Monday, July 7, 2008

EEStor Permitivity Test Clue from Richard Weir, EEStor CEO

I spent part of my day trying to figure out why Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers does not list EEStor as one of their investments on their website.  To find out, I called Bill Joy's office and his secretary informed me that KPCB's only investments are the ones listed on the website and EEStor is not listed.  I got the feeling she was a little confused and won't describe the ensuing conversation.  But it caused me to get really curious about this topic and for some reason, I stumbled on Joel Serface as a place to focus more attention.  Why so?  

Well, Mr. Serface is new to KPCB and his prior employment as Director of the Austin Clean Energy Incubator organization which is part of the Austin Technology Incubator. I was told today by someone who has worked with Mr. Serface that he knows everyone in Austin in the Clean Energy space.  I thought it was interesting that Mr. Serface had been quoted in an article that was focused on EEStor and companies like it.  HHhhmm, I thought, Austin Energy Company expert goes to Kleiner Perkins....to do what exactly?   So, I got Mr. Serface on the phone and asked him, "Did Kleiner hire you to run their EEStor investment?"  Simple question, right?  I got alot of no comments but Mr. Serface did say that he was "not involved" with EEStor and that I should seek more information from EEStor or "someone more knowledgeable about the topic."  I said, "should I ask Bill Joy?"  "No Comment."   He was polite but I was clearly not on his agenda today which I'm alright with obviously.

When I originally called KPCB today, I picked someone randomly on the GreenTech team (look it up) and asked the receptionist if I could speak with them. The person I chose had a secretary that indicated he/she did not work on that investment.  I asked that secretary who I should instead talk with and she said, "hang on a second, we have a database...(long pause)...talk to Bill Joy. "  So apparently, what's on the website does not equate exactly to their internal database. 

So, I still felt like KPCB's secrecy about EEStor was strange.  Then I came across this article which talks about their investment in an electric car company from Norway called Think Global.  Their goal is to bring 50,000 EV's to the US late next year. TG uses lithium ion technology.  Now, it's not unusual obviously for anyone to hedge their investment bets.  But it did strike me as a little bit interesting that EEStor's two biggest investors are somewhat significantly competitors in the EV space.   Not a big deal?  Zenn Motor confirmed they had not been approached by KPCB for this initiative. 

All of this t left me wondering about the KPCB investment in EEStor and so I decided to go to the best source of info on this, Richard Weir, CEO of EEStor.  I just asked him directly if KPCB was still invested in the company and he said yes and that he is happy to be associated with them.  We went around the horn a bit and of course, as with everyone out there, I had to ask about the permitivity tests.  That's when a clue popped up that I hadn't expected. 

Blogger:  What about the permitivity testing? Is it going to happen?

Richard Weir: Everything here is quite going along exceptionally well. We're very happy with things. And things are going exceptionally well....as witnessed by the Lockheed Martin contract. What did Lockheed Martin say, "does it work?"  They said "yes".  Next, they were asked can they produce it?  They said "yes."  So there's your answer. "  

The conversation came to an abrupt end.  But I really started thinking about what he said here. This is my take.   If you ask him about the permitivity testing, he will cite the Lockheed Martin statements.  (He did this before in the prior interview. ) He seems to be holding up Lockheed as a quasi-third party entity that is not officially touting capabilities but nonetheless is doing so.  Granted, everyone is waiting for an independent 3rd party test and Lockheed is not the entity to do that. But for some reason today it clicked a bit more.  Everyone's been asking does EEStor have anything that works? If yes, can they mass produce it?  Richard Weir is saying Lockheed knows and has announced the affirmative to both.  




12 comments:

marcus said...

It seems to me what he is saying is that there will be no third party confirmation of permittivity - not long after promising such an announcement.

Lionel Leibman from Lockheed said he hadn't even seen a prototype but that they would be "working on that" this year. If I were you I would try and chase Lionel up to get to the bottom of this but its starting to sound a little like the beginning of the end in my opinion.

marcus said...

After all, Zenn are depending on such an announcement for their next round of investment in EEstor no?

erkyl said...

Look, pushing the technological envelope is time consuming and tricky. Many of our modern day marvels were late coming to market. Much is being made of Lockheed's investment in EESTOR. Forgive me, but Lockheed "farts" that kind of money. I'm sure they regard it as an extremely speculative investment - ditto for the venture firm. Only Zenn's investment shows heart and guts of any kind. And I don't believe the purpose is to drive their stock price up. I think they really want to be a player in the EV space.

steve said...

I'm sorry but you are mistaken in your post on this topic. EESTOR is certainly listed directly at the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers web site as being "inside Kleiner's portfolio".

You needed to dig just a little deeper and the confirmation can be found via the search engine on the front page of at the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers web site.

Indeed, only one hit is listed

http://www.kpcb.com/files/Fortune_article.pdf

This is an article from Fortune Magazine dated November 26, 2007 and on page 88 of the article in Fortune there is a chart listing 10 of Kleiner's energy oriented investments. EESTOR is listed in the chart and the year 2005 is given as the year Kleiner invested.

The article is found at "www.kpcb.com" .... so the investment is certainly acknowledged at kpcb.com.

More interesting is the fact that Government and military industrial heavyweights are joining Kleiner.

Al Gore is now a "hands on partner" in KPCB and Colin Powell is also a partner, albeit a more behind the scenes partner with KCPB according to the following article,

"After 'a conversation that's gone on for a year and a half,' according to Gore, he has decided to join his old pal John Doerr as an active, hands-on partner at Kleiner Perkins, Silicon Valley's preeminent venture firm.

The move is more than another Colin Powell moment (the former Secretary of State signed on as a Kleiner "strategic limited partner" two years ago and has hardly been heard from since). Gore is joining the firm as Kleiner makes a risky move beyond information technology and health-care investing into the fast-growing and increasingly competitive arena of "clean technology."

http://money.cnn.com/2007/11/11/news/newsmakers/gore_kleiner.fortune/index.htm

Funny how Colin Powell just appeared on their board just after KCPB invested in EESTOR.

Al Gore also recently intervened for ZENN with Toronto's Premier to push him to allow ZENN cars to run on Toronto streets,

http://tyler.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2007/11/6/3338232.html

LOCKHEED MARTIN
COLIN POWELL
AL GORE

Looks like EESTOR is, as they say in the Cosa Nostra, "A friend of ours."

richterm said...

I think you're jumping to a huge conclusion. Lockheed may have seen a hand-built prototype (I would imagine they have seen at least that in order to warrant their investment). But my understanding is the permitivity testing is really a test of their production line, and whether they reach the required specs in the process.

Now, I do conclude that if you can build something by hand, then it is possible to create a mass-production process that can achieve the same results. The question is working out the bugs in the process, and how much time that takes. They've promised that they'll accomplish that this year, and of course they have to before they can go into production. You can't start mass-producing these things before you certify the process! The certification is also required by the Zenn agreement, so squash any thoughts that Eestor isn't working on it.

Lockheed has never commented on permitivity certification. They've just said the science works (in the assumed prototype that Eestor showed them but that they haven't tested themselves), and the process can ramp up quickly if/when it is certified.

richterm said...

One more smoke/fire thing..

OF COURSE they have a working hand-built prototype. Why in hell would you create a production line for something without knowing if it will work? Does anyone really think they've been sitting around playing with chemicals for the last 7 years saying...

"Gee Ollie do you think we should build a prototype?"

"Nah, lets just show people our chemicals and papers, and they'll give us millions to start producing them in bulk"

Clifford even alluded to this saying he's not interested in taking shipment on "hand-built" units.

Jay Draiman said...

Renewable Energy Manufactures/suppliers should use their own product to manufacture.

The manufacturers’ of Solar Panels and other forms of renewable energy with related support products manufactures/suppliers - should have at least the decency to practice what they preach what they market to the public.
That would be the best marketing approach I can think off.
If they believe in the product they manufacture/sell, they should utilize it to its fullest potential.
It will give the manufacturer the actual experience of utilizing the product on a daily basis, view and experience any shortcoming or improvements that are needed, implement the improvements and capitalize on that revision to improve the product and its performance.
This will instill confidence in the public to purchase the product.

Jay Draiman, Energy Analyst

PS
As with any new technology, PV will become more efficient, cheaper and cleaner to produce. In order for this to happen we (Governments / NGOs / Individuals) need to invest more time and money into making PV viable, e.g. through increased incentives, regulations, technical standards, R&D, manufacturing processes and generating consumer demand.
Just like the automobile industry, the manufacture used its own product.
Over the years the automobile industry and technology has evolved from the early 1900 to what it is today the year 2008.
I predict that in 10 years the automobile we know today will change drastically for the better, with new fuel technology and other modification that will improve its scales of economy and features.

steve said...

B, you must correct today's erroneous and misleading blog as EESTOR is definitely listed as one of the companies Kleiner has invested in at their official site. You've been ahead of the pack with your coverage but the current blog of today is SERIOUSLY misleading in more ways than one. See my previous comment for the link to the KPBC site where EESTOR is listed as a Kleiner investment.

Also, you contradict your previous reporting when today you allege that Weir may be suggesting the 3rd party certification was completed by Lockheed Martin.

In part 1 of your interview with Weir on May 28th 2008, you wrote:

"Today, Mr. Weir, the CEO of EESTOR Inc. and his team are narrowly focused on things that feed the scientific soul: certification testing, validation testing, proving the efficacy of capabilities, proving the scalability of manufacturing processes, the purity of chemicals and a host of other things that ordinary people don't worry about..."

The Lockheed Martin story about their deal with EESTOR hit the street on or about Jan. 10, 2008, five months before your interview with Weir. If Lockheed was the 3rd Party certification, then why is Weir focussed on "certification testing, validation testing,... the purity of chemicals" ... etc if he had all that locked down by Lockheed Martin.

Are you trying to knock down the price of ZENN today? If not, then please correct yourself on both points.

b said...

Thanks for the comments. I know last night's post was a little sloppy on a few points but I wanted to get the info out there.

I DID realize you could find the Fortune Magazine article via their search box. This is what I said to Bill Joy's secretary when she said all their investments were listed on the site. But what she has in mind is this:

http://kpcb.com/portfolio/portfolio.php

Click on "E" and you wont see EEStor there.

Now, I'm going to follow up with KPCB and get to the bottom of this if possible. For now, I believed Weir when he said they are invested. I dont think there's any question actually.


As for the Lockheed info. I definitely think he's saying that Lockheed knows now that the technology works and production of it can scale. But that's not the 3rd party verification Zenn needs to move forward because Clifford is, like everyone, awaiting the certification.

marcus said...

Weir might be saying that Lockheed knows it works but if you look at the interview wording its pretty ambiguous. If there is anyone out there that you might get some useful info from its probably Lionel Leibman. I think you've squeezed Clifford, Weir and KCPB pretty much dry for the moment.

mrjerry said...

There will be news shortly on permitivity - my speculation this week after july 9th. the reason for the delay is for zenn financing and the 40 days sec rule affecting us investors that will end July 9th.

http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=c2046e9d-ce11-4115-af06-9737c3f6f232

Y_Po said...

One thing for sure is the fact that 3rd party testing is about one year late, shipment of unit to Zenn is a year late as well.
So, 1 year have passed and still no testing, no prototype and of course no shipment to Zenn, just "milestones"