Sunday, October 5, 2008

Carrots, Not Acorns

I'm moving out of the office.

Been a lot of fun at Acorn. Incredible to get an opportunity to get paid to learn about the energy industry. Hugely helpful to have had an office and a whiteboard for the past 8 months. Pleasure to have worked with John Moore and everyone around him.

But it's time. For two reasons.

One, progress on The Carrot Project and increasing momentum* have made it impossible for me to give Acorn enough of my energy to feel comfortable collecting my paycheck.

And, two, given the madness on Wall St., a falling stock price, and a couple of assets in the portfolio that John has had a hard time justifying to his shareholders, Acorn is rethinking its position and purpose.

When John offered me the Entrepreneur in Residence gig in February, Acorn felt very much like a cleantech investment firm. Not sexy science project cleantech. But behind the scenes dirty hands infrastructure cleantech. Energy efficiency. Grid intelligence. Bridges to a renewable and abundant future. John was excited. And so was I.

A few days ago, however, John told me he needed to start telling a new story, a simpler story, a story to which investors can more easily connect. He told me Acorn's new mission is to save the world with fossil fuels and uranium.

And it was tough to hear that.

I believe in John's intentions, and I understand that we need to keep the lights on and the economy rolling while we develop renewables to the point at which they can compete on a large scale, but I need something more creative than that.

I'm too young and too crazy to save the world with fossil fuels and uranium. I need to focus on steering capitalism in a sustainable direction. I need carrots, not acorns.

*Note: That begs a metaphor, no? An idea as a rolling snowball? Starts as a handful of snow. Moves slowly and grows slowly at first. Let it put on some weight and hit a downhill slope, however, and look out. Sprint to keep up with it and hope neither you nor the snowball hit trees or fences or boulders or get caught in a valley in the noonday sun. Maybe?


steve goodman said...

Your twitter comment from a few days back makes sense now. Congrats on your principled stand.

Anonymous said...

Actually technically the whiteboard is yours, or so Jane says. But what she says is the ultimate truth, so come and take it.

- Micaela the intern

Jake de Grazia said...

@steve The separation was much more circumstantial than it was taking a stand. They were circumstances that I likely could have changed, however, were I ready to invest love in Acorn. And the shift to saving the world with fossil fuels and uranium scared me. It made me want to be careful with my love.

Maybe it shouldn't have. Maybe it should have motivated me to try harder.

But investors seemed to be pulling one way while I was pulling another, and I didn't feel like I had influence enough within the company to compete with investors.

And it's reasonable of Acorn not to have given me influence. I'm young and inexperienced and have nothing at stake.

It's a bummer, though. John Moore really does care, but I think his shareholders and his Wall St. history sometimes push him to accept his work as nothing more than a money making activity.

And that's a worry for the world and probably another blog post for another day.

Jake de Grazia said...

@Micaela Yeah I guess I never got around to getting reimbursed for that. Problem is that I don't have anywhere to hang it. If you guys want to trade me the freestanding whiteboard in the conference room for the one on my old office wall, I'd do that...