Posts from September 2022

Demand Response

At USV, our climate thesis is about both mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis. One way we can adapt to the climate crisis is by building a more resilient energy supply system. Demand Response is one of many approaches that will be necessary to do that.

Demand Response is when consumers of energy voluntarily cut back on energy consumption in reaction to peak demand situations. There are many different ways this is done, and energy companies will often offer economic incentives for their customers to do this.

A great example of this is what happened in the recent heat wave in California in early September. Our portfolio company Leap aggregates energy consumption devices across a partner network via their API tools. They recently wrote a blog post about how their demand response network performed in California during the early September heat wave.

Leap aggregated 21,152 energy consumption devices (smart thermostats, EV chargers, etc) across 24 participating partners in California.

As Leap wrote in that blog post:

On September 6th, the California power grid peak demand hit 52,061 MW, a new all-time record for CAISO. Demand-side reductions were instrumental to preventing rolling blackouts as extreme temperatures caused demand for electricity to spike across the state.

Leap’s network of 21,152 devices was able to curtail about 115MW of that demand at peak. That is about 0.22% of the total peak demand in California and represents the equivalent of a small traditional power plant or large solar farm that would cost tens of millions of dollars to construct.

Leap’s network is not the only Demand Response network operating in California. There are many of them and the total amount of demand curtailed by Demand Response networks was certainly a big factor in avoiding brownouts during the recent heat wave.

If you have smart energy devices in your home or office, you should look into how to connect them to a demand response network. Helping to curtail energy consumption during peak demand situations will be an important part of adapting to the climate crisis.

#climate crisis

Changing Public Perception

Nuclear power (both fission and fusion) has the potential to provide much of the energy the world needs without the damaging effects of carbon emissions which are warming our planet.

And yet nuclear power is politically unpopular in many parts of the world and that has led to a massive underinvestment in nuclear power over the last fifty years. It will take a much different attitude about nuclear power among the public before nuclear power can remerge as a major source of energy for the world.

That is but one example of very promising technologies that suffer from negative public opinion.

Web3, which will usher in a different way of engaging with web services also suffers from a negative public perception. And yet a web3 that allows users to control their data with web services that will need our permission to use it offers a radically better model for the web as we know it.

Vaccines, which are one of the most important public health innovations of the last hundred years also suffer from negative public perception. Way too many people don’t trust vaccines and don’t avail themselves of them.

So what can those of us in the business of creating and bringing these important technologies to market do to reverse these negative opinions?

I believe that getting these technologies into market and showing people their benefits is the very best thing we can do.

For nuclear, that means smaller, safer, and more “personal” nuclear power. There are pacemakers that have nuclear batteries in them. Why not put way more nuclear powered devices into our lives and show that the benefits massively outweigh the risks?

For web3, that means shipping applications that mainstream users will use and see the benefits of controlling and provisioning their data. I think gaming and social applications are likely to be the first mainstream web3 applications because not everyone is a trader or investor. Mainstream means our parents and our children.

For vaccines, it means better and more effective vaccines. It means easier delivery (like nasal sprays). And it means less side effects. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about a wellness benefit that makes you feel like shit for a day or two.

All of these industries have large public policy organizations and spend lots of money on changing public perception. I’m absolutely in favor of that.

But there is nothing better than putting amazing technology in the hands of ordinary people and changing their lives for the better. That moves public perception more powerfully than anything else.

#climate crisis#crypto#health care#Politics

Regenerative Finance (ReFi)

I’ve always been interested in tapping into the “crowd” to fund things that need to happen and that our current institutions can’t figure out how to support. Our investment in Kickstarter back in 2009 is an excellent example of that. In the last thirteen years, Kickstarter has helped direct $6.2bn towards creative work that would not have been funded by the legacy institutions that support creative work. That has led to all sorts of interesting projects which are too numerous to mention here.

Our interest in web3 which started back in 2011 was also grounded in the idea that new forms of funding are necessary to finance innovation and creative work. I am not sure if anyone has tracked how much funding the web3 sector has directed towards new projects over the last decade, but I am certain it is in the tens of billions, if not more. And the vast majority of this funding has come from individuals, not institutions.

As we turn our attention toward climate and the existential threat of a warming planet, these ideas are top of mine for me. And that is why Regenerative Finance (aka ReFI) is so interesting to me. ReFi is an idea, like DeFi, based on a set of web3 technologies and economics, that suggests that efforts to combat climate change can and will be funded by the crowd.

Here’s a great example:

My friends Gordon and Courtney built the New Atlantis DAO to create open public datasets about the evolving ocean climate and funding mechanisms to support work that moves the data in the right direction. If you click on the tweet I posted above, you can learn more about that.

But that is just one of many different ReFi projects that are being started right now.

USV is invested in the Toucan Protocol which is building the web3 infrastructure to bring carbon offsets on-chain and to allow them to be traded/invested/etc using DeFi protocols. There has been some negative press about Toucan, but that reporting misunderstands what Toucan is doing and why it is so important.

It is ironic that many in the environmental justice and climate movements are so anti web3. Because web3 presents a set of tools, technologies, and economics that can and is being used to bring badly needed innovation, innovators, and funds to the fight.

It is my hope that ReFi is the movement that brings all of these folks together and aligns us all to fight the good fight, the necessary fight and that we win this fight.

#climate crisis#crypto

Face To Face

As we all prepare for the fall back to school/back to work season, I thought I’d touch on a topic that has been top of mind for me for the last six months.

The covid pandemic taught many of us that we can be productive and our companies can succeed in a fully remote work environment. But just because you can does not mean you should.

In the venture capital business, this has meant making investments in teams we don’t meet face to face. For founders, this has meant raising rounds from their offices instead of getting on planes.

As the pandemic has eased and offices have gradually reopened over the last year, we are meeting more founders face to face. But we have not gone back to a world where we meet every team we back in person. I don’t think we will ever go fully back to that world.

But even if the way we work has changed permanently, it does not mean that it has changed for the better. I believe that all change has positive and negative impacts. We can meet more founders than we used to. And founders can meet more investors. That is good. But matches are now being made over video and that is not always great.

We know that humans are better to each other in person. We know that in-person interaction is more meaningful, we are more present, and we connect in more fundamental ways.

So I believe that we must work in the coming years to get out of our offices (or homes) and see each other in person more often.

That means we should run fundraising processes that include meeting in person. We can do the initial screens (on both sides) over zoom, but the final selection process should include face-to-face meetings whenever possible. And board meetings should be done in person at least a few times a year. And those in-person meetings should include some social time in addition to business.

For companies, this means hiring should include a face-to-face meeting. Teams should meet in person regularly. Going to the office should be a regular occurrence for those that live near one.

It is time to get back to the office, at least some of the time. It will make for better business. And I also think it will make us happier at work.

#entrepreneurship#management#VC & Technology