panel wearing a 10 pound t-shirt (because its drenched in sweat) across a steeply pitched room. Which is, in 95 degree summer weather actually around 120 because you’re standing on a black, asphalt roof that has been baking in the sun all day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. In fact, I love this stuff. There is a huge satisfaction in using your hands to build something, and being outside is a huge bonus too. That’s the really the cool part of renewable energy. The base of the jobs being created are fundamentally construction jobs with a little tweaking. All distributed generation technologies (solar PV, solar thermal, small wind, and geothermal) are all installed by electricians, carpenters, roofers, drillers, tin workers, and drillers.

The growth of renewable energy will develop our economy from the bottom up, as opposed to lets say, the finance industry. One sales person and an engineer can create enough work for a lot of installers. The fact that our housing infrastructure is so inefficient – we use about double the energy per square foot of a European household – actually means we have a lot of upgrading to do, and that means jobs. That’s not to say finance, management, and investors aren’t needed and won’t be rewarded, but simply that it looks like the middle class is finally going to get some of the action as a new industry grows.

September 27th, 2010

The Ups And Downs of Renewable Energy in Connecticut

BOSTON -

“What’s the latest cleantech news from Connecticut?”

This past week I asked that question to a lot of smart people on my trip to Connecticut.  I attended three events in three days: 1) a Solar Connecticut member meeting, 2) a Solar PV certification training, and 3) a Geothermal heat pump certification course.  Here’s what I heard:

  • Last year a comprehensive energy bill passed the state house and senate, only to be vetoed by Governor Jody Rell because her advisers told her it would cost too much.  The bill would have been a huge win for the solar industry, so the group is watching to see who the new Governor is.  The group resolved to pass something in the coming year.

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