Does the internet have a new green advocate? Evan Williams, CEO of the Obvious Corporation and former CEO of Twitter, was full of optimism during his brief remarks during the opening of Climate Week in New York City on Monday, saying “the green, clean future is inevitable.” As a self-described “farm boy from Nebraska” who recently bought a Tesla Model S, Williams said he connects deeply with the issues being discussed during Climate Week, and said greener technologies like electric cars and energy efficient alternatives are both “technologically possible and economically superior.”
The big question in Williams’ mind, he said, is how do we speed up the development and scale up of these greener technologies? One way is to “reframe challenges as opportunities,” and “stop talking about climate at all, at least when speaking to the general public.” A good number of leaders in both the energy and tech sectors have proposed similar ideas, and the cleantech industry and climate change advocates have long been suffering from a marketing problem.
Greener technologies don’t have to include sacrifices, said Williams. He pointed to the Tesla Model S, which he said doesn’t sacrifice on comfort, design, and performance. Williams told me after his talk that he is hoping to get his Model S delivered before the end of the year. He also used the Obvious Corporation’s investment in alternative meat company Beyond Meat, as an example, and said we can make proteins from vegetables that are 3,000 times more efficient than chickens can, as we’re not discarding the bulk of the animal, and they’re delicious and “flying off the shelves.”
While these examples are small steps, said Williams, they are a move in right direction, and his hope is that these initial successes will lead to more money being invested in entrepreneurs working on green solutions. Such stories can also help unstick a blocked political processes, said Williams.
In a year that has been filled with the politicization of clean energy, and depressing news from a variety of cleantech sectors, Williams’ optimism is refreshing. I also hope he’ll represent a new wave of the internet entrepreneurs and investors who can bring back some excitement for greener technologies. While the first wave of internet execs moved aggressively into cleantech back in the 2006/2007 timeframe, over the past year a good deal of these folks have either started to moved away from cleantech or decided to spend less money and time on it. I would also suggest that if there is a new wave of these advocates, that they look at the lessons of investors and entrepreneurs of the past few years, as there are a lot of things that have been learned.
Tony Blair also spoke at the kick off to Climate Week, and said he is optimistic that “business is actually changing the way it works,” and “ordinary people, consumers, are trying to get a hold of greener solutions and apply them in their daily lives.” We’ll bring you more from these events in New York this week.