Seven Questions Every Business Must Answer

  • Most cleantech companies crashed because they neglected one or more of the seven questions that every business must answer:
      1. The Engineering Question
      • Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
      1. The Timing Question
      • Is now the right time to start your particular business?
      1. The Monopoly Question
      • Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
      1. The People Question
      • Do you have the right team?
      1. The Distribution Question
      • Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
      1. The Durability Question
      • Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
      1. The Secret Question
      • Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?
  • Tesla is an example of a cleantech company that got all the questions right (see the book for details)
  • The Myth of Social Entrepreneurship

    • The cleantech bubble was the biggest phenomenon—and the biggest flop—in the history of “social entrepreneurship.”
      • This philanthropic approach to business starts with the idea that corporations and nonprofits have until now been polar opposites: corporations have great power, but they’re shackled to the profit motive; nonprofits pursue the public interest, but they’re weak players in the wider economy. Social entrepreneurs aim to combine the best of both worlds and “do well by doing good.” Usually they end up doing neither.

      • The ambiguity between social and financial goals doesn’t help. But the ambiguity in the word “social” is even more of a problem: if something is “socially good,” is it good for society, or merely seen as good by society? Whatever is good enough to receive applause from all audiences can only be conventional, like the general idea of green energy.

      • Progress isn’t held back by some difference between corporate greed and nonprofit goodness; instead, we’re held back by the sameness of both. Just as corporations tend to copy each other, nonprofits all tend to push the same priorities. Cleantech shows the result: hundreds of undifferentiated products all in the name of one overbroad goal. erbroad goal.