Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shai Agassi, Time Magazine Top 100 influential thinker

I was privileged to listen today to Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO of Better Place. He used to be President of the Products and Technology Group at SAP. He resigned from this position to pursue interests in alternative energy and climate change. In October 2007 he founded a company named Project Better Place, focusing on a green transportation infrastructure based on electric cars as an alternative to the current fossil fuel technology.
Agassi has been included in TIME magazine's 100 most influential people list of May 11, 2009 - and with good reason! What a superb speaker and a great mind.

Highlights of his presentation:

1. Shai set off on his journey as a result of a question that was asked to him a financial forum: "How do we make the world a better place?"
He set about tackling ways in which to change humanity and create a sustainable environment for all. He said that the past years of growth have been based on the template of the American Dream and this is not going to assist us as the population grows towards the 9 billion mark.
He sees a sustainable environment being completely linked to a sustainable economy. Questions about the environment relate directly to our own pockets.

2. Shai set about asking questions: How do you run a vehicle with no oil? How do we build an electric car that everyone will want to buy? How do build a car that is convenient and cheap to run? How do you build the car using the science that we have on the shelf? How do you build a car that makes business sense for the manufacturer and the sales people? How do you create a car that stops only 50 times to refuel, equivalent to the approximately 50 times a year that we stop to fill our cars with petrol? How do you build a car without waiting for a bigger battery to be invented? How do you build a car that when it charges it does not take the whole electricity grid of a city down? How do you create a car that when you get back into drive it, it is ready to go? How do you ensure that there is a solid financial model behind the whole design and development? How do you develop a financial model for the car that is based on the mobile phone modeling of a free phone if you sign up to a 2 year contract?

3. Shai developed a very strong vision and did his research to back up what he was saying. He sees his development of the electric car as the future of how we will travel by 2020. Current oil-based cars will be the equivalent of fax machines today. Australia he believes is uniquely placed for this new way of driving as all the raw products for batteries are natural resources in this country. Australia could be selling kilometers to the world as Saudi Arabia is selling oil right now. Shai speaks with absolute conviction when he says:"We will make zero carbon footprint cities. We will abolish petrol. The world will be a great place."

4. From a process perspective, Shai uses unbelievable leadership, influencing and presentation skills. His whole presentation is a story. He speaks of his own journey and his own struggles to find funding and financial backing. He speaks of his growth and determination to never give up until he found solutions.
He sets such a clear vision for himself and can articulate it in a straightforward way. He definitely has the end in mind and works relentlessly towards that point. He knows what he wants the end result to look like and he paints that picture brilliantly so that the audience too can see it as clearly as he does.
He uses creative problem solving techniques by starting his process off with grand questions and big views. He then breaks down smaller problems and works his way through them. He frames his questions according to creative problem solving techniques.
He has high levels of credibility based on his knowledge and his research and his ability to communicate this in plain language.

See Shai's talk on Youtube:

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