Betas and videos

Well, I’ve had a big few weeks so apologies for not blogging for a while.

We’re now two months into our beta with Carbon Voyage. It has been interesting, and we are learning a lot, which I guess is one of the important parts of launching a new service. We have a very iterative process that we use with building our technology and propositions. I guess from my perspective that this is very similar to something taught in the military called the Boyd Cycle (also known as the OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). This was originally constructed by looking at aerial dogfights in Korea between MiGs and the USA Air Force. Fundamentally (from my perspective), it is about being very proactive in dealing with what the competitive landscape looks like and what customer feedback is. Our ability to iterate quickly will be a a key contributor to our success as a business.

I’ve also started doing some videos for the business. I was interviewed by Hugh Mason from Pembridge LLP for a video that is being compiled that talks about the Gateway to Investment Program. This week, Dan Ilett from Greenbang and I have started a weekly video talking about what it’s like to run a startup at the moment which you can see below. Dan hase just launched a new company called Clean Analysis, which researches cleantech companies, technologies, legislation and services and how they fit into a vision of sustainable practices in 2020.  

  [qik]http://qik.com/video/1480307[/qik]

And finally, it’s been lovely to see that amazing story of Susan Boyle and the previous one of Paul Potts, both of whom have the most amazing voices.

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 🙂

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 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.