Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kicking the Habit

One of my passions for the past couple of years has been the translation of Sustainability principles into bottom line profits.

To this end, I am an active CleanTech Advisor at the MaRS Discovery District and have been a lecture leader at Shulich, Sheridan, McMaster, University of Toronto - Mississauga and The Directors College on such topics as Climate Change, Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Recently, Tom Rand the CleanTech Practice Lead at MaRS released his long awaited book: Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit- 10 Clean Technologies to Save Our World - my copy arrived on Monday. As I did a quick scan of its content, I was reminded of one of the famous Seinfeld episodes featuring Cosmo Kramer and his "Coffee Table book about Coffee Table Books" . When on Regis and Kathie Lee, Kramer demonstrates that the book is so practical that its cover "actually converts into a Coffee Table itself". As my friend Sbrolla might highlight I am not comparing Tom Rand to Kramer by any means(!). I am simply underscoring that this book is one of the "more practical" purchases that you could make. It walks us through the 10 technologies that will allow us to kick the fossil fuel habit. These include: Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Biofuels, Hydropower, Ocean, Smart Buildings, Efficiency & Conservation, Transportation and the Energy Internet.

I found it 1) ENGAGING - Tom does a great in keeping it upbeat and ensures that it has element's of his keen wit; 2) INFORMATIVE - the text walks us through the basics, issues and opportunities associated with each technology; 3) TECHNICAL - Simple diagrams and photos take the complicated technology and make it easy to understand, 4) LOCAL CONTENT - lots of references to Canadian technology and even some Ontario based companies; 5)PROVOKING - gets you thinking about having a Trillion dollars to spend and what the impact would be of this money, 6) HOT TOPICS - in addition to the 10 technologies, Tom tackles Climate Change, Nuclear, Carbon, Hydrogen and Peak Oil; 7) VISUAL - the photo's are stunning and reinforce the fact that Windmills and Solar arrays are simply Majestic.

Overall a quick, visual and information book that deserves the read and an ultimate place your coffee table. As a Science, Sustainability and Academic Guy, this is Great work Tom!

Let's hope you don't follow Kramer's lead and spill the coffee all over the book when you get a chance to be on Regis.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Entrepreneural Gold Medals

I had the pleasure of being at the 2010 Olympics for the Gold Medal action of the final week. We witnessed first hand the power of our Hockey, Curling, Freestyle Skiing and Sliding teams in serious competitive action. What a complete and fulfilling experience. This is something that needs to be added to any "Bucket List".

As the Entrepreneur's Entrepreneur, I am always thinking about how we can "Accelerate the Path to Commercialization" for Ontario's technology companies. As I watched the teams progress, I wondered about the profiles and journey of our medalists. Are there any key learning from their profile that could be applied to help support our early stage Companies?

With the support Shantanu our co-op student at the RIC Centre (, we pulled the profiles of our Gold Medal winners and started to do some analysis.

Shantanu researched the early Gold Medalists including:
Maelle Ricker (Snowboard Cross) - a story about attending her first Olympics in Nagano in 1998, missing the Salt Lake games due to injury, having 8 knee surgery, placing 4th in Turin and subsequently finishing up the year on the top of World Cup standings just prior to Vancouver.
Christine Nesbitt (Speed Skating) - placing a disappointing 14th at Turin in her winter Olympics debut Christine vowed to remember what "losing was all about". She turned up her training and unlike many Athletes decided not to "save" herself for the Olympics - "fighting" and pushing her "mental toughness" to a new level.
Jon Montgomery (Skeleton) - a flamboyant competitor who was a crowd favourite in Whistler Village as he auctioned off a half pitcher of "golden beer". Jon was quoted as saying: "I'd give my right eye to be able to represent Canada at something. I don't really care what it is — tiddlywinks, volleyball. As long as it's something."
Alexandre Bilodeau (Moguls) - calls his older brother -Frederic his inspiration. Alexandre burst onto the World Cup scene as a wide-eyed 18-year-old, capturing FIS rookie-of-the-year honours in 2005-06. He felt "stung" by an 11th-place finish at the Torino Olympics in 2006.

Shantanu also analysed the backgrounds of the early Silver medalists including Kristina Groves (Speed Skating), Marianne St-Gelais (Speed Skating), Mike Robertson (Snowboard Cross) and Jennifer Heil (Moguls). By the middle of the week the pattern was pretty clear and the Canadian Medals were starting to show up on the podium with significant regularity. Curling and Hockey were also just around the corner!

The patterns that emerged were very powerful and have a significant parallel for our early stage Entrepreneurs. They include:
  1. Determination to Win from an early age. Many say that Entrepreneurs are born with their desire to Build, Create and Innovate.
  2. Love for their sport. Without Passion in your idea, venture or team you will not succeed.
  3. Inspiration from Coaches and Family. Family and Friends, Boards of Advisers and Board of Directors are important tools in accelerating venture success.
  4. Disappointments at earlier events and a thirst to prove themselves in Canada. A Key trait of any Entrepreneur is their resolve to achieve in spite of the odds.

Congratulations to all of our Athletics at this year's Vancouver Olympics. I know that you will be an inspiration to many of our Ontario based companies who are driving toward the Commercialization Finish Line.