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Summary:

The CEO of electric vehicle charging company Better Place, Shai Agassi, will step down as CEO and is being replaced with Evan Thornley, formerly the CEO of Better Place Australia. The company needs to make money and the initial roll out has been slow.

Better Place Israel

The charismatic leader Shai Agassi has stepped down as CEO of electric vehicle charging company Better Place. Globes reported this and Better Place just confirmed it with me. The article says that the Better Place board removed Agassi as CEO and replaced him with Evan Thornley, CEO of Better Place Australia.

Agassi will remain on the board and will remain a shareholder in the company. The Globes article also says that Better Place has wracked up losses of $490 million since it was founded, and that Israel Corporation, which owns almost a third of the company, holds a $160 million loss. The President of Israel Corp, Nir Gilad, is quoted in the article from a remark he made in August, saying: “I too would be glad to know when we will start making a profit from Better Place.”

While Better Place clearly needs to start making revenue off of its inaugural network, I think pushing Agassi out will be pretty detrimental to the brand. Agassi was the vision and face of the company.

But as many have reported, the roll out of cars in Israel has been slower than expected. NPR reported as of August that 300 cars were sold in Israel, fewer than the company would like. In late August Better Place raised a $50 million loan (€40 million) from European Investment Bank to finish building out its networks in Denmark and Israel.

Better Place needs a lot of funds to get its networks built out. The company installs both charging stations and battery swap stations to create a network that enables its users to drive electric cars with the same convenience of gas cars. Better Place partners with utilities and governments in countries to provide subsidies to make the cost of the electric cars to its customers very low, and partners with car companies like Nissan to make the vehicles’ batteries swappable. The customer then pays a subscription service for driving and charging the electric car.

Founded in 2007, Better Place raised $200 million in equity just last November, and said at the time the company had a valuation of $2.2 billion. Before its latest loan, Better had raised more than $750 million, from investors including GE, UBS, VantagePoint Venture Partners, and others.

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  1. A pity that the real visionaries, and early shapers of new movements often end up outsided. I wish Shai all the best on his future journeys, and I am pretty sure he is neither lacking the energy, the connections nor the vision to make his dream become reality.

    PS.: Similar on different level, creating Dresden’s first coworking and future technology based hub http://flickr.com/CoOrpheum, happened to myself. Never give up on your dreams – my motto of life :)

  2. There is no money in electrons. We have to let go of notion of fully mature plug-in platforms. Fuel-based EVs are only viable model– and all auto engineering giants are signaling fuel cell EVs. Haters will hate – but they are now at risk of being uninformed. There is such a thing as coming out of the hype cycle. Molecule-fuel based EVs offer a sustainable business model. No one can make money from electrons. No car maker wants the cost to mass of batteries. Shai and others had strong beliefs around weak assumptions.

  3. I guarantee the profits will come pouring in when the Better Place cars come equipped with a flux capacitor :)
    Wishing all the best to Shai and to Better Place! We will only benefit from their success!

  4. RebeccaRachmany Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    I don’t know if strong beliefs and weak assumptions were the problem. You can pull of almost anything with strong beliefs. But only if you get the rest of the pieces in place. Agassi is a great visionary, and BetterPlace may yet succeed. He faced a number of major mis-steps in hiring, finances, and in losing focus.

  5. For a view of Better Place patents issued under the USPTO Green Tech Pilot Program, see http://wayfinderinklings.blogspot.com/2012/10/better-place-green-tech-young-gun.html

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