I was disappointed to read recently that the Israeli electric car innovator Better Place has massively scaled back its operations and ambitions.
The company was basically founded to cut the world’s reliance on fossil fuels for transportation by migrating people to electric vehicles. The company’s vision was to roll out a network of recharging stations to make its vision a reality.
Things looked promising for a while too, with big name VC funds, private investors and multinationals stumping up cash.
Sadly, however, targets weren’t met. Tenders weren’t won. Lobbying attempts failed. And the inevitable then happened. Staff were cut. Offices were closed. And founding CEOs and replacement CEOs were shown the door.
So, what’s the lesson? What can any entrepreneur looking at launching a new business learn from the Better Place experience?
Change is hard.
Think about what Better Place was trying to do. It was trying to convince consumers to ditch petrol cars. It was trying to convince car companies to build electric cars. It was trying to convince governments to support the infrastructure needed for electric cars.
The company was taking on the giant petroleum companies and the countries and organisations that survive off the petro dollar.
The bottom line is that the status quo is a very hard thing to supplant. The status quo works. It might not be perfect. But don’t underestimate people’s apathy and conservatism either.
I so often hear people talking about how their idea is going to change the world. Their starting point is typically how flawed the status quo is.
Often, they are dead right. What they fail to see, though, is just how enormous the challenge is that they are taking on. Change is hard. Ask Obama!
Now, please don’t let me talk you out of pushing ahead with your ground-breaking idea. The world needs dreamers. It needs people who can imagine better places and then make them happen.
Just don’t think it will be easy. I’m sure the ex-CEO and founder of Better Place, Shai Agassi, would be the first to tell you that.