A good read

My father sent me a copy of “Now or Never: A sustainable future for Australia?“, which is a Quarterly Essay series. The paper was written by Tim Flannery, an eminent Australian scientist. It is an excellent essay. Interestingly, he was quite supportive of clean coal initiatives which would put him at odds with the guys from Age of Stupid (Peter Postlethwaite and some of the others have vowed not to ever vote for the UK Government again if they support the building of a new coal power station in the UK. One of my soldiers asked me about whether it was a bit strange that I was committed to environmental matters while being an army officer, and I guess the right answer is that the military has to be very mindful of the effects of climate change. Recent natural disasters have highlighted that military forces have been crucial to the provision of aid (eg. tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina, bushfires in Australia etc). It would actually be quite interesting to contemplate the different military scenarios and implications arising from this whole issue – what may military forces be called upon to do, what happens if food supplies and other resources need to be fought over…

In other news, we in Carbon Voyage are working on our next software release, which should be out in a few days time. As with any beta trial, we have been fortunate to get a whole lot of feedback which has now been incorporated into our technology roadmap, and many features will be coming out in the next few weeks.

Age of Stupid

So today, the team at Carbon Voyage were involved in moving a LOT of plants and other bits and pieces into Leicester Square for the premiere of Age of Stupid. This is an amazing film, starring Peter Postlethwaite and set 50 years in the future, looking back at where we are now, and highlighting the tragedy of why society as a whole is generally complacent towards the looming point of no return caused by our treatment of the environment. I really commend this film to everyone – it is a must see! It would also be remiss of me if I failed to mention that the film premiere is being held in a solar powered theatre, and it’s carbon footprint is tiny in comparison to most film premieres. 

An interesting week

It is only the end of day two of this week and quite a bit has happened. We had a shareholder/ management team meeting on Monday which was very useful, but actually didn’t quite follow the agenda set out. It was at a great venue on the Thames called Bacchanalia which is where we held our launch party recently.

In other news, I’ve started the process of looking for the next lot of funding for the business. Fortunately we now have working technology, a growing supply chain and even some early revenues; however, it will still be challenging to get funding whether equity or debt. There is a great program in London called Gateway to Investment or g2i and they have been really useful in framing an investment note for investors in their network. I’ve also applied for the ifund and the Blackberry Partners Fund as there are mobile applications that we are looking to launch in the near future. There is an interesting predicament around looking for the right funding source at the moment, as I fundamentally think that the amount needed to fund something with really big potential is just so much less than what traditional venture capitalists are used to dealing with (particularly if you consider that a good web application may cost only a few thousand pounds to develop). I had lunch with a very good friend today and was chatting about the funding situation for the business (and also what is happening with lots of start ups at the moment) and it brought home again the value of bootstrapping a business – it creates focus and discipline that doesn’t necessarily exist when you are flush with cash. There is a great post by Jeff Pulver that talks about the same thing.

There are at least two more exciting things to talk about, but I need to do that on Thursday once some things are put in place, and one of them involves a film that is way cooler than An Inconvenient Truth 🙂

Official Carbon Voyage Blog

I’ve now started up an official Carbon Voyage Blog which will have all of the press releases as well as some more informal bits and pieces about what the company is doing. Also, we’ve now set up groups on LinkedIn and Facebook so feel free to join!!!

We’re now a week into our beta launch and fortunately there have been no major problems with bookings thus far, and more importantly we’ve had some really good feedback about the website and ideas about the service which is something that you can only start getting once people are using the service.

Other than that, EYP launched in Dublin last week and following that, we have some terrific momentum going there. The team that is running with things there is absolutely fantastic, and we have an exciting next event coming up in April. Following our launch in Dublin, we are planning additional launches in three more European cities before the middle of the year – so lots of work to do!

And finally, if anyone is in London next Wednesday night, come along to our next EYP event.

Carbon Voyage launches!!!

Finally, after quite a lot of work in the last two years or so, Carbon Voyage finally launched. Our friends at Greenbang assisted in covering the event. The strapline of the business is ‘getting you from a to b without costing the earth.’ What we are doing is providing a car-booking service that helps people to cut the cost and carbon footprint of using private car hire.

If anyone is keen to trial the beta service should contact: info@carbonvoyage.com

A rather busy week

EYP held our event last night at the Kensington Roof Gardens – a truly spectacular venue. It was quite strange to be in a garden on the top of a building, but fantastic regardless. I hope it isn’t the last time I go there!

GoLow also got mentioned in Greenbang’s list of top environmental start ups in the UK, so it was great to get that recognition for all the work that has gone on. To read the whole report, just click here.

Umm … a few random things

So I finally did my first ever radio interview today, although it won’t go on air for about three weeks. It was to promote GoLow and an event that is being run by EYP. The radio station is Passion for the Planet and they will be one of our media partners for our October EYP event, which is focused on environmental issues. We will be fortunate to have Dan Ilett from Greenbang as a moderator for our panel discussion which is shaping up to have some really interesting participants.

I think EYP is starting to mature in terms of some of the events that we are doing. Our next event is at the Kensington Roof Gardens, owned by Sir Richard Branson, and is almost fully subcribed after a few days of bookings being open. Our October event is looking really cool, and in November we are planning to do a massive speed networking in London in partnership with Make Your Mark for Global Enterprise Week. And we have some goodies lined up for next year.

A gluton for punishment, I have set up a more formal business GoLow blog – so now I really can’t be too slack with posting.

And finally, I really liked reading about the recently completed operation in Afghanistan where several thousand soldiers got involved in delivering a turbine to a key power station. Providing basic services to locals in such conditions can be quite a challenge but is so unbelievably valuable.

A Low Carbon Transport Week

This week I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of low carbon transport events. The first was at an event called Green Monday run by 2Degrees. Then on Wednesday, I had the opportunity of participating in Mobility 2020 which was run by the Sustainable Development Commission. I thought it would be good to mention some of the items that were discussed. Part of both discussions focused around barries and problems to achieve reduced carbon emissions in the UK Carbon Sector. Some of the comments that arose from these discussions were as follows:

· Incentivising customers: There continues to be a lack of broad consumer awareness about environmental issues, which can also be hampered by a feeling that there is little that an individual can do to improve the situation. The environment is not sufficient of a motivator to get wide spread support – other incentives are needed, particularly financial and status.

· There is a need to provide solutions that are safe, reliable and meet the convenience requirements of customers.

· There are a range of potentially complimentary service offerings and technologies that can advance the cause of sustainability, but they are somewhat fragmented – potentially this is something that can be quite rapidly overcome.

· There are a lack of common standards across IT systems – can telematic devices invalidate warranties; is it possible to share information across systems?

· Difficult to get long term government commitments when franchise operations (eg. rail franchises) have a limited life span – where is the incentive for companies to develop long term sustainability goals when they run the risk of loosing the franchises.

· Is there a fundamental issue around reporting of grams per vehicle per kilometre – shouldn’t it incorporate the number of people actually travelling?

· Is there an aspirational goal for low income groups to own cars? If so, does this conflict with sustainability efforts?

· There will continue to be a percentage of people that are structurally dependent on cars – eg. people in rural areas.

· Do the costs of public transport or potentially bad experiences reduce people’s willingness to use more sustainable forms of transport?

· It was also highlighted that there are some transport services that may have significant structural issues with becoming more sustainable due to security reasons or energy requirements.

In other news, I got to meet with the guys from AMEE today (Against Mass Extinction Engine) – very cool business that they are working on; and hopefully GoLow will do something with them when the time is right. And now to send in a submission to Greenbang for the piece they are doing on startups!

Biofuels are bad, sort of…

I have to run a round table discussion on low carbon transport later today, so I thought I would do a bit of research which I guess is the appropriate thing to do. The notion of fuel and energy usage is of great concern, particularly for those of us who appreciate the completely unsustainable way in which society operates. Sadly this sometimes creating situations where well-meaning ideas are actually quite disastrous. Carbon offsetting looked good, but frankly it is just like misbehaving constantly and thinking that confession will absolve you (it doesn’t work like that with the environment at least).

Of course another one is biofuels and the general desire to have greener emissions from vehicles. There is a very interesting article that appeared in the Guardian on Friday intimating that biofuels are responsible for the world’s fuel crisis which was the finding of a World Bank report. Apparently, as the article states, a UK report will be out shortly saying the same thing. Taking away the emotion out of the issue, perhaps it is worthwhile pointing out that the concern is not with the concept of biofuels (or at least I think that is the case), but rather with the manner in which it is produced. There are other weird and wonderful ways of making biofuels, although some may not yet be ready for commercialisation just yet. Check out this Greenbang article for an example! I would cheekily point out that there are some incredibly efficient diesel engines out there that pretty much beat everything else in exsitence at the moment (including, dare I say, hybrids).

We have some technology!

So we now have our technology platform up for GoLow – there are still bits to do, but I suppose that anyone with a technology related business needs to be ready for changes and amendments. At least it means that we can still do a beta trial very soon. This will hopefully assist in our continuing fund raising efforts which all start ups go through. There was an amusing article this week that I was sent about a “green gold rush”, so it would be nice to see some of the money spoken about to go into a good home. The guys at Greenbang also covered this, although I don’t quite share their concern about Eastenders!

The rising price of oil should also assist – something which I believe is that given that oil prices are going up, transport services must either become more efficient or raise costs. The latter option is particularly difficult given the macro-economic conditions that exist at the moment, so I see a great opportunity as we are positioned to provide an answer that involves improved efficiencies. Part of the proposition is around improving fuel efficiency in vehicles which can provide significant savings and critically be far cheaper than not implementing solutions that generate efficiencies. A good friend has a large fleet of vehicles and in the last twelve months, his weekly fuel cost per vehicle has increased from around £180 per week to over £300 per week. In his case, putting in place a strategy to create efficiencies could provide an overall net saving of £50 per vehicle per week.

In the last few weeks I have started to travel all over the UK far more than previously and one of the interesting things to realise is that the choice of using public transport (particularly trains) can be immensely expensive. It is almost to the point of making car travel more economical and potentially take less time as well. It is a shame that the better environmental option is such a big cost as it doesn’t help in trying to move people into using better forms of transport.

I am involved in a green networking event on Wednesday and am chairing a round table discussion on low carbon transport which should be rather interesting (as long as I do some good preparation for it)! I have set the following topics for discussion – hopefully there might be some interesting points that I can share on here afterwards.

Emerging Trends in Transport Usage
Transport is a significant, and growing, contributor to Greenhouse Gas emissions in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Economic conditions combined with environmental/ sustainability issues and government policy have created a situation where the way in which people use transport will need to shift.
• What are the existing barriers to this occurring and how can they be addressed?
• What easy wins exist within the transport sector?
• Have issues such as the use of bio-fuels and carbon offsetting negatively impacted on sustainability goals? Are there any other potential areas for similar concern?

Reporting
Present corporate accounting standards for transport related emissions do not necessarily reflect actual emissions (particularly in terms of Scope 3 emissions). Is this a fair criticism?
• What should and shouldn’t be reported?
• How granular should reporting be – vehicle emissions, embodied energy etc?

And finally, EYP is gearing up for our next event which will be on the Queen Mary, which is moored alongside at Victoria Embankment which should be lots of fun. If any of you are in London, please feel free to come along (although you should register first)! We have just got on Twitter (and so have I actually), so we are experiencing the twitter phenomenon.