Wednesday, October 29, 2008
This Halloween, TheEEStory.com advises you to carefully examine everything you are given to make sure you can separate trick from treat, especially if what you are hoping to bag is news regarding EEStor Inc.
Those predicting EEStor tricks were quick to devour GM-Volt.com's recent report that there would be no EESU's delivered in 2008. Many other blogs and even the New York Times (for God's sake) covered this tricky story and cited funding issues as the reason for the delay. Skeptics of EEStor's claims, (many of whom have set up camp at TheEEStory.com) reveled gluttonously in the supposed news indicating it was further proof that EEStor will not deliver on it's claims. But was this pre-halloween celebration a bit premature? Yes.
[Article continued here]
Friday, October 17, 2008
Halfway through my hour long Sept 29, 2008 interview of Carl Watkins, President of LightEVs, a phone he's set up to screen calls rings in the background. I joke that it's Dick Weir calling to get Watkins to stop talking to me. Watkins finds that amusing and wonders aloud if some of what he's already shared with me is permissible under his NDA with EEStor. I tell him not to worry about that just to keep talking. His laughter now is interrupted by the voice message being recorded in the background. I can hear it because its coming across a speakerphone and because Watkins pauses to listen himself. It's John Stephens calling to let Carl know that he's just had a serious offer from someone who wants to invest in their company.
I say to him, "that was quick." Watkins says yes but he's not interested in outside investment. Their plan is to fund this to completion with their existing group. So, how much does an EEStor license for ebikes cost anyway? Watkins laughs at the forward question. He pauses and says, "I can't discuss that, " so I start to ask another question but he interrupts and says, "It was substantial. I will say that. It was a substantial amount but I'm not going to say how much it is." He did confirm that it consisted of at least 2 parts: an up front fee and a payment upon delivery of production line prototype, similar to Zenn Motor Company.
What made him comfortable signing with EEStor? Watkins reveals that it was a 4 year conversation initiated by Dick Weir:
"Basically, his philosophy is he wants to keep control of the company. So if he can raise money from people like me or Zenn, he doesn't have to sell equity. So his method and objective of financing the company was to approach various people to see if anyone was interested in a technology agreement which is essentially the ownership of the technology in a certain segment of the market. "
Monday, October 13, 2008
Toward the tail end of the project, when success was in sight, the project's leader, Gen. Leslie Groves, who also oversaw the rapid construction of the Pentagon (the largest office building of it's day), approached the New York Times to appoint a science writer, William L. Laurence, to work on a major wartime story involving science. Laurence had a track record of writing on the relevant areas of atomic research and was allowed access several top secret events including the testing at Trinity site along with the bombing of Japan, with two production line prototypes. Spies infiltrated the project ensuring that the United States would always have nuclear rivals.
Comparing EEStor's work to a Manhattan project is in many ways much more than a stretch, but it's something EEStor's leader appears to have no problem doing. In addition to statements Dick Weir made to Tyler Hamilton in this regard, I can confirm that Weir made a similar statement to me (one of multiple interviews I subsequently chose not to publish...yet) showing not only that the words were chosen deliberately but via repetition, underscored as if to advance a message. But a message to whom and for what?. What I can say is that ever since he said it, my radar has been locked onto any reference to Manhattan Project in the context of alternative energy, not so much because I believe the US Government is funding secret research in this area but more to the point, the use of an odd phrase like that is a linguistic clue that occasionally implies a community of closely related persons with a common set of experiences. Phrases sometimes are constituent to shared histories.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
For historical purposes, it's important to note that the secrecy surrounding EEStor's activities has largely been attributed to EEStor. This probably makes persons familiar with how Kleiner Perkins manages it's investments chuckle somewhat. Maybe there are several sources for this information but I've been reading David A. Kaplan's book "The Silicon Boys and Their Valley of Dreams" to understand better how Kleiner operates. Most of what I write in this topic is based on Kaplan's book so hopefully you'll forgive the lack of exact citation and simply go buy the book yourself immediately and without delay. Or, maybe you'll be kind enough to post a blog comment with an even more revealing book, article or conjecture.
There are at least 3 reasons EEStory fans should read Kaplan's book. First, it goes into some detail about the rigor behind Kleiner's efforts to find winning projects including weeding through proposals, eliminating weaknesses and finally settling on an extremely select few in which to invest their millions. Convincing Kleiner to invest in your project is an accomplishment in itself. Due diligence is almost always involves bringing in SME's from the field of interest. (something I learned myself by speaking with persons Kleiner spoke to about EEStor, ie, John Miller). Second, it speaks to how involved Kleiner becomes in day to day operations of a start up. Kaplan says the first law of Kleiner according to John Doerr is "identify the risk up front and get rid of it." A good excercise for EEStoryians is to ask what that risk may have been for EEStor. The third reason for examining Kaplan's almost 10yr old book is that it speaks to the use of stealth as a market strategy.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
In April 2008, John Doerr gave a keynote speech at MIT, the alma mater and former employer of EEStor inventor Carl Nelson. The setting was the 2008 Energy Conference and Doerr kept the session interactive by a subtle and unusual technique of soliciting groups of questions which were responded to with individual attention inconsistently, allowing him to sidestep a question about electrification which seemed to provoke an intriguing set of behavioral cues the interpretation of which is best left to experts. Doerr pointed out that over the years, MIT had invested $50Mil in KPCB ventures from which $500Mil had been returned. Additionally, Doerr pointed out that 6 of the 30 green tech ventures they are backing are in the area surrounding MIT, not including A123 Systems which was funded by Kleiner rival Sequoia Capital...among others.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Note: I'm going to postpone the posting of the interview with Carl Watkins of LightEVS for the time being. Instead, I'm going to put in front of it some very interesting information I've learned from speaking with some of the entities who were approached by LIghtEVS at Interbike regarding the EEStor technology that was just announced.
First, I have been in contact with some of the exhibitors at Interbike 2008 who have shared with me their experience of talking with Carl Watkins and John Stephens at the show. These sources have asked to remain anonymous so that their disclosures do not impact their ability to possibly utilize the EEStor technology in their ebikes. They have agreed to stay in contact with me as they go through their discussions with LightEVS although they recognize that at some point NDA's will shut off their ability to share information.
I am told that Mr. Watkins and Mr. Stephens approached many exhibitors at Interbike to discuss their license. The uniform first impression of those I've spoken to is that their pitch set off many scammer alarm bells for those who heard it. The pitch included many hitherto unseen capabilities in the ebike world: