July 25, 2010
Madison Wisconsin: Land of Cows, Cheese, Beer, Fairs & Whoaah Start-UpsThere's a cool post over on TechCrunch about the growth of technology start-ups in Madison Wisconsin, soon to be the Silicon Valley of the Midwest? Madison-based GeoHuddle Steve Faulkner wrote a guest post sharing the latest and greatest from some of the start-ups in the area, including his own, which is a start-up that develops community geothermal heating and cooling systems.
When I visited Madison (only once in my life), I was taken to a county fair and given a ton of cheese, although I couldn't find a nice glass of wine anywhere to go with that fabulous mid-west cheese. Beer baby beer, along with cows, farms and sports. Now, entrepreneurs are emerging, and start-ups are launching. I learn from their overview that "Madison was recently ranked as the 7th most innovative city in the country by Forbes magazine – just above perennial powerhouse Boston, MA."
As for technology specifically, below is a summary of the companies Faulkner lists that are worth knowing about:
Entrustet: It's about security baby.....get it from the fact they have 'trust' baked into its name? With Entrustet, you can store your digital assets -- online accounts and files on your PC -- and either have them transferred or deleted when you pass away. Kind of cool - they pitch it as Will for your digital life. Sounds really useful.
Virent: The Virent team is commercializing a proprietary sugar to hydrocarbon conversion process developed at the University of Wisconsin. This means they can take biomass and directly convert it to gasoline, which has attracted a lot of interest from the oil industry. Most recently, they received a $46 million dollar investment from Shell.
PerBlue: Ahhhh, blue. I tried hard to get 'blue' into a company name once. Perblue is all about social gaming in a mobile world, mostly known for their game Parallel Kingdom, which currently has over 150,000 players worldwide and was the first location based RPG for the iOS and Android platforms. What's very cool is that PerBlue was founded by University of Wisconsin students with their own limited cash, and continues to grow organically without traditional funding.
Alice: This service allows you to purchase home essentials directly from the manufacturer and have them shipped, for free, to your door. Based on your user profile, it will also remind you when it is time to restock on common items. (egads, now a service that knows how wquickly I use things but hopefully not how as well. Useful for busy people who want things automated but at some point, it will all hit us how much personal information we're giving away to vendors - this isn't about Alice, it's about the growing trend that all services are creeping into our personal data and lives).
Metworked Insights: They do social media analytics, largely for big brands such as Kraft, Omnicom, PG&G and others in its league. Their tool listens to conversations, analyzes them and then gives you data based on that analysis, narrowing down what is most useful for the brand.
Original post here.
July 16, 2010
Working Towards a More 'Green & Energy Conscious' HomeThere are not only tests you can do to improve energy efficiency in your home but by becoming more conscious in the way you install new products, services and tools, you can save money AND help save the planet. If you can save money over the long haul, why not help move the idea of sustainable living further along?
This video explores one side of the coin and perhaps gets us to ask the following question and more: how do you know if the ducts in your house are leaking air and if so what you should do about it?
June 03, 2010
Solar Technology Panelists Strut their Stuff: Get Out The SunSolar panelists talk about the industry and where they fit in. We learn that 17% of SCE's portfolio is now renewable, solar makes up 6% of their portofilio, which will grow substantially over the next few years. Geo-thermal is 57%; Wind is 26%; Biomass is 7% and Small Hydro is 4%. They would like to double their renewable portfolio.
Co-founder of HelioFocus Dr. Ori Zik has raised $20 million of venture money so far. They focus on boosting conventional power plants with solar steam (as long as the technology is located less than one mile from the power plant). Zik sees tremendous opportunities in Asia and has recently signed a deal with the Chinese. What makes them unique? Zik says: 2 kinds of DNA. The new CEO is 35 years old, so we blend youth with experience and we don't take No for an answer."
Capstone's CEO Darren Jamieson gives an overview of the Company, which manufactures micro-turbines. It was founded about 20 years ago with the concept of making a hybrid vehicle, but has always been ahead of its time. As such, they moved to the stationary power business and has grown 20% year over year, despite the difficulties in the economy.
Because there is only one moving part, it's a great application for moving solar dishes. The technology can run on multiple fuel types. Even though the manufacturing is done in California, their largest market is Europe. They currently get 30% + efficiency for heating and/or cooling buildings, which is less than a five year payback for their customers. Now Capstone is moving into new areas such as the Marine Market and the solar concentration market.
April 29, 2010
Saving Whales: It's Not Just WhalesI heard Dr. Paul Watson talk this past week at the California Academy of Sciences. For over thirty years, he has been at the helm of the world's most active marine protection Sea Shepherd Conservation Society His real passion? Saving whales.
Originally from Canada, he says with force, "I'm not here to watch whales getting killed, I'm here to save him. I'm here to bankrupt and sink the Japanese whaling fleet." He reinforces how serious the state of our oceans are in and reminds us that if our oceans die, we die.
Paul worries that we're going to destroy the diversity in our oceans and one of these days, we're going to pull one too many and we won't survive it.
Part II of his story.
March 28, 2010
Sarah Palin: the Dangerous AirheadThis past week in the Huffington Post, Mona Gable writes an amusing but scary account of Palin's most recent examples of her ongoing hunger to become a celebrity and folksy hero, regardless what it takes.
Her first example is Palin's documentary deal on Alaska she struck with The Discovery Channel.
Gable writes: "beyond semantics, what were the folks at Discovery Channel thinking? Did anyone there consider the irony of hiring a woman to host a "nature" show who disdains nature? I mean, before she fleeced you for more than $1 million an episode, (for that matter, John McPhee would have been excellent, and I'm sure he'd have done it for much less), that maybe it wasn't the smartest choice given her strange relationship to the truth and her polarizing politics? Did you forget that in her brief and erratic tenure as governor, Palin had a dreadful environmental record, championing such animal-friendly policies as the aerial shooting of wolves? Or refusing to give protected status to such endangered species as the beluga whale? Even now, Palin proudly and avidly flaunts her ignorance about climate change."
The essence of Gable's piece however is about her "refusal to take responsibility for stirring up violence on the right with her incendiary rhetoric."
She writes about Palin's suggestion that Obama was "paling around with terrorists" when she was running for vice president. Mona also reminds us of her other vocal assertions, when she "claimed that the president had inserted "death panels" in the health care bill, precisely so they could kill her Down syndrome infant and her aging parents."
Read more, including her final plea for someone to hold Palin accountable and set things straight.
March 27, 2010
Economist Innovation Event: Financial Models, Broken or Not?Team breakout sessions from this week's Economist & Berkeley Haas School of Business presented on-stage: innovative ideas around the areas of finance, new business models, education, healthcare, energy and sustainability.
Below is the idea presented on the new Innovative Financial Models that can also improve sustainability within organizations. Also refer to the more extensive summary of the event.
March 06, 2010
AVATAR: All Energy is Borrowed & One Day We Have to Give it BackThe heavily marketed and hyped AVATAR, which is up for 9 Academy Award nominations this weekend, was as intense and powerful as District 9. Seeing it in 3D added great energy and dimension, particularly to the inner forest scenes, but it also took away from some of the clarity and richness of the characters and surrounding nature.
Not unlike District 9, there's conflict between the exploiting and corruptive nature of rich western culture and the so called "savages," who listen to, integrate with and connect with the soil beneath them.
In AVATAR, these beautiful savages are called Na'vi, the lead character being a curious, passionate and caring female named Neytiri, who deeply protects everything on the land of Pandora, where the Na'vi live. She falls in love with former marine Jake Sully, a human who has been sent to Pandora to bring back secrets of how the Na'vi live so the exploiters can move them off their land or destroy them.
The greed and hunger for conquest and ultimately the profit from capturing the rich minerals that land holds, hits you with a strong reminder not just what we have done abroad to innocent cultures and their lands, but to our own environment at home. I'm all for more movies, plays, books and messages that draw our attention to eco-green mistakes and proactive attempts to make money over protecting the beauty around us.
Sure, it plays into stereotypical evil-white-empire/virtuous-native cliches but why not? Given the lifestyle most westerns live, don't we all need reminding from time to time? The movie is based on an animated children's film called Ferngully.
Okay, now for my favorite lines - yeah I wrote them down on a napkin in the theatre:
Jake Sully: "All I ever wanted was a single thing worth fighting for."
Neytiri: "Energy runs through all living networks. All energy is borrowed and one day you have to give it back."
Jake Sully: He is talking to a tree the night before the bulldozers and guns are due to hit Pandora - "See the world they come from. There's no green there. They killed their mother."
Neytiri: Upon seeing Jake talking to the tree, she responds: "She does not take sides, she only protects the balance of life."
Jake Sully: As he is talking into a video log, he says - "Everything is backward. Out there is the true world. In here is the dream."
January 30, 2010
Summit on Climate & Faith Change Brings Global Leaders TogetherEarlier this month, Faith leaders from around the world took part in a Summit without leaving their borders through use of client Zorap’s digital-rich collaborative technology.
One month after the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Summit leaders logged in from London, Washington, Nairobi, Jerusalem, Geneva and the Pacific Island of Palau, using Zorap, to discuss important issues around climate and faith.
Bishops and other faith leaders around the world encouraged people around the world to use Zorap to interact, discuss and collaborate on the topic of climate and faith change, rather than having to get on a plane to fly to London for the event. Zorap enabled countless more important leaders to join in a global discuss in real-time that couldn’t have happened otherwise.
Faith Climate Connect housed the various pieces of technology that were used during the event, including Zorap. Using tools like Zorap to engage on important topic matters such as the climate and faith, encourages leaders and the public to embrace technology to assist in decreasing their environmental impact, such as using virtual video conferences and media-rich chat instead of flying to events to meet with each other.
A facilitated video conference using Zorap was used for an interactive conversation between six significant leaders of the three different Abrahamic faiths located in different countries around the world.
The goal was to learn about, discuss and share their ideas about faith and information contained in the scriptures regarding caring for the environment. The Zorap conversation was projected onto a large screen for the audience in London and was live broadcasted through the Faith Climate Connect website for people to watch around the world.
There was also a question and answer session involving the audience posing questions to the faith leaders around the world. Each of these different elements highlighted how technology, particularly Zorap, can bridge geographical divides, bringing people together to learn from each other and decreasing their carbon footprint.
The Summit is the brainchild of the Bible Society, whose hope is to raise public awareness about the Biblical references and support for caring for the environment.
January 22, 2010
Australian Innovation in Silicon Valley: Kudos to Solar-Gem
An event, that included a competition, was held this week to showcase Australian innovation, illustrating collaborative, entrepreneurial spirit between Australia and the United States.
The competition was to promote Australian innovation by showcasing the country’s most pioneering technology companies. The fourth annual Innovation Shoot Out was hosted at Microsoft’s Mountain View, CA campus this week.
Solar-Gem provides modular solar-powered off-grid lighting and electricity systems, pre-pay tariffing systems, and high-efficiency LED lighting modules targeting the 1.6 billion people without access to power.
Companies were judged based on their ability to solve a recognized problem, demonstrate a clearly defined business model and market for their solutions, offer a solution superior to what’s already available, and provide a reasonable return on investment.
There was a judging panel of industry leaders chaired by Mark Anderson, CEO of Strategic News Service. Judges included Deborah Magid, director of software strategy at IBM Venture Capital Group; Allison Leopold Tilley, partner at Pillsbury; Chris Shipley, chairman and CEO of Guidewire Group and former executive producer of the DEMO Conference; and Prashant Shah, managing director of VC firm Hummer Winblad. Microsoft’s Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president, strategic and emerging business development provided the event’s opening keynote.
Other participating companies included: Digisensory, Intelliguard, Mid-Comp International, MultiTrode, Solar-Gem, Synengco, and Zarloc.
Now in its seventh consecutive year, G’Day USA: Australia Week promotes Australian culture, business, fashion and food through events across the United States. The annual Innovation Shoot Out offers Australian companies the chance to present their technologies to U.S.-based venture capitalists to show that they are ready to enter the U.S. marketplace.
January 19, 2010
Who Will Be Named G'Day USA - Australian Innovator of the Year?Australia has an Innovation Shoot-Out this Wednesday in Mountain View.
Australia's most forward thinking technology innovators take the stage in Silicon Valley for the fourth annual Innovation Shoot Out. They each have five minutes to convince a panel of top-tier U.S. investors and industry experts that their technology is ready to play on the global stage.
Inspiration guaranteed — All attendees are entered in the prize drawing to win two round trip tickets to Australia, courtesy of Qantas (you must be present to win).
The opening keynote will be Dan'l Lewin of Microsoft Corporation and Judging Panel Chair & Closing Keynote is Mark Anderson from Strategic News Service.
*Allison Leopold Tilley, Pillsbury
*Deborah Magid, IBM Venture Capital Group
*Prashant Shah, Hummer Winblad
*Chris Shipley, Guidewire
The 2010 Shoot Out finalists are:
Digisensory, which combine smart imaging devices with their web-based real-time distributed intelligence system to deliver an end-to-end security and surveillance solution.
Intelliguard, a provider of DDoS protection for online enterprises and Internet service providers.
Mid-Comp International, a supply chain management infrastructure provider.
MultiTrode, a specialist in lift station control and monitoring for water and wastewater facilities around the world.
Solar Gem, a creator of affordable off-grid energy based on clean solar technologies.
Synengco, a technology provider that helps companies assess and reduce their greenhouse gas and other emissions.
Zarloc, creator of the ROSS system, web-based employee scheduling software that brings sophisticated workforce management software to the small business owner.