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Friday, November 18, 2016

Hillary, Your Defeat Has Shaken Confidence of Many Women

Asim Hussain, Brook Porter, and Abhay Gupta at OPEN

Hillary, Your Defeat Has Shaken Confidence of Many Women


In the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America’s ‘Clean Energy: Vision and Reality’ seminar on November 17, Asim Hussain of Bloom Energy, Abhay Gupta of Bidgely, and Brook Porter of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers spoke on energy related technologies and investments.

The first step in managing your money is to gain a knowledge of your expenses.  You should know very well how your money is leaving your bank account.  If you don't precisely know about your big ticket items every month, how can you possibly make intelligent financial decisions?

If such an accounting practice is healthy in managing money, it should be suitable in energy management too. If you know in detail about your electricity and gas usages, you can make smart decisions about the best ways to use your appliances. How much are you spending on air conditioning? How much on dishwasher? On clothes washer? On dryer? On lights?

Today’s smart meters provide instantaneous electricity and gas usage information of every customer to the utility company. If one understands the spikes and plateaus on the energy curves and can attribute them to the operation of various appliances commonly used, one can provide a more detailed energy bill than what today’s customers are used to seeing.  Such a ‘smart bill’ will not only have the total monthly energy usage, it will have a detailed breakdown enabling the customer to see any improvements they can make in their energy usage. Abhay Gupta’s company Bidgely does exactly that. Bidgely partners with utility companies to decipher data provided by the smart meters and produce smart bills for the customers.

Asim Hussain’s talk was bout the growing use of the fuel cells in the energy sector.

Imagine machines that make energy the way your body produces energy i.e., by consuming food. Food is hydrocarbon, complex chemical chains of Hydrogen and Carbon atoms. Natural gas and biogas are also hydrocarbons. Fuel cells in a way mimic human body cell operation. Fuel cells produce electricity from hydrocarbons, without burning them. How do they do that? That is the secret technology being used in a fuel cell and is normally proprietary to the manufacturer of the fuel cells.

Fuel cells have been around for some time; a while back they were only used in capital intensive space exploration missions. Things have changed.  Bloom Energy, a Bay Area fuel cell manufacturer, wants the fuel cells to be available to a large consumer market. Surprisingly, there are only a couple of big companies in the race. Many things are being tried out for the first time in the fuel cell manufacturing business. And that is why Bloom Energy wants to keep its technology a secret. We learned from the speaker that Bloom Energy is neither selling its fuel cells to China nor getting any critical fuel cell parts manufactured in China. What is totally awesome about fuel cells is that methane generated at the farms—also known as biogas--can be fed into a fuel cell to have a very high efficient energy making machine that can provide electricity to a large number of consumers.

Brook Porter talked about what investors are looking for in a start-up.  He emphasized on what his partner John Doerr says, “Ideas are easy, execution is everything.”

Q&A session
November 8 was a bad day not only for Hillary Clinton but for all the progressive-minded people who thought the Americans had arrived. If the country can elect a black president the country is probably ready for a woman president too.  But it did not happen that way.  Was Hillary Clinton’s defeat a blow to the self-esteem of many women in mid-level leadership positions? It appears that way.  The fear that sexism is still alive and well peeped through a question asked by a woman attendee: Are the investors less likely to invest in a company led by a woman?  Porter denied the allegation.

In response to a hypothesis that the new US Government under Mr. Trump will not be supportive of green energy, Brook Porter said coal mining business employs roughly 50,000 people only—in fact, over 150,000 people work in and around the coal industry, but that is still a small fraction of the total US workforce-- so revamping investment in dirty energy does not make much sense.  Trump and his team may not think too much of the environment but things have changed lately and new developments in technology are on the side of the environment and the green energy.

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