Friday, March 02, 2007

Who's driving the revolution?

Those who follow nanotech business models are probably already familiar with the theme in my column this week at Michigan Business Review. I discuss when it no longer makes sense to change industries from the inside by developing products that are easily integrated into current products and processes.

Under some conditions -- for example, if market demand or technological progress outpace the ability or willingness of an industry to adopt change from within -- there comes a point when it is time to let the old ways simply implode under the weight of their own inadequacies and begin anew -- from the bottom up.

I live in the Detroit area, where this implosion is experienced in painful slow motion, one auto company and supplier at a time. I contrast venture capitalist Vinod Khosla's support of an ethanol economy as a way of changing the auto industry from within with the more-revolutionary strategy of Martin Eberhard, CEO of the electric car company Tesla (no, not the '80s hair band of the same name!).

Above, of course, is a Tesla automobile courtesy of nanotech venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, who gets to have all the fun by driving one. I got to do the next best thing, I guess, and interview Eberhard. A Q&A-style transcript of the interview will run in a future edition of the Michigan Business Review.

And, speaking of changing industries from outside, take a look at my feature of a media revolutionary in the form of a mommy blogger.

Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from my column that might interest nano watchers.

Both Eberhard and Khosla come to their conclusions via the prism of Silicon Valley, whose major industry is facing its own impending extinction. The year 2020 is the absolute drop-dead date where current lithographic methods will no longer be able to keep up with market demands in chip size and power (for the geeks among you, this is the limit of Moore's Law).

So, IBM, Intel and others are using everything in their bag of tricks to get the most out of outdated methods, but are only now realizing that they are going to have to rip up the entire foundation and begin building their industry all over again - from the bottom up.

Waiting in the wings are a number of nanotechnology companies preparing for the day that they will come forward to become the "Next Intel," with true game-changing solutions.

Eberhard might not have the big solution. Tesla might not become the "Next GM." But I do know Eberhard is on the right side of the dividing line between the old world and the new. More here

Update: Many thanks to Mike Magda of AutoblogGreen for his accurate summary of my commentary and the debate that follows.

Revolutions happen to the unprepared


Heidi said...

"Love is all around you. Love is knocking, outside your door."

Never, ever make fun of Tesla The Band. They fucking rock(ed).

Howard Lovy said...

My wife. It takes a reference to the music of her mischievous, misspent youth for her to finally pay attention to my blog.

Steve Jurvetson said...

heh... I posted a reply on this over at the flickr thread... Rock on.