8 Principles for Silicon Valley’s Role in the Post-Hydrocarbon Economy

Civilization is at a crossroads about the post-hydrocarbon economy. We have a unique window in the next 2 years during which every effort has 1,000x ROI that same effort 2+ years later. Here are 8 principles for Silicon Valley’s role in the Post-Hydrocarbon Economy:

  1. Climate change is an opportunity
    Elon Musk says “sustainability isn’t some silly hippy thing — it matters for everyone”. We see climate change as the biggest financial opportunity civilization has ever seen — to build new systems for food, energy, water, air, transportation, and manufacturing. A new civilization, the likes of which the world has never seen. We know that in the uncertainty lay immense challenges and enormous opportunities.
  2. A backdoor to civilization-scale
    Big corporations have the resources and infrastructure that make up our civilization. But they lack the innovative ideas and leadership. This is our opportunity to expedite a new world. What if we could truly pair the new ideas of tiny startups with the resources and infrastructure of big corporations.
  3. Right problem, Right Place
    We need to create opportunities for real world testing to bring in entrepreneurs around the world to the locale where the opportunity is most present – whether it’s food, energy, air, water, or manufacturing. For example, new clean manufacturing methods could be prototyped and tested in an industrial center like Shenzhen, China. A new agricultural startup could escape a coworking space in San Francisco and get their hands dirty in the fields alongside California’s farmers than being stuck in a coworking space in San Francisco.
  4. Do Good While Doing Good
    Our most valuable resources must be directed at our biggest challenges. Top tech, engineering, and science talent today lack opportunities to tackle world’s important problems. We believe that for significant civilization scale impact, the for-profit model must be present.
  5. It’s Already Happening
    There are already hundreds of entrepreneurs pursuing climate opportunities. We put together a database of 262 hot startup companies working on sustainable tech in just a few hours. Every few days we see articles about climate change on tech sites like Engadget and HackerNews. Connect the dots and we’ve got a trend.
  6. Startups first
    Startups represent a unique commitment to the future – quitting a job and leading a team into the unknown. Protect the ideas, strategy, and mission of a startup, while helping them to interface with the outside world. This is currently suboptimal. As my friend Sandro said, there are many dances between elephants and mice, and it is only the mice who ever get hurt.
  7. Lean Pilots
    Real-world testing can close the gap between a striving startup and corporate caution. Something something walk before you run. For example, we can’t have startups footing a $15k legal bill for engaging a corporate partner on a nebulous partnership that ends up going nowhere. That stuff hurts.
  8. Dreams + Discoveries = Inspiration
    Highlight the dreams and discoveries of innovators in the field to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs.

We seek technologies, partnerships, and business models that are past humanity’s horizons. Working with outliers from startups, governments, and corporations, we are building a toolbox around 6 core technologies:

  1. Food: Precision agriculture and freight farms to produce 2,000 calories anywhere in the world, dynamic time machines that can recreate the growing conditions of any time and place on earth
  2. Air and Water Engineering, including engineering filter mechanisms, Earth terraformation, bioengineering, and new currencies for pollutants
  3. Sustainable Transport on electric airplanes, cars, and freighters
  4. Sustainable Manufacturing – cradle to cradle manufacturing processes, logistics, autonomous factories
  5. Energy capture from the fusion reactor in the sky and next generation storage to make every joule count
  6. Energy consumption tech for living buildings, decentralized microgrids, and dynamic provisioning

P.S Would love your thoughts on this. Your help is welcomed!

Management Architecture of the Late Show with David Letterman

I always think the “face” of an organization runs everything and does everything. Like in my head Elon Musk is torquing tires on Teslas and Steve Jobs polished iPods. It’s a mistake, every org takes a team. I like hearing about how things really work.

I learned how The Late Show worked from a recent interview with David Letterman.
He had a team, of course. And that team ran The Late Show. He doesn’t come up with everything and says “go do that”.

Here’s his insight into 3 subsystems of the machine, writers, advertisers, and stars:

On writers:

 I don’t know about my writers’ room. I never went to the writers’ room, so I have no idea what went on there. I stayed away: “Just call me when you’re done.”

On advertisers:

I can remember having a conversation via the sales department about Tylenol, and we had Bill O’Reilly on the show, and we were talking about something in the news, not particularly unpleasant but just something in the news. Tylenol called up and said, “You know what? We’re just going to lay out tonight. We’ll be back.”

On Hollywood guests:

Well, at some point publicists took over the talk shows. They were the people that booked the guests, and they had six or seven guests, so you had to be awfully nice to Guest A if you wanted to get to Guest B or C. I was not aware that this was going on until people started saying, “So-and-so is not going to be back on the show if you don’t be nice to so-and-so.” And I said, “What do we care?” And they’d say, “Well, because they also manage so-and-so and so-and-so’s sister, and we want those people on the show.” I realized not early into it that we were a tool for the careers of other people, which mediates what you’re going to talk about

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscars 2016 Speech on Climate Change Turned My Life Upside Down

(Leo is on stage for a 2017 Oscars segment so I wanted to hit publish)

All my life I’ve been hearing about reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve been hearing about droughts and hurricanes on the news. I’ve been hearing about climate change and how important it was.

I was under the impression that the scientists and the governments of the world had this climate change thing pret-ty well taken care of. So I didn’t pay much attention to it.

Until last year when an actor named Leonardo DiCaprio, who had been trying to win an Oscar his entire career, got up on stage having finally won an Oscar.

Instead of talking about how wonderful it was to be in film, he felt so compelled to talk about his personal experiences witnessing the ravages of climate change as they were taking place in Patagonia, because they could not find snow to do their filming.

An actor got up and started talking about climate change. And that got me wondering.

I thought that this was taken care of. I thought we were going to be fine. And I realized maybe I hadn’t been paying enough attention. Maybe the scientists and the governments who I thought had a handle on this, well maybe they didn’t have a handle on it, maybe they needed help. I myself would wake up every day and work on biotechnology projects to enable other scientists. Maybe somehow I wasn’t clued in to what was going on.

So I looked into it, and now we’re here a year later. I have been so compelled by what I’ve found that I quit my job and started a company whose sole purpose is to enable other companies who have climate changing technologies that help halt climate change or help reverse climate change. My entire purpose is to help those companies get adopted at a massive scale so we can get to the place where we need to be.

So there’s this doom and gloom about climate change. That’s ok, but that’s not going to solve the problem. What is going to solve the problem is coming at this from an entrepreneurial, an innovative, and a business-minded, profit-centered point of view. Let’s enhance the scientific leadership, extend the government’s efforts, and cut a new path.

We need to be motivated to solve this thing instead of spanked into using less water, spanked into reducing our carbon footprints and driving less. The reality is people just aren’t going to do that. Humans don’t work that way.

So what can you do? You can prove out better solutions through technology. Solutions that are not only better options for individuals, but are better options for the planet – carbon neutral or carbon reversing because they’re easier, they’re better, they’re faster.

In the past year, I’ve talked with hundreds of people, leading technologists, economists, scientists and thinkers. I’m part of a team working on bringing new technologies to light, and have identified 4 key areas for climate change solutions: food, air, energy, and water. We’ve worked with one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies, aerospace companies, automotive companies, and connected with dozens of innovation labs and startups in Silicon Valley. Watch me.

If this interests you, please email me immediately with subject “Oscars 2016” to tito@impossiblelabs.io. Blank email is fine, or your thoughts.

(this post: many thanks to Dan Walsh who method-acted this whole post, Matt Inouye who provided structure, and Shova Ale Magar for listening and asking questions. And thanks to Jeff Mori for wanting to watch the 2016 Oscars, and Matt Walters for telling me I should write more)

How the Chemical Industry Joined the Fight Against Climate Change

companies including Honeywell and Chemours, a DuPont spinoff, were among the most active backers of a move away from a profitable chemical that has long been the foundation for the fast-growing air-conditioning and refrigeration business.

“They learned that without a rule change, their new products couldn’t compete,” said David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, based in New York. “They woke up and said, ‘The science is real.’”

The rest of the story from the New York Times

Thanks for sending, Katie Doherty!

Patagonia’s Sustainability Strategy: “Don’t Buy Our Products”


From the Harvard Business Review:

In 2005, Patagonia launched the Common Threads Recycling Program. The goal was to reduce the number of products Patagonia customers purchased through a two-fold effort.

The first part was to encourage customers to fix damaged clothing. Patagonia began publishing do-it-yourself repair guides to assist customers in repairing their clothing. To provide an alternative for customers who were unable or unwilling to repair their clothing themselves, Patagonia charged an affordable fee to have garments shipped to their repair facility.

The second aspect of the Common Threads program was to create a second-hand market for Patagonia garments that did not fit or that were no longer worn. Patagonia collaborated with eBay to develop a storefront and also created an online marketplace on its main website. Patagonia also offered to cover the shipping costs for garments that were beyond repair, which Patagonia would then break down and repurpose. To promote its Common Threads initiative, Patagonia created “Worn Wear,” a program that highlights thousands of videos and pictures from customers around the globe who treasure their worn, patched-up Patagonia garments with pride.  While most companies would encourage customers to repeat their purchases, Patagonia prides itself and its customers on waste-free purchases. Patagonia’s next step was to launch a campaign in 2011 to dissuade customers from purchasing clothing that they did not really need.

On the busiest weekend for retailers in the US, a 2011 New York Times ad from Patagonia featured a picture of one of Patagonia’s highest grossing fleece jackets below the words: “DON’T BUY THIS JACKET.” Underneath was a detailed description that defended Patagonia’s rationale based on the negative environmental impacts caused by consumerism. Despite Patagonia’s efforts, sales increased by approximately 30% in the nine months following the ad. The case concludes with the business dilemma facing Chouinard: What should Patagonia do?


2016 – Largest number of shareholder resolutions now concern social and environmental issues

Rethinking activist investors from the Harvard Business Review:

Ask someone to name the demands that activist hedge funds make of companies, and they’ll likely list corporate governance issues such as board changes and executive compensation, or perhaps some form of restructuring. In fact, the largest number of shareholder resolutions filed by investors — the method through which activists work — now concern social and environmental issues. This is a recent phenomenon, according to my research: The number of these resolutions has increased dramatically over the past five years. Political spending, climate change, diversity, and human rights are now some of the most frequent resolutions that investors file.