27 August 2009

A Year on the Path: Some thoughts on what I do next and what I am looking for

So it's been a year since I left the social venture capital organization Ashoka to embark on developing a business idea, which I've written about here and here on The Green Skeptic. The collapse of the market and downwardly spiraling oil prices conspired to make timing for that idea -- an alternative energy investing business -- um, to say the least, problematic.

As I've said before, I was too small to fail, hadn't taken anyone's money and hadn't hired anyone, so it was fairly easy to downshift and slow it down. The idea is still a good one, even with the SEC challenges raised early on by the venerable Steve Goodman and Morgan Lewis. But it is time for me to face reality: I'm not going to be able to pursue this right now.

So, I've spent the better part of this year consulting for various organizations and companies, co-founding the Mid-Atlantic's Renewable Energy Business Network chapter, having fun being a part of the StockTwits community as it builds and grows into a viable business, and advising and connecting people with great new ideas like GoodCompany Ventures, Radical Inclusion, and Humanity Calls. Along the way, I've spun out a few new ideas of my own, but haven't focused on one particular direction -- not yet.

I've even toyed with going back to my old, long-time employer The Nature Conservancy or joining its rival/partners WWF or Conservation International but have dragged my feet on that too.

The other day I had a pointed conversation with my leadership coach, Joni Daniels. If you don't know Joni or her work, you should, she is phenomenal. She's also tough on her clients who hem-and-haw and, well, drag their feet.

She's pushing me to put things in perspective, decide what's important to me and to decide what option makes the most sense to me in achieving my goals and what I want.

Throughout this year, I've also learned a lot about myself and what I want in a working environment. Here's the top five things I am looking for in what I do next, not necessarily in order of importance:

1.) A place where I am part of a results-oriented leadership/management team.
2.) A place where I can build a team of highly motivated talented people.
3.) An entrepreneurial enterprise with global impact.
4.) An enterprise with international reach/travel opportunities, especially in the developing world.
5.) A social business enterprise that is either for profit or at least not afraid of profit.

I'll be exploring this in several posts over the next week or so. Happy to have your thoughts on the matter.

25 August 2009

What if you had a blog vacation and nobody noticed?

People participating in summer luge as a form ...Image via Wikipedia

I realized that over the past couple of weeks I've been on an unintentional blog hiatus. Think of it as a summer vacation...

Sorry for the lack of posts, but business, travel, and general busy-ness have kept me away.

(But did anybody notice?)

Hope to resume posts shortly. Meanwhile, you can keep tabs of what I'm reading, writing, and doing via Twitter:


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13 August 2009

A Tale of Two Incubators, or Entrepreneurial Phun in Philly

Image representing DreamIt Ventures as depicte...Image via CrunchBase

I spent the day with a bunch of cool companies at two start-up incubators here in Philadelphia. Yes, that's right, Philadelphia, home of the original American entrepreneur Ben Franklin.

The first incubator, now in its second season, was DreamIt Ventures. Today was "Demo Day," where this year's cohort, including postling, parse.ly, and kidzillions presented to a group of investors. This was the culmination of their three-month business development program under the tutelage of mentors from the Greater Philadelphia start-up scene and guest speakers from around the country like Howard Lindzon and Brad Feld.

The second, was GoodCompany Ventures, the social enteprise incubator launched this year. Today's session at GoodCompany was a dress rehearsal for the entrepreneurs in advance of their own day of presentations to investors to be held next month. I was one of the judges working with two of the companies, BlackGold Biofuels and BLOX, to refine their pitch.

A fantastic group of companies from the region and outside participated in both programs this summer, proving once again that Philly is a good place to launch a start-up.

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11 August 2009

Why I like CREE to meet or exceed earnings: bright future for LEDs

I had a funny little exchange with a StockTwits friend about Cree (NASDAQ: CREE) a week or so ago. He and I both like the stock, but for different reasons:

I like that Cree is the market-leading innovator in energy-efficient, environmentally friendly LED lighting and innovations. They also develop semiconductor solutions for wireless and power applications.

I like the fact that they recently announced the first water-proof, 3-color LED for large displays. This will revolutionize outdoor ads, JumboTrons, and maybe even Times Square.

I also like their area and street lighting applications for which I see all sorts of uses with municipalities, campuses, and the like.

My friend "likes the price strength."

We don't disagree. I like the price strength too, and the moving averages have been trending higher for some time. But its the longer-term product strength, innovation, and product adoption that will make Cree a leader for some time to come.

Others seem to like Cree too: Merriman Curhan Ford recently upgraded Cree from Neutral to Buy, saying "the LED outlook is getting brighter."

Merriman Curhan commented that the company "recently raised its June quarter outlook and we believe the company could meet or exceed the high end of its recently revised guidance. LEDs are rapidly replacing CCFLs in TV backlighting and quickly gaining acceptance in the general lighting market that is benefiting Cree in both the near and long term."

They also think "Cree could exceed $1 billion revenue withing 2-3 years and thinks CREE should trade at 35-38x our FY11 EPS estimate of $1.12 for a $39-$43 price."

According to a report in Reuters, "the change was not enough to move the Zacks Consensus Estimate from its current level of 11 cents per share, it did result in a more bullish most accurate estimate of 14 cents per share."

There are others who think the stock may be overbought and that is something to keep an eye on. And the recent volatility in the stock may give some heartburn.

But, as Zacks pointed out, "projections for fiscal 2010 have gradually been rising, suggesting that guidance could be good. CREE has topped expectations twice and matched forecasts twice during the last 4 quarters."

Cree is reports today (Tuesday, Aug 11), after the close of trading. The stock was up in early trading this morning ahead of the earnings call.

(Disclosure: I hold a long position in CREE. This post is for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be investment advice nor an offer, or the solicitation of any offer, to buy or sell any securities.)

03 August 2009

KVA & Portable Light's Sheila Kennedy on Clean Energy Solutions

Back in March at the Aspen Environment Forum, I facilitated a panel called Energy Equity: Clean Energy for All, in which we discussed exciting new alternative energy innovations with the potential to change the lives of the "bottom billion" of the world's poor.

One of our panelists, Sheila Kennedy of KVA Kennedy & Violich Architects and the Portable Light Project, shared her designs for textiles with flexible solar materials and solid state lighting that enables people to create energy harvesting bags, blankets, and clothing using local materials and traditional weaving and sewing techniques in an open source model.

Tonight, Sheila will share her latest developments on the show "Brink," on CBS Science Channel.

"At the Aspen Forum, our discussions revolved around what we can do right now to rethink the delivery model for clean energy so it can become more widespread, accessible and enjoyable as a part of everyday life," Sheila wrote to me recently. "It's my hope that our designs can set a new direction for 'ready out of the box' clean energy products and building components that can drive the green economy —- in the developing world and right here at home."

KVA's work with energy harvesting textiles is being featured on a special episode of Brink on "Sustainable Living" tonight at 10:30 PM EST: "Brink"