Archive for May, 2011

Trends in Data and Security Innovations

May 28, 2011

FountainBlue’s May 11 High Tech Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Trends in Storage and Security Innovations. The notes below are from the conversation with our two panels – see below for speaker list.

We were fortunate to have such a wide range of panelists looking through from different slices of the storage and security issues, and articulately sharing their direct experiences and perspectives as well as their thoughts on trends and directions. Some of the big-picture take-aways included:
• The genie is out of the bottle. It’s not a matter of whether you allow users within or outside a company to gather huge volumes of data, host it on a cloud, network devices and appliances, etc. It’s a matter of accepting that this is happening and will continue to happen at a more accelerated rate, and encouraging everyone to best manage accordingly by putting together processes and procedures, educating the users, and dealing with issues immediately as they arise.
• The cloud is here to stay, and will be more pervasive. Storage, hardware, software and other solutions will be better managed and more secure on the cloud, and the cloud will be an integral part of the evolution of technology. It is already a given, not a debate. The question is where will it go from here?
• Those who serve customers best and most efficiently will win. There are many factors leading to the proliferation of big data – from social media to the millennial generation to the predictive analysis needs of advertisers, to the number of devices per person etc. Those who don’t fight the data explosion reality, and work with it to better serve and protect users will continue to grow.
• It’s all about the user. You could build these great technology solutions, have the best plans, policies and mandates, have great laws with consequences, etc., but the human factor, the choices each individual user makes around storage and security will determine how secure and available her/his data, and that of the network is.
• Work with an IT team (as customers, partners or staff), who accepts the realities about data proliferation and the data-access and security needs of the user. Even though the network borders are essentially gone, and control is an illusion, the next generation IT directors will get a sense of their assets from a service perspective and understand that the basic network and application hygiene is even more important and foundational. They will work with you to build resilience inside your environment and educate your people.
• It will take a collaboration of government, corporations, users and customers to develop storage and security management standards and solutions which would address our customers’ need for data real-time and the security and privacy of these same customers.
There was a repeated theme about the huge volume of big data out there, and how it is tied to the need for both privacy and security. As FaceBook CEO Mark Zuckerman said, ‘one is just the other side of the coin for the other, you can’t have just one.’ So here are some suggestions from the panelists for proactively managing that balance:
• Accept that users will want to have freedom to do what they want with the tools that they want, within and outside work, and plan your storage and security optimization goals accordingly.
• Have standards and policies in place for what hardware and software is acceptable and track and monitor who is doing what within the network.
• Educate your users about ways they can potentially compromise your network or systems.
• Know what your assets are and what needs to be protected and set up systems and processes which would alert you quickly should these assets be in any way threatened and respond quickly to these alerts.
• Think not just that data *might* get onto the cloud, but that it will likely get there, whether or not corporate policies approve it. Work with your users to do it elegantly so you best manage risk, and best plan for scalability.
• People have already accepted that there are volumes of data of different formats which are difficult to process and analyze. The next story will be how fast can you get the data, and how much will it cost to get it? Those who can efficiently deliver this to the most niche customers will win.
• Work with the policies of each individual government, which has real borders, and work to develop international standards for data storage and security.

Here are some panelist thoughts on the huge opportunities ahead for managing storage and security.
• The rapid increase in big data leads to huge opportunities for those who can turn the data into actionable information which would help better serve niche customers.
• The sheer volume of devices out there and the volume of data generated from it will create a huge opportunity for data security, data management, cloud, device and other solutions.
• The types and numbers of viruses have risen exponentially in alignment with the volume of data. It has gone from the hacker-stage where someone creates viruses for personal gratification/fun/notoriety to computer-generated viruses with real revenue models. Therefore, there will be an ever-increasing need for solutions that would manage and minimize the risks of viruses, especially those which can go beyond signatures on individual desktops. These next-generation solutions may involve light-weight components and software with the heavy lifting done on the cloud rather than more traditionally on the local server.
• Understand not just the technology but also have the storage and security technology helps your customers meet their customers’ needs and fit within overall market trends.
• Speak in terms of the productivity of your employees. Storage and security issues can bring networks and companies to their needs, so speak specifically about how your company minimizes that risk.
• Identify a need and design your product specs based on that need and engage a customer base in creating and improving the solutions you offer to them.
• Seamlessly address storage and security issues with a clean user interface that makes users feel protected, within putting them through a gamut of validation and approval screens for things better done behind-the-scenes.

Below are some thoughts and questions for entrepreneurs in this space:
• Think of technology as a necessary safety belt to manage security, but don’t see it as the end-all solution, but how the customer/user leverages that technology will determine how useful it is.
• Communicate to customers, partners, and others based on real data and information, ROI and results.
• Partner with corporates who might be interested in your technology play, might want a longer-term strategic control point, or who might want to round-out portfolio. They are potential customers, investors, partners, channels or acquirers for you. Build your case, build your relationship, but persistent, charming, competent, connected etc., and also see how you can add value to their over value chain beyond what you do as a company, what your class of offerings are to extend to what your partners, customers and others can offer to the same relationship.
• Data might become more vertically focused with deeper knowledge of more niche customers. What are the implications on business models and solutions?
• There will be proliferation of public cloud, and also more private, and even hybrid clouds. Why would customers use each one, and how can you deliver efficient, individually-defined access to each real-time?
• Solve the identity challenge to maximize both the legitimate access of targeted information while thwarting the desire of others to compromise security and privacy.
• What are the next generation mobile devices, and the needs of users to have all their devices work together on a cloud network with full access, but only to those with permission?
• What is the next generation of analytics which looks beyond the surface connections between information that can connect classes of thoughts and data without analyzing deeply, and what are the implications if you could do a rapid-sort of data?
• How will storage and security solutions serve the needs of governments, security officers, secret service, etc.?
• What is the opportunity around authenticating and validating the claims of cloud service providers?
• Storage and security are recession-proof, you have to have it in all economic seasons! But during an uptick, you might think more about longer-term views. What are the implications for hot new solutions as the economy returns? Hint: think in terms of ROI and OPx (not just annually, but perhaps even monthly) rather than CAPx when selling to the customer.

The bottom line is that there will be opportunities where security and storage come together, where we could get access to the most relevant information real-time, without compromising our security or our privacy. The trick is what does that look like, and how will it better serve our customers?
Our corporate panel featured:
Facilitator Sheri Osborn, MineSeeker
Panelist Jay Chitnis, Director, Business Development & Alliances, Isilon Systems
Panelist Gerhard Eschelbeck, CTO, WebRoot
Panelist Nasrin Rezai, Senior Director, Information Security, Cisco
Panelist Prasenjit Sarkar, Research Staff Member and Master Inventor, IBM Almaden Research Center
Our entrepreneurial panel featured:
Facilitator Sandy Orlando, VP Marketing, IP Infusion
Panelist Tyler Bengston, Director of Product Management, IronKey (secure thumb drives)
Panelist Brian Bulkowski, CEO & Founder, Citrusleaf
Panelist Andrés Kohn, Vice President of Technology for Proofpoint (secure e-mailing and archiving)
Panelist Ryo Koyama, CEO, YOICS (remote computer and network management)

Please join us in thanking our speakers and our hosts at EMC.


Money and Relationships

May 25, 2011

Dear Linda,
I know that the economy stinks right now, and that my husband and I have it easier than most. However, our squabbling over money is driving us both over the edge. I’m more a spender, and he’s more a saver, but it generally works out after we talk it through. But lately we have to talk through what we do about everything around money. Is this normal? Any advice?

Dear She, I sympathize with your situation. It is stressful to have money woes, and to fear that you *may* have money woes, and also disconcerting to be watched closely, especially around money. Here are some suggestions on how to work with your husband to ease things up.
1. Come to general agreement on necessary and discretionary budgets based on current salary.
2. Agree on what you could do collectively or independently to increase overall salary, but make a plan based on what you’re making now. You may also elect to make plans for what you would do with more discretionary monies, once additional monies flow in.
3. Be fair and even generous in listening to your spouse and what’s important to him. And be clear and direct about what’s important to you. Don’t put his needs first, but don’t put your own first either.
4. With money and relationships, there is always a history. When working through what you want to do now, its normal to have old upsets and feelings come up. Listen to yourself and your spouse and let the old issues come out. Current agreements should support both parties and help everyone put past issues in the past.
5. This conversation may lead you to realize that you are not living within your means, going into debt for expenses you may or may not need. If this is the case, accept it and work with it. Find a way to increase income and decrease outgo. It might take some belt tightening or even some drastic measures to correct things, but better to realize and deal with the problem than to bury it and act like nothing is wrong, until money squabbles arise.
3. Sometimes an object or possession holds charged emotions for one party or the other. This may or may not arise with the conversations and with reflections, but if it does, deal with it head-on and work together to resolve the issue.
4. If you have been with your spouse a long time, you might find that one party or the other has changed his or her perspective around money. A spender might become more of a saver going into middle years, for example. So the other party might be expecting past perspectives and behaviors and feel surprised and even betrayed by the change in outlook and behavior.
5. Share money earning or spending goal together, and build a new collaborative bond around money.
6. Celebrate successful communications and ongoing achievements, not necessarily in an expensive way, but in a meaningful way so that you feel in alignment with your spouse on money goals.
7. The big picture is that money impacts our view of ourselves, and how we see our lives. Working with the spouse to get on the same page around money is critical to your personal health, that of your spouse, and that of your relationship overall. So find a way to be fair to both parties around all money issues.

This is a difficult and ongoing issue for many relationships. I hope that the advice above helps you with yours.

This is a letter on Money and Relationships, an Excerpt from Chapter Three: Money Issues, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book

Embracing Diversity, an Excerpt from Chapter Eight: A Cow’s Eye View

May 18, 2011

Dear Linda,
I consider myself a fairly open-minded, receptive person, and find my comfort zone really being stretched in my new role as project manager with international teams. I keep hearing that voice in my head judging my team mates for the choices they are making (mostly out of work) and the other-voice-in-my-head saying that having a range of opinions, perspectives and outlooks is important for any team. Do you have any suggestions on how to better embrace diversity, and where to draw the line?
She who wants diversity, but not sure how much

Dear She,
It’s really great to be self-aware enough to acknowledge these conflicting viewpoints. Here are some ideas for helping you think through your stand on diversity.
1. Know your own judgments and buttons. You are human and for whatever reason, some things will bother you more than others, so accept and work with that.
2. Build relationships with all team members that extend beyond the project. Meet with them in person if possible, or over video or over the phone.
3. Choose to work with people you successfully worked with in the past.
4. Decide what doesn’t matter and what actually impacts the quality and timeliness of the work to be delivered.
5. Manage only behaviors which impact the work delivered.
6. Leverage cultural differences to help team members better deliver *and* better support others.
7. Manage time differences fairly so that everyone is equally accommodating and no one feels more or less important.
8. Notice when you experience an emotional response to a team members behavior and understand why you are responding in this way, and then why they are responding this way.
9. Know when it’s not about embracing diversity, and make stand for embracing competence. Sometimes people use their differences to distract from incompetence, so . . .
10. Keep open minded about how teams do their work, and focused on moving the needle forward.
Best of luck with this challenging task!

This letter on Embracing Diversity is an Excerpt from Chapter Eight: A Cow’s Eye View, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book.

The Future of Pharma

May 17, 2011

FountainBlue’s May 16 Life Science Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Technology Acceleration, Globalization Pressures and the Future of Pharma and featured:
Facilitator William Wright, VP of Operations and Business Development – Bay Area, California MedTech LLC
Panelist Diane Oliver, Research Database Strategist at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research
Presenting Entrepreneur Matthew Cooper, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, Syapse
Presenting Entrepreneur Dave Hodgson, Chief Technology Officer, Tethys
Presenting Entrepreneur Aaron Solomon, Complete Genomics
Presenting Entrepreneur Robert Wotring, Co-founder at Innovative Clinical Financing (ICF) and Program Director and Co-founder at Latin American Clinical Research Sites

The panelists emphasized throughout the discussion that successful pharma solutions will increasingly rely on integrating software and developing personalized solutions for patients cost-effectively. With the advancement of technology and a better understanding of the human genome as well as the decades of data collected from various sources on patient reaction to specific treatments, it is becoming more realistic to integrate software solutions to better research and understand disease progression, mechanisms of action for drugs, and even how specific subsets of a patient population respond to treatments. Whereas there is a long circuitous path in front of us before we can cost-effectively develop customized treatments for specific ailments, the software integration option will become increasingly superior to the more blanket treatment of diseases and trial and error R&D practices which have created the blockbuster drugs of the past, and we will be more computer-driven, than bench-and-lab driven for future innovations in this space.
Another theme emphasized is that generated data is important, but much more important are the implications of the data for serving patient needs. Early genomics projects failed because of the emphasis on understanding and mapping the human genome, rather than focusing on how we can better treat people, how diseases impact people, and how treatments help specific types of patients.
Funding for pharma solutions is an issue for early stage and even large corporate ventures. It takes far too much money, and far too much time to create a pharma solution that is approved, manufactured and brought to market, and the 5-10% success rate in itself, coupled with the large investment dollars required has made investors wary at best. Plus investors today need to both understand the IT/software side of the business *and* the drug/pharma side of the business and have the appetite to invest, a rare combination indeed. And those who *do* understand both side might feel burned by their investment in genomics which focused more than understanding the human genome than on treating patients, and are therefore reticent to invest.

But there is hope for innovating pharma solutions:
• There will always be a market and a need as people will develop diseases and need treatment.
• Many affluent potential investors may be passionate about curing specific diseases overall, or providing treatments for disease victims for personal reasons.
• Patents will expire for many blockbuster drugs, and generics will go on the market.
• Partnerships between entrepreneurs, academics, government and corporates will help accelerate R&D.
• Progressive advancements in technology is better enabling entrepreneurs to succeed.

Our panelists emphasized specific pharma entrepreneurial opportunities ahead:
• Providing outsourced data management solutions will help researchers and entrepreneurs better get access to and understand diseases and patient populations and how specific types of patients will respond to treatments. Similarly, many patients would like to better understand their genome and their health and their risks for specific diseases, so they may pay for personalized reports about their health.
• Gamafication and other educational strategies will become popular as patients and caretakers better understand diseases, treatments, causes and prevention.
• Outsourcing specific elements of the pharma development process, like clinical trials or product development, will help minimize the costs and time needed to develop and test new drugs.
• With the expiration of drugs, there will be opportunities for manufacturing and distributing drugs and even leveraging drugs for similar other purposes or different markets.
• There is a plethora of drugs throughout the drug approval chain which got rejected for various reasons which may be adapted to specific other purposes or to niche patient populations.

Additional remarks emphasized the strengths of innovating in the Silicon Valley. With the convergence of software and pharma solutions, the Silicon Valley is well positioned to succeed and lead – because of its dominance in IT, networking and software, because of the entrepreneurial spirit of its diverse people with immense creativity and initiative, because of all the necessary infrastructure of support – from networks to service providers to investors, because of the collaboration between corporations, entrepreneurs, investors and academics, etc. In addition, talented executives and innovators and entrepreneurs are arriving in the valley and choosing to stay because of the weather and the overall climate supporting innovation. To experience and appreciate the Silicon Valley Edge, think about the conversations you might hear at a coffee shop here, as compared to anywhere else in the world, and consider where else in the world you might find attending Little League game a great networking opportunity.

In the end, Pharma 1.0 relied on the old blockbuster model, when the implied one-size-treatment-for-all model is now outdated. Pharma 2.0 will now emphasize more software-driven diversified, cost efficient solutions for specific diseases and niche markets, leveraging outsourcing and reaching beyond patient treatment to address animal health, generics and nutragenics. Successful companies in this sector will emerge with Pharma 3.0 where treatments will be succeeding or failing based on individual, personalized outcomes, ensuring that the drug works – with minimal side effects.

Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors

May 17, 2011

FountainBlue’s When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series, on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors, featuring:
Facilitator Renee Remy, Dovetail Consulting
Panelist Barbara Clayton, Senior Manager, Product Lifecycle, eBay
Panelist Carol Evanoff, former Director, Lockheed Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific
Panelist Stefi Ganesan, Marketing Program Manager, CDO, Cisco
Panelist Sara Hepner, Sr. Direct Worldwide Support Sales at IIG, a Division of EMC
Panelist Maria Olson, SAP

Please join us in thanking our hosts at EMC for graciously hosting us at their facilities and for their ongoing support of our program and the series. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists had extensive knowledge and experience in a range of companies, in a variety of roles, and represent decades of experience working with men and with women in the high tech workplace. They have seen changes inside and outside their organizations and have each leveraged mentorship to best grow and learn, both personally and professionally, while helping others within and outside the organizations to do the same.
They define mentorship as formal or informal opportunities to consciously or unconsciously support each other in our career and personal goals. One of the ways to feel the benefits of mentorship is to experience what it is like *without* a mentor, or also to have multiple mentors, and understand how each of them help you meet your personal and professional objectives. There may be many different kinds of mentors – both internal to or external from your organization, and each may serve multiple roles: from the sponsor mentor who can help you navigate the politics and coach you on your career path, opening positions for you, to the role mentor who can support you with you in navigating day-to-day personal and professional challenges, to the integral, work-life mentor, who will help you make a stand for *both* your personally and professional goals, to the ‘Eeyore’ mentor, who serves as devil’s advocate and helps you think through options at all levels, particularly spelling out the risks.
Another way to look at mentorship is to compare it to other similar roles.
• Unlike coaching, mentorship focuses on leveraging your own strengths to better produce results, while a coach might more likely help you develop weaknesses.
• Sponsor-mentors were mentioned above, but not all sponsors are mentors. There are sponsors within an organization who can advocate for you, and position you for the next position within your organization, or even create one on your behalf without being your mentor.
• Your boss may mentor you sometimes on some things, but they are not your mentor. They are also in a unique position to also be your boss and are in charge of official evaluations and make decisions on salary increases, bonuses, vacations, etc
• Your mentor is not your friend. They are usually very busy and accomplished people and you shouldn’t go to them to chit chat, like you might do with a good friend.
Below is some advice offered by our panelists on how to make the best of a mentor-mentee relationship:
• Be respectful of their time and know how you want to use your time together, based on specific goals and objectives.
• Know why you have each mentor and what value you hope the relationship will provide for both sides.
• Work with your mentor to be clear on objectives, expectations and boundaries, and direct in communicating this to others around so, so that others can help you make it happen.
• Have a somewhat formal mentorship relationship, where you meet regularly and know what your goals are. Make the meeting process clear and easy so that it’s *easy and fun* to make the time to help you. This means knowing when, where, why you meet and reliably being there to meet.
• Be direct in asking for support, and strategic on who you ask for mentorship support from and why.
• Select mentors who can help you expand your perspective, see things from a new light, especially if they see the other side of the story and can help you resolve a conflict.
• Remember that mentors also benefit from a mentee-mentor relationship, gaining insights about how others think, benefiting from the advice they are offering to you, being energized from your ideas and perspectives and challenges.
• In selecting a mentor, make sure that there is good chemistry and clear objectives so you know why you are making a mentor choice.
• When considering the gender of a mentor, our panelists commented that women more passionate, and men more connected and factor this in when making a mentor decision.
• Take the guidance and support you receive from mentors with a grain of salt. Listen to your gut. Ultimately *you* are in charge of your choices. And if you find that your mentor does not have your best interest in mind, graciously scale back or sever the ties.
Here are some key learnings our panelists got from *their* mentors:
• Never run from a problem, while always gravitating to an opportunity.
• Relationships are always about trust.
• Leverage mentors to help you document your career and your strengths and strategize on how best to leverage your strengths in achieving career objectives.
• Be direct in all communication, especially if it’s something difficult to say.
• Don’t be too eager to speak up in a room, but fold in the dynamics, perspectives and talents of others and engage all in solving a problem. Give others the credit without being overly modest.
Our panelists remarked on the qualities of the best mentors:
• They believe in your skills when you don’t, encourage you to take risks when you don’t want to, and in general, help you feel uncomfortable enough so that you’re motivated to grow.
• They help you know what you don’t know and make a plan on what to do about it.
• They help you know *who* you know, and *whom* you should know in order to meet your objectives, and make introductions accordingly.
• They help you diversify what you’re doing and help you to expand your skills and capabilities and perspective.
• They help you work smarter, leveraging your strengths, not work harder, longer hours.
• They help you think through and act on your priorities in life and in work, and make choices to reflect your own values and priorities.
• They will have your back, protecting and supporting you while encouraging you to think and act outside your comfort zone.
• They see the promise you in – your skills, your courage, your style – and can be ongoing advocates for you throughout your career.
• They help you see yourself as others see you, the whole you, the good with the bad, from the resume to demeanor and appearance to brand.

In the end, the panelists encouraged both mentors and mentees to take responsibility for ensuring that the relationship continues to add value, and move the needle toward a pre-defined objective, in a way that respects everyone’s time and energy. They commented that the best company’s know the benefits of mentorship and its impact on the retention and promotion of high-performing employees and support both staff and volunteers in building and growing mentorship programs within an organization.

Clarity of Purpose: Corporate Strategy

May 12, 2011

This is an excerpt from our upcoming Ask Linda eBook, on Corporate Strategy part of Chapter Seven: Clarity of Purpose

Dear Linda,
I’m the new product manager for a promising division of a prominent technology company in Silicon Valley. I am thriving in my new role and really enjoying the experience for the most part. However, every once in a while, there’s a conflict between what my group and product team are doing and the overall direction of the company. Its not serious, but it does make me wonder about the stability of the product team and the direction of the company. any thoughts?
She who is looking for alignment.

Dear She, congratulations on your new role, and glad that you are enjoying it. It’s good to recognize that there is a misalignment between the corporate strategy and that of your group. Here are some ideas on what you can do about it:

1. Decide why you chose this company and this product and how its objectives aligns with what you want to do, where you want the product to go.
2. Consider how what you want, what the product teams mandate is, and the overall corporate goals are in alignment – at the moment, the overall trends, and where it is heading.
3. Know your walking point – when your product or company strategy is to far from your own, when the distance between the product and company objectives are too great. Be prepared to walk under those circumstances, or just to stay the course, knowing that the situation is less than ideal and keeping a lookout for what’s next.
4. If you are invested in the company and product team, decide at what point you should approach someone about the perceived lack of alignment between the overall corporate strategy and your product team objectives.
5. Then work out the strategy for doing so – the who, how, why, when, what.
6. Your strategy should be collaborative between groups, and engage at all levels. It should have a win-for-all objective.
7. Your strategy and message will not likely be well received, so you must be tough, resilient and persistent. Most of all, you should anticipate who might not like what the message is and why.
8. You should also listen deeply and well to how others are responding and what their motivations are for this response and adjust your strategy accordingly.
9. Recruit executive sponsors and outside partners who have vested interest in this alignment.
10. Measure and communicate results and evolve plans for building alignment between your product team and corporate strategy.

Best of luck with this challenging but essential task!

Mending Fences with Alliance Partners

May 4, 2011

Dear Linda,
I have new high-profile job in strategic alliances and my charter is to build and strengthen an alliance with a former (and current) competitor in specific niche areas. We have had a relationship with this company for years, and it has not always gone well, so it has been difficult to launch new relationships and programs. Do you have any suggestions on how best to do this?
Dear She, it sounds like you have a very tough and very important job. I hope that the advice below helps you bridge the two sides.
1. Kudos to your company for hiring you and making a commitment to mend fences and collaborate with a partner who is also a competitor. This type of leadership and thinking will become more prevalent in the emerging economy. Find out who from the management team is behind it and build a relationship with him or her to ensure that you deliver what they have in mind, and understand why there is enough interest to put money and people behind it.
2. Along a similar vein, why is this important to the management team from the other side?
3. Research the history of the relationship – what went right, what didn’t go so well, what’s broken now, what commitments are outstanding, etc 4. If you can fix something that’s broken, try to do so. If you can’t, at least be transparent and talk about it and reach an agreement.
4. Bring input and suggestions from these conversations to the stakeholders at all levels on your side or better yet, both sides.
5. Either start with a clean slate or build upon progress already made and get consensus first internally and then collaboratively with your peers on the other side.
6. Make sure that all parties affected are part of the communication thread and are empowered to give feedback and suggestions and input.
7. Communicate directly and transparently to all parties, especially when there is turmoil.
8. It’s difficult to get people to get along when they are not so inclined. They may go through the motions for awhile, but unless there is mutual respect and trust, it’s nearly impossible to keep people on the same page, marching toward the same objectives. So build relationships and consider making team changes if relationships aren’t destined to gel.
9. Because it’s a difficult task and stakes are likely high, it the grounding and support you need to stay focused, to not take things personally, and keep things in perspective.
10. On the up-side, if you can do this well, you would be well-positioned to do similar and even more challenging leadership and collaboration tasks, something certain to help you rise up the corporate ladder.
Best of luck in mending those fences!

Renewable Energy Generation: Breakthroughs and Challenges

May 3, 2011

FountainBlue’s May 2 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Renewable Energy Generation: Breakthroughs and Challenges
Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists had extensive knowledge and experience in the renewable energy space over the past two decades, and have witnessed in and participated in the emergence of a new industry. They concur that as the industry is maturing, more experienced, knowledgeable and connected people are in leadership positions which can help drive and grow the industry overall.
This network of experienced leaders understand the technology, infrastructure, utility, policy and other challenges inherent in the industry, and are forging alliances and partnerships with the many stakeholders involved in the industry. This is driven in part by increasing oil prices, and the growing public demand for renewable energy options. Below is a list of stakeholders and some of the factors which are driving their behavior around the adoption and growth of renewable energy.
• Policymakers are generally not business people or technologists, and the best ones seek knowledge and education to best support this emerging industry.
• Utilities are invested in adopting renewable energy, to meet the policy standards, however infrastructure challenges make it difficult to include renewable energy options at rates similar to standard oil, coal and gas options and policy mandates do not specify how the standards can be met, and other policies actually make it *more* difficult to meet the mandate.
• The media has reported on our track record over the last decade or two has been mixed at best, due to some overinvestment in technologies providing incremental rather than disruptive, game-changing improvements, and high-profile examples of large-investment companies who had executed poorly and generated poor returns and sometimes failed companies. Thus, public opinion around renewables has been much less enthusiastic.
• Because of the investment track record over the past two decades, investors today are funding shorter term, less capital-intensive, more mature companies rather than early-stage renewable companies.
• Customers are educated enough to want more sustainable energy choices, but not yet passionate enough to select renewable energy options which are measurably more expensive than standard energy options. So the technology and business model challenge is to provide customers options which meet both requirements.
Despite the challenges facing stakeholders listed above, there are also huge opportunities ahead.
• Large companies as varied as technology companies like Google, the large oil and gas companies, large chemical companies like DOW, and other companies are beginning to see opportunities in renewable energies. Some of them are beginning to invest in research, in the interest of generating 3-5x returns, with the potential increasing both their market share and their corporate image.
• Corporations, research institutions, academics, entrepreneurs and others are forging technology innovations in all renewable sectors. In addition, technologies launched even in the 70s and 80s are more attractive today because of increasing oil prices and because of software, networking and other innovations which make the technology option more viable.
• Customers in emerging countries such as China, Brazil and India are becoming increasingly affluent, which is driving the demand for more energy, delivered more cost-effectively. This ready-made market is incentivizing collaboration and innovation amongst the stakeholders, and the market will only grow from here.
There were conversations around policy and international markets throughout the panel discussion. The panelists remarked that China is moving faster in the renewable space as their hyper-adaptive culture and command-and-control leadership lends itself more to embracing the opportunities in the renewables space than the US democratic capitalism which welcomes debate across stakeholders with a wide range of objectives and a lot of money and power at stake. Because of their manufacturing and operational expertise, and their willingness to undercut costs, the Chinese are increasing dominating international markets in manufacturing of solar panel and wind turbines. Because there is less existing infrastructure, it is less challenging to integrate renewable energy options into the grid. And with China’s dominance in manufacturing and distributing solar panel and wind turbine parts, they are also becoming experts at manufacturing similar parts for similar and other purposes, providing them with more market opportunity. There was also a brief discussion about Europe and how Europeans overall are more in alignment in support of renewable energy adoption, and a brief remark that emerging companies have more un-claimed land which may be repurposed for energy generation.
Below is advice offered by the panelists to entrepreneurs in this space:
• Although the focus is on innovative, game-changing technology, it’s always about the people and whether they have the experience, ability, fortitude and attitude to make it happen. So act like you have the train on track, and show measurable results on milestones which make sense.
• Seek proven technology innovations and create and implement a business model which would generate returns while serving the market.
• Design your solution to scale cost-effectively.
• Large companies are investing in R&D and approaching renewables from many directions – from chemicals to oil and gas to software and sensors and algae. Seek a potential corporate partner and alliance which would invest in your technology/idea/research.
• Solve a renewables integration problem, including storage, smart grid, monitoring and sensing, distribution, etc
• Look beyond wind and solar and consider geothermal and biofuels and wave technology, provided they are solutions that can be capital efficient leveraging tested technology.
In the end, remember that the renewables industry is still in its infancy. Work with all stakeholders to grow the industry, and have the patience and fortitude to invest in its success as the market for renewable energy is huge, and will only get bigger.

Thank you to our speakers for their input and comments:
Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
Panelist Ann C. Chan, Member, Board of Directors, Carpe Diem West, founder and former director, Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP)
Panelist Annie Hazlehurst, Associate, DFJ
Panelist Jim Hurd, Director, Molecular Business Consultants, VP for Strategic Alliances, GIVE Eco Energy
Panelist Roy Kornbluh, Principal Research Engineer, Engineering R&D Division, SRI International
Presenting Entrepreneur Eric Cherniss, White Hat Renewables
Presenting Entrepreneur Geoff Sharples, Clear Path Energy

Please also join us in thanking our hosts at PARC for graciously hosting us at their facilities and to our sponsors at KPMG for their ongoing support of our program and the series.