The Energy To Change The World


I saw John Doerr give the keynote address at the Berkeley Energy Symposium yesterday. The content was good, but his speaking skills blew me away. With several hundred people in the room, including Berkeley scientists, Haas students, and people from the private sector, he had the poise of someone hanging out in their living room. At the beginning of his talk, he took ten questions from the audience, wrote them down on a white board, and then integrated nearly all the questions into his speech.

I thought I got a lot better at public speaking in my Haas leadership communications class, but I think I need a lot more practice before I'm anywhere near this level of speaking.

Rather than try to say something interesting about his already interesting comments, I thought I'd just share the ones that I found the most thought provoking:

  • If Wal-Mart were a country it would be China's sixth biggest trading partner.
  • Energy is a $6 trillion market, i.e. WAY bigger than the internet, telecom, semiconductors, and other favorites of Silicon Valley VCs.
  • Compared to VC investing in software or internet companies, clean tech can require 10x the amount of capital, and a longer road to profitability.
  • Going green is the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century.
  • People say we need an Apollo Program, or Manhattan Project for clean energy, but in fact those were small programs compared to what we need.
  • By 2050, China's CO2 emissions will be equal to the entire world's today. We need to offer them solutions that are economic (cheaper than the alternatives). Difficult to convince people to sacrifice their growth.
  • We can't just change the light bulbs, we have to change the laws. Policy matters in this field.
  • The United States needs to (1) cap and price carbon, (2) extend renewable energy investment tax credits for 10 years, and (3) dramatically increase federal R&D dollars

Doerr showed a lot of humility, and even gave career advice to an undergraduate in the room. "Find a mentor, and step outside your comfort zone," he suggested.

Good advice for MBA's too!

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