VentureBeat just announced the finalists for their GreenBeat 2010 Innovation Competition, its second annual event showcasing the freshest ideas and most promising business models involving smart grid technologies.
The finalists will be presenting at the GreenBeat 2010 Conference, to be held at Stanford University on November 3rd & 4th [Ed note: 3p readers get 30% off, see our events list] and the opportunity to launch at DEMO in 2011. Finalists were selected based on their ability to address the following goals:
- Decarbonize the grid
- Transmit data alongside power
- Drive increased efficiency and conservation of power
We don’t normally write about traditional tech companies such as those that launch out of Y Combinator, a seed stage accelerator program that funds and helps entrepreneurs launch web companies. But one recent Y Combinator (YC) company showed up on our radar and there is a great story behind it that can’t be found on its website. ReadyForZero, a site aimed at solving a social problem, is getting some real buzz as a result of the potential for impact that its full-on assault could have on the widespread problem that is credit card debt.
ReadyForZero began with the intention to solve a mostly technical problem. After all, Co-founder Rod Ebrahimi (pictured standing) started young (before finishing his degree) in Silicon Valley building web infrastructure (think web data server centers, pagers going off all hours of the day) at a company started by former Netscape executives. And his Co-founder, Ignacio Thayer (pictured sitting), was enrolled in a PhD program at Stanford for his third computer science degree, after having left Google. Rod and Ignacio showed up at YC looking to build the next smart Twitter app, but launched a very different kind of business this week, aimed to use technology to address a real social problem: credit card debt.
While it’d be hard to know for sure by visiting the ReadyForZero website, these guys are the real deal. In my conversation with Ebrahimi this week, he didn’t hesitate to mention that the goal of ReadyForZero is to empower people against the tactics of a very shady industry. “It’s 90% shadiness out there, ” Rod told me.
This weekend, ChicoBag kicked off its nationwide Bag Monster tour in San Francisco. The goal: bring an to end to single use plastic waste. A Bag Monster, an invention as crafty as ChicoBag’s patented product itself, is a costume made of 500 plastic bags, the number an average American uses yearly.
With many companies and marketing stunts, the true intentions behind the campaign are often clearly ingenuine and the stunt easily ignored. But having met Andy Keller, who started ChicoBag after getting stunned by the sight of a landfill, I can say that activism runs in his veins and those of everyone in his small, progressive Chico company. ChicoBag is ready to bring “away” – that forgettable place where our stuff goes after we toss it – to us, as a reminder that “away” doesn’t exist. And when you talk to Keller, you realize that he’s serious about getting policymakers to realize that economic prosperity doesn’t have to be wasteful. In fact, our needless waste costs taxpayers–$25MM, in the case of California’s bag problem–to clean up.
Local is not about buying the same stuff at higher prices from a local vendor. Local is about happiness.
I believe that the concept of Local is not well communicated. When people suggest that we “buy local,” it comes off as preachy and turns many of us off. How many times have you gone into a corner store and left feeling like you’d been ripped off? The $2 Coke or $1.50 orange may as well be considered marketing for Target, Walmart, and Costco, which sell the same Coke and orange at lower prices. The math doesn’t work. And it should be said that these retailers aren’t inherently bad. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be this way.
So, what is Local?
Local is something that should be celebrated. We shouldn’t feel guilty, Local should invigorate us, inside and out.
Local is more choices. Endless choices, all with unique stories, people and artisanship.
Local is buying from friends. Just as it used to be, I know companies right here in the Bay Area who love to invite people to their factory for a tour, or even to their homes for a meal. When was the last time you were invited to fly in the private Boeing 787s of a company that you buy from or even invest in?
Starbucks, a company not new to environmental criticism, was recently faced with a seemingly modest proposal by a Starbucks shareholder to consider a more aggressive strategy and set of goals for recycling the materials that are consumed within and leave their doors. The measure was voted down after the Board of Directors advised shareholders to vote against it, directing attention to their existing recycling strategy. The Board’s response: we have a plan and don’t need any help executing it.
The measure was supported by As You Sow, an organization that used the same approach to get the attention of beverage giants PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, which received less than 10% of shareholder votes, but led to major recycling initiatives.
Starbucks, much like bottled water as a whole, is a target for criticism not for its direct contributions (3 billion coffee cups in landfills per year, if you are curious), but arguably more so for its glaring iconic place in our throwaway consumer lifestyle. Bottled water is currently up against direct attacks by groups such as the Story of Stuff Project. The situation is a classic example of short term financial objectives seemingly at odds with long term environmental impact.
I recently visited Free Range Studios to meet with its talented co-founder Jonah Sachs in Berkeley, California, to talk about his startup story. Free Range began 10 years ago as two guys, one laptop, one apartment, and enough creativity and change-the-world-or-bust aspirations to eventually challenge agribusiness, and our consumer lifestyle, with The Story of Stuff, The Meatrix, and countless other films and stories. If you haven’t seen these incredible web videos, which have won countless awards, I genuinely suggest taking the time to so.
From Childhood Collaboration to Warrior Film-making
After graduating with a degree in journalism, Jonah moved to Washington D.C., where he interned for NPR, then did graphic design work for a local studio for a meager 8 bucks an hour. He didn’t last long. After getting offers for freelance work for $50 an hour, he was on his own before 6 months had passed.
Jeffrey Sachs: US Policy-Making Is a Bipartisan Failure, Failing to Even Acknowledge Environmental Challenges
Jeffrey Sachs, the influential economist at Columbia University shared a sobering perspective as part of an impressive lineup of speakers at Tuesday’s World Business Forum. In his speech, he pulled a fire alarm on the optimism on leadership in business and opportunities abroad with his perspectives on the bipartisan failure of US policy making and the world’s near-certain risk of ecological bankruptcy.
The saddening part is that the message may have fallen on deaf ears, with Wall Street Journal running what was only a side comment from Sachs, and little of the message making it out of Radio City Music Hall unscathed. This was due, perhaps in part, to the audience’s composition and the slightly morbid tone of his presentation. Sometimes bad news is just bad news.
Bipartisan political failure in the US
Sachs began with a quick overview of the essence of our current crisis, which is, he argued, financially based. “Beneath the rubble, lay complete lack of proper regulation in lending, which was the direct cause.” We broke down walls between investment and consumer banks, he explained, and created derivatives that could be sold to those who had no idea what they were really buying, and all of this occurred outside of regulation.
Then, as bailouts were handed out to Wall Street’s banks, the underlying and critical problem with our political system became clear as the financial sector spent $3.7 billion lobbying for its interests. Yesterday, Nobel prize-winning economist and World Business Forum speaker Paul Krugman, reiterated this, noting that we may have bailed out banks too fast, restoring them back into full control only so that they can lobby against any regulation that may be in the sector’s best interests.
Sachs described the current state of policy-making as something that happens behind closed doors and by parties focused on their own interests. Guess which sector is the second largest spender in lobbying? Healthcare.
We’re lucky to have some really great sponsors here at 3p. In the case of the many organizations and companies we work with, we’d choose to support regardless of the nature of our relationship. By sponsoring, these organizations invest in our ability to continue to publish great content and continue to build the 3p movement.
The Environmental Defense Fund Innovation Exchange is continuing to evolve into an invaluable resource for businesses. You’d swear that there was a catch, since you rarely expect great resources like the Innovation Exchange without someone trying to sell you something, right? But the EDF partners with businesses, doesn’t take a dime in return, then open-sources the IP for all to share. You’ll also notice that the content on the Innovation Exchange is Creative Commons licensed, so share it all you want, as long as you share the credit with them. Check out the EDF Innovation Exchange Blog and their Twitter for more. Thanks EDF!
Give Something Back Business Products is an 18 year old business products company that is a veteran in the world of businesses created to make things better. Founders Mike Hannigan and Sean Marx literally copied the Newman’s Own model… sell products we all need and use frequently, like office chairs and recycled copier paper, and invest more than half of their profits back into the community (they’re a Bay Area company, so many of their clients request that they donate to Bay Area organizations like the San Francisco Food Bank). And the kicker is that their prices are competitive with the rest. They’re a founding B Corporation and their client list includes most of the companies you likely know and love. Thanks Give Something Back!
Thanks for being part of our community in support of business done better. If your business could benefit from becoming a more visible part of the 3p community, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Editor’s Note: This post was published on the Huffington Post earlier today.
On Monday night, I participated in the world’s largest movie premier, for a documentary. The film, called the Age of Stupid has been hailed as the future of film, and criticized by 3p’s own Nick Aster for its depressing take on the state of our planet’s climate. I believe, however, that the film was revolutionary for slightly different reasons. Age of Stupid reveals that environmentalism is alive, well, and going mainstream. Even more, the film shows that our current consumer lifestyles are fundamentally incompatible with the reality of our climate situation. Either we convince our governments to intervene and take control, or prepare for the worst, as we waste time celebrating recycling our plastic water bottles.
As you likely noticed, the 3p team has been hard at work to provide the people who have made what started as a little side project the conversation-starting site that it is today. We’d like to thank you, our readers for being part of the movement in support of integrating people, planet, and profit in business. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, your time, and all of the nice things you say about us (at least when we are within earshot).
As an independent business media company, we depend on the support of like-minded companies and organizations. You’ll notice in the recent redesign of this site that we have begun featuring the logos of sponsors, as part of our vision for deeper, long-term partnerships that will create value for our prized readers. Please join us in thanking our friends at the EDF Innovation Exchange and Greener World Media this month for their support.
I find absolutely no shame in admitting that I love In-N-Out Burger. And I should add that I’m on my second year as a vegetarian… I get the grilled cheese, one of many off menu options.
The 60 year old, privately owned In-N-Out has long celebrated its freezer-less approach to serving its food fresher than the competition. The company has also always paid its employees significantly more than state and federally-mandated minimum wage guidelines, and you can tell by the moods of their employees. In-N-Out has even quietly eliminated some of the trash it serves, with the replacement of those cardboard boxes served on plastic trays with reusable plastic trays, shaped like the old cardboard boxes.
But for a company that has believed in fresher food (and even received one of few accolades in the book, Fast Food Nation), positive work environments, and fairly compensated work, In-N-Out hasn’t yet taken what seems to be any easy opportunity to lead by eliminating trash entirely from its more than 140 locations. You don’t have to be the McDonald’s center of attention to lead.
My idea is this. Replace cups, lids, straws, burger wrappers, french fry trays and tray liners with compostable alternatives. The compact menu actually makes the transition straight forward. With one call to the owners of Mixt Greens, another great California business, I am sure they would be lead in the right direction and that the suppliers would be happy to put those secret bible verses on their wares, to get the business.
So I posted this idea on the quietly relaunched, all new dotherightthing.com, where you can show your support and help the idea grow into reality. With enough support, the business case will be clear and their marketing will have been done for In-N-Out Corporate. And of course, if you have ideas for In-N-Out or another company, you can post them to the site as well.
In a surprise but carefully planned move, Triple Pundit LLC has acquired News Corporation in a deal backed personally by Warren Buffett. News Corporation, one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, is comprised of Fox News, 20th Century Fox, MySpace, and the recently acquired Wall Street Journal.
According to 3p Founder, Nick Aster, who met the Oracle of Omaha during his most recent backpacking trip through Argentina, “3p got into the business to change everything in business and media. Yet, we hadn’t the slightest idea that we’d be doing it this literally.”
Sources within News Corporation state that the hostile takeover battle was effectively won when Triple Pundit writers and followers stormed the Avenue of the Americas New York Headquarters with Super Soakers, far outmatching the McCain-Palin 2008 stress balls possessed by News Corporation staffers. Triple Pundit engaged in a fierce bidding war for News Corp with the Onion, backed by actor Robin Williams, but Warren Buffett’s financial position and negotiation tactics (Buffett himself carefully planned the Super Soaker-armed takeover) proved insurmountable.
Triple Pundit plans to make drastic changes, detailed below, to the media empire built by Rupert Murdoch, the major shareholder and Chairman of News Corporation. Murdoch did not make himself available for comment, but is rumored to be planning a face-saving comeback on next season’s Dancing with the Stars.
Consumer brands heavyweight Procter & Gamble is done sitting on the social media sidelines. Recent rumors have revealed the company has determined that social media is the future of marketing. This isn’t surprising, with the great success and evangelism-charged growth of smaller, values-driven companies such as Seventh Generation. Fast-growing Seventh Generation is now also distributing to Wal-Mart and maintains a deep, authentic connection with its community via its popular newsletter, blog, CEO Jeffrey Hollender’s blog, community, and even Twitter. As a bonfire brand, it practically markets itself. Yet P&G has yet to put any serious effort in social media until right now.
P&G’s social media experiment is a campaign called Loads of Hope, in promotion of its Tide brand and benefiting Feeding America. The company flew over a hundred social media experts to Cincinnati headquarters to meet with brand managers, divided them into four teams and kicked off a fund raising competition via Twitter, blogs, social networks, etc., to drive traffic to one of the four tracking sites (tide1.com, tide2.com, etc.). The goal: raise $100k toward disaster relief and prove the value of social media. Of course, the bloggers and twitterers involved have plenty to gain by winning. By impressing the brand managers of the largest consumer brands company, they will improve their chances at winning a piece of the company’s over $6.7 billion annual advertising budget, as it tests the waters for a better way to market its products.
Nick and I are currently in Miami attending the Sustainable Brands International conference. Check it out via live streaming video below, the next best thing to actually being here in the just-opened, uber swanky, W Hotel on steroids, Fontainebleau Resort Miami Beach.
Check out the schedule for Wednesday and Thursday and join the discussions online, even if your company slashed its travel and conferences budgets.
If you are interested in how companies are leveraging sustainability to build their brands, there is a good chance you are familiar with the Sustainable Brands conference, which was hosted in Monterey, California this year. Triple Pundit is a sponsor of their newest production, the Sustainable Brands International conference, which will be held in Miami on December 9th to the 11th. Both Nick Aster, 3p’s founder, and myself will be there to conspire with thought and brand leaders and to speak about how companies can share stories about their achievements and plans in sustainability using new media (a.k.a. Web 2.0), a topic I’ve covered before here on 3p. If you attended Sustainable Brands ’08, you likely saw Nick on the main stage talking new media and how it is turning corporate communication into conversations.
As part of our sponsorship, and a little arm twisting, we were able to wrangle a really great deal for 3p readers who want to attend the conference and hang out with some of the people behind Triple Pundit live in Miami. It’s last minute and you’ll have to act fast (by 11/28), but an exceptional deal. If you want to join the group buy, email me at ryan at triplepundit.com and I’ll give you the details.
A note: 3p doesn’t get anything for sharing this deal with its readers, just the opportunity to (hopefully) see more of you there.