Re-generation: The Next Wave of Entrepreneurship is in Sustainability
Published October 11th, 2011
A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move towards higher levels. - Albert Einstein
U.S. as Global Innovators
Our nation’s economic success has always been based on our technological superiority coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit: In the 1940’s, it was our superior infrastructure and distribution capabilities. In the 60’s and 70’s, we had an explosion of scientific revolutions through the “space race.” And in the late 80’s and 90’s, the technological revolution turned into the internet revolution.
In 2011, there is no longer a debate regarding the five key issues of sustainability:
- energy supply and demand
- climate change
- energy poverty
- biodiversity loss
To bet against their effect on us is to “bet against 670,000 straight years of data, and to hope that we are going to get lucky this time” Caltech Energy Chemist, Nate Lewis puts it.
In Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Thomas Friedman proclaims that these five key issues regarding sustainability reached their critical mass around the year 2000 and that:
“December 31, 1999, was not simply the end of a century, not simply the end of a millennium, but the end of the period we called the common era — and that January 1, 2000, was actually the first day of a new era. It was day one, year one, of the Energy-Climate Era. It was 1 E.C.E.“
The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation — Albert Einstein
Entrepreneurship as a Solution For ET Revolution
Sustainability is not only the philosophy of following socially responsible practices for the sake of good itself, but outperforming competitors by focusing on the world’s social problems as opportunities. We are not going to create a “Manhattan project” or a magic bullet to solve all of our problems. These issues span across many scopes: from energy supply and creating clean electrons, to energy demand and efficiency, to biodiversity and conservation. The way out of our deep-rooted issues is not through one form of industry or one invention, but through massive entrepreneurial ventures and innovation.
How was the IT revolution that changed the world started? Yes, much of it was done via the government, military, and scientific research, but some of the biggest movers in the IT revolution have come through entrepreneurial ventures. In the late 1990’s, it was the succession of many start-up silicon-valley-type companies, such as the one we all know best, Google, that made the IT revolution what it is today. Plus, nowadays, the government and big corporations are not the only ones that can push out big ideas, because the individual has access to more information and can collaborate easier than we could when president Clinton was in office fifteen years ago.
The biggest winners in the ‘Energy-Climate Era’ will be those entrepreneurs and firms that are insightful enough to see the long-term rewards of the costly, yet the lucrative, market of sustainability and are the first to firmly establish themselves. Google, one of the biggest winners in the IT revolution, has realized the advantage of leading the ET revolution as well. Their energy-related ventures have included:
Google, a “$110 billion information giant, tussles with $153 billion Apple to create the world’s most valuable information ecosystem,” as Forum for the Future has put it. This shows how big companies are trying to position themselves for what they know is the next revolution.
The smart appliance market is projected to grow from $3.06 billion in 2011 to $15.13 billion in 2015.
Leading IT giants beginning to fiercely compete over this ET space is a clear market indicator. Zpryme Consulting has predicted that the smart appliance market is projected to grow from $3.06 billion in 2011 to $15.13 billion in 2015. Google is also launching LED lightbulbs in Decemeber that will work with their energy network and that can be controlled and monitored via any Android device. With smart-grid technology becoming scalable, as well as personal interactive technology, the possibilities for new products are nearly limitless.
Another perfect example of solutions in the ET market being taken to scalable entrepreneurial ventures is in the industry for all-electric vehicles. Better Place, which started out as “nothing more than a thought experiment” to design an all-electric ‘Car 2.0’ system convenient for 99% of the population to drive, as founder Shai Agassi explains, has turned into the fifth largest start-up in the world, and is now being implemented on five continents, with its first subscription consumer launch in Israel.
At no other time in our history, mainly due to the IT revolution, has there been the opportunity for prosperity for such a range of people. The scope and complexity that has to be dealt within the ET revolution dwarfs the internet bubble, but will provide opportunities that will be much larger and longer.
Philosophy Heading Forward
Where others wait due to a mismatch between aspirations and resources deemed “impossible,” entrepreneurs create and innovate.
If we can make the unflat world flatter by extending electricity to the 1.6 billion people who don’t have it, we can connect all those brains to the 99 percent [of knowledge] that everybody knows. ‘That is when you will have innovation everywhere” — Jeff Wacker, Futurist for Electronic Data Systems
Originally published at cleantechnica.com on October 11, 2011.