Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Green Industry Needs Value, Now

Green Industry Needs Value, Now

Summary: Taking an example from my business experience I realize what the Green Industry lacks and needs, value right now.

Once upon a time, about one year ago I did what I usually do and picked up a project I probably didn't have time for, and as usual it profoundly changed my view on things. One year ago I embarked on the journey to start up a business. As part of the first ever UCSC Business Plan Competition my team of friends tried to develop a concept that would win us that $12,000 grand prize. Fresh off the plane from my Denmark trip for renewable energy, I immediately cast my vote for the green industry.* Months of hard work, presentations, and meetings provided me with an incredible new avenue to do good and of course how to make money.

My understanding of renewable energy is that currently it is not very profitable. A friend of mine that worked in solar panel installation liked to chime that one customer has close to a $0 bill for electricity. The customer also has acres of land, a production line, and payed thousands of dollars. Although, at this time, I strongly discourage the individual home owner from installing solar panel arrays, I support it for industrial use as the profits of renewable energy can be substantial.

Before the business plan competition I never looked at the world in terms of dollars and cents. To me you put up solar panels because it was good for the environment, even if it the idea wasn't necessarily good for your pocket. After many seminars, podcasts, and lectures I came to two quotes that define my business education: "You need money to make money" and "You can't do anything without money." Money, money, money, moneeey! To those that never tried to start their own business, this may sound like greed, but it's actually really logical and even rooted in human evolution. The question at the bottom line becomes: "What's in it for me?" Why should a business adopt renewable energy if oil is far (far and away) more cheaper?

Values. To make money you need to provide value. Guy Kawasaki the business start up guru puts this as his first point in the Art of the Start: Make meaning. To make money you need to make meaning for the world and provide value, value and values that customers can rely on. I worked briefly for a former CEO and business owner of a biotech that sold his holdings to start up an entertainment business. At first hearing I scoffed at the idea because helping find a cure to cancer is far better a value than trying to make someone laugh. Not everyone may support asthma research, especially if you're perfectly healthy because there would be no need. Everyone could, however, use a good laugh and would pay good money if the laughing was hard enough. It could be that the owner was really taking a detour to raise funds for more noble purposes. He provided a value that rallied more supporters and thus more money. More importantly he provided a value, comedy, that could be used here and now. The lesson for the green industry is it needs to provide value for the here and now.

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