Dinner with an energy entrepreneur

Can Boulderites help drive a migration to peacetime industries?

| Jun 23, 2010

I had dinner the other night with a man who stepped into the role as CEO for a new software company and then drove it from zero to five billion in 18 months.

The company’s venture capitalists wanted to grow it to $15 billion. The CEO ignored their advice and sold it for five. A few months later, the stock market took a nose-dive and the company dropped with it. How did he know it was time to sell? As he put it, “My business school professor once told me that the job of the CEO is to grow a company and then know when to sell it.

That was 10 years ago. President Obama should heed this advice. As Commander-in-Chief of a vast war industry and U.S. military troops, he should confirm that our $1 trillion wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end by July 2011.

His decision has just been made easier by Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s announcement that Japan — not the U.S. – will gain access to mining his country’s vast mineral deposits. Things will only get uglier in Afghanistan, as greed moves out in the open, to the frontlines.

Back home in the U.S., it’s time to begin the conversion of war industries to peacetime industries. Mississippi Republican governor Haley Barbour is short-sighted, when he laments that the temporary moratorium on offshore oil drilling in the Gulf “is worse” than the British Petroleum oil spill.

What if, instead of offshore oil rigs, the Gulf of Mexico becomes home to a network of off shore WIND energy turbines and ocean-wave technology? Gulf Coast workers who have lost jobs due to the BP oil spill could then don hazardous materials suits and install this green, futuristic technology instead.

Emerging ocean wave technology that generates electricity from the constant rise and fall of waves, along with wind turbines and towers, could provide electricity 24/7 and endless clean tech jobs for workers in the cities and states that ring the Gulf.

One person who sees a future beyond petroleum is Sandy Butterfield, who formerly headed up wind energy technologies at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Sandy, who has just launched a cutting edge wind technology company called Boulder Wind Power, was also at last week’s dinner party.

As he and his wife Anne said good night, he offered a parting shot to the CEO. “I’m
going to grow my company to $5 billion in only 15 months.”

Hearing this, the CEO shook his fist in the air, as if to punch a hole in the sky. “How dare you break my record,” he shouted, then broke out in a big laugh.

Could laughter and friendly competition provide the seedbed for the next generation of entrepreneurs?

The idea of setting up new businesses in an atmosphere of friendly competition…at desks that face each other, is the inspiration of Thomas Frey, Senior Futurist at the DaVinci Institute. Frey is also Google’s top rated futurist speaker. In a future column, I’ll describe the daily life of these young “hatchlings” who are each growing small businesses in The Vault, a building that once housed a now defunct BIG bank.

Alexia’s new book, Parkinomics, is an Amazon business and motivational bestseller. Called a “Job Hunter’s Boot Camp in a Book,”‘ it focuses on careers in the New Economy.

This article also appeared on Alexia’s blog on Huffington Post.