Sunday, 22 April 2012

30,000 views and growing

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever imagine that anyone would read what I had to write.

When I started this blog, it was little more than musings, about an uncertain future, of a previously unknown Industry.

In 2009, when I ventured into this world, I had no idea what lay ahead. It was a bit like walking through the streets of London as a new immigrant, in a thick fog, without a roadmap. The people I met along the way, that I asked for directions from, were sometimes of significant help, and other times only served to make my journey even more difficult - by sending me down passageways to nowhere.

One man early on gave me a lantern. He provided Inspiration, general guidance, and a sound understanding and wisdom. his words were inspiring and encouraging. There was a depth of knowledge and understanding, that I would only understand as the years went on.What I had - was energy, and desire, and a good sound knowledge of the basics. These attributes were nurtured and honed (sometimes at great expense - like Failure).

The first reality was - that there was no reality. As a nascent Industry - everybody was in the same position. There were no leaders (only those who professed that position). The field was quite small at the time, and has grown substantially since then.  3-years on, the same paradigm still exists.

I suppose that the forays into all of those back alleys and hidden places, revealed far more to be about what "wasn't" - than what "was". To say that I spent hundreds of hours in research would be a gross understatement. It was far more like thousands of hours. Every single bit of information available on the subject, no matter how inconsequential or trivial it first appeared, was subjected to assessment, scrutiny and analysis. After all - there was no definitive - only speculation.

Very quickly - patterns started to appear. (By the way - there is wonderful book, written by a group of California Architects - Christopher Alexander et al - called "A Pattern Language" - whose format is the basis of what's to follow.)


This product is, without doubt, the single most desirable renewable fuel for energy generation that has EVER come along. There is not a single utility that isn't looking for this product as a coal-replacement. There is however, the limiting factor that Utilities will only accept an alternative - if it meets the financial objectives of the pre-existing. This is yet to be proven. Many people have formulated wonderful, if fanciful, financial models that seek to substantiate the increased "value" of bio-coal (through "offset" and "avoid cost" allocations) however - the reality is bio-coal needs to compete with fossil coal, to be a viable alternative.


Whenever there is a perception of opportunity, Companies will appear out of nowhere, professing to have "solved" the challenge of meeting that opportunity. This industry operates far more on rumour, innuendo, speculation and misinformation than any I have come across in my half century plus on this planet. the vast majority is predicated on the perpetuation of myth, that is further mystified through the tactics of publishing "snippets" of information, and withholding anything of substance. I have finally learned the reasons why. There simply is NO Substance behind the claims. It is all an effort to create an "appearance". Companies hide behind a cloak of Secrecy, and wrap up what their doing with NDA's and other protective mechanisms. Now - this is not a bad thing, as intellectual Property needs to be protected, however in most cases, it is a veil, that hides little more than "the man behind the curtain" in the Wizard of OZ. They want to know EVERYTHING about YOU - before they will release even basic information about them. I believe that this is much to their detriment, as it only serves to "turn off" bona fide Clients.


All business is done in the "back room". That is to say, once a potential client identifies a potential supplier, the FIRST thing they do, is to start talking to everyone and anyone they can, to learn about the Supplier. The conversations inevitably start with "Have you heard of . . . ?"; "Do you know about? . . " "What do you think of? . . " etc. Decisions are made, based on information from sources, that are about as valid, as the gossip amongst schoolgirls. I know that our Company - Sea2Sky Energy UK, has been tarred with the brush of our American namesake - Sea2Sky Corporation. While it is true that, in the beginning, we were aligned - the relationship quickly ended, and much to the chagrin of my partners, I decided to keep the name. History has shown that we are still here, and that they have disappeared into oblivion. (Although - they have "reinvented" themselves in the form of ECO-tech Energy Corporation.) It would seem that somehow - I have become a "sounding board" for people to draw information. Perhaps i is my misguided belief that cooperation is a better strategy than competition; or the fact that I am so vocal, that has caused this? I'm not really sure.


Unless there is a quid pro quo, you are highly unlikely to get "the straight goods" from any developer. Business relationships in a new industry, is like the secret of success for a marriage. It's a matter of give, and take. Looking through the archives of my email, I realised that there were over 10,000 messages in the past 3 years. Only a handful of those ultimately provided anything of value, either to our Company, or the industry at large. The vast majority were fishing expeditions. Full of tempting promises, lots of dangled carrots, but always JUST out of reach.Once they have gotten everything they can from you, they move on - never to be seen or heard from again. Value is a funny thing. Most of these people add no value, and are simply looking for someone to provide not only their education - but also to pay the tuition.


Any time, any one makes headway in an Industry, there are always those who sit back and watch, and at just the right moment - jump in to "help". They always have a strategy to make things better, faster, less expensive or more efficient. If you ONLY hire them - then they will solve ALL of your problems (for a small fee, of course!). These people seek to be the Middle Men, Intermediaries, Traders, Brokers, or other "must haves". In reality - they are doing little more than looking for a free ride on your wave. They have grand ideas on how they can Licence, Market, Franchise or otherwise promote all of your years of hard work, IF you'll only sign on with them. They promise a land flowing with milk and honey. Unfortunately - that land hasn't existed for many thousands of years, and nowadays - you need to succeed by the sheer efforts you make.


Ahhh yes . . .the "fund-raiser". Now these folks come in many colours. At the very basic level - they send you an unsolicited email, telling you that they have "reviewed" your technology, and they have a whole LIST of Angel Investors; Venture Capitalists, and High net Worth individuals, just LOOKING for what YOU have to offer. ALL you need to do, is send them a bunch of money - to teach you HOW to "present" to these people, and you're away to the races. I mean, after all, YOU can't be a brilliant Scientist, Inventor, Engineer AND businessman, all at the same time. So - they will be happy to coach you - AND - will present you to their ready, willing and able panel of people, who have MILLIONS to spend on you.

The second kind, offer funding with "no money down, no credit history, no pre-requisites, and no equity given up. All they want - is a few thousand in "Due Diligence" fees, and the "taps" with money will open. I actually received a presentation with those words - and they likened fund-raising to having a bath. As soon as you signed on to their program - you'd be luxuriating in more money than you know what to do with. What a crock!

So, there you have it. Lessons learned from the past 3 years of my life in this field. Where are we now?

Well. For the most part, the Industry hasn't progressed much beyond the point it was 3 years ago. Certainly the knowledge base is much broader, and there has been some development at the Commercial Scale, but all in all, we are still in the very early stages.

Everyone was looking for the elusive "Eureka" moment. This is a false idol, as that moment will never come to pass. What will come to pass, is small achievements, by many people, aggregating together to create the whole. During this journey, we have found a lot of kindred spirits, and we walk together now through the fog. Each person is another set of ears and eyes; and another mind. It is only through these collaborations that we believe we will succeed. Oddly enough, it is a strange brew of Academics; Intellectuals, Engineers, Scientists, Technicians, and a host of others.

Without them, I am nothing, so I thought I would take a bit of time to give credit, where credit is due.

George - the man without whom, I would have never been inspired to start this journey. You have been my inspiration, and the foundation of my belief in all of this.

John - a better, more patient business partner I could not ask for. You have suffered my hair-brained ideas, and always stood squarely beside me. Your insights and encouragement are the fuel of my engine.

Ira - my longest and best friend. We have certainly had our times, but we have managed through the good, the bad, and the ugly. One day, some day, we will reach the goal that we both have dedicated so much of our lives to.

Johan - we are a very odd match indeed. The accidental connection that brought us together,  has proven to be a very strong bond. We have struggled through this at every step, and I have always tried my best to live up to the expectations. Ours is truly a quid pro quo relationship, and I am grateful for your patience and understanding, as we find out way to the destination. Your honour and integrity are a an inspiration and aspiration to me.

Edward - My mentor, and often times, my reality therapist. I once learned that to be a success, you need to surround yourself with successful people. I don't know why you have tolerated me for all these years now, but your dedication and devotion has been a driving force. One that keeps me going, when I felt like giving up. Thank you for showing me the brass ring.

Ben - For 2 years now we have walked this journey. You're the only person I know at such an intimate level, that I have never actually spoken to.(Are you EVER going to send me your phone number?). You bring to me - the macro view. All too often I get caught up in my world - and you show me the greater world around me.

Nikolaus - a man who has brought more technical insight to me than anyone else. I hope to be able to reward you 10-fold in the days to come.

Karen - My love, and my life. This business has seen the destruction of us as a family - and in the adversity - we have found strength. One day we will be together again.