Earth Hour: Little More than a Message

Earth Hour has come and gone. Overall it was pretty successful: the statistic I heard was that electricity consumption in Ontario was down by 8%.

What does that mean? From a pragmatic viewpoint, not a hell of a lot. From a political viewpoint, it’s pretty significant. I don’t have the numbers that project the percentage of the population that participated, based on an 8% reduction, but I’ll guess it’s somewhere between 15% and 25%.

That’s a lot of people sending a message. At this point it seems the big environmental problem is politicians. Most individuals get it, most corporations get it, but the politicians, who can actually manage the process of real change, just aren’t there yet.

Maybe having as many as one in four voters demonstrate their commitment to change through Earth Hour will be enough to wake them up. I’m not holding my breath though. (more…)

I’m Boycotting the Olympics

There was a time when the events unfolding in Tibet would have caused rapid worldwide outrage, followed shortly by a flood of withdrawals from the Olympics.

But that was when China was of little economic importance.

I am dismayed at how flexible our collective principles are when it comes to the economy. It seems that the only time when a political leader has to be concerned about minor trifles — say for example, killing off a few tens of thousands of people from that pesky tribe next door — is when they’re not either producing oil or keeping those same tribe members working 16 hour days to make cheap clothing.

So it is with China. Most of the West is enjoying a great standard of living(*) thanks to China. Their leaders know this well. They may even be rubbing it in our faces. Or maybe they’re just rubbing the 1938 games in our faces and laughing.

Are we going to actually support the principles of Human Rights and take a stand? What, and pay more for consumer goods as a result? In the pocketbook versus principles battle, it looks like pocketbook wins, no contest.

If politicians are unwilling or unable to act, it’s up to the people. A small step though it may be, I’m opting out of the Olympics this year. This summer I’ll be watching something else.

There’s also a few companies who have lost my business: Coca-Cola, GE, Johnson&Johnson, Lenovo Group, McDonalds, UPS, Panasonic, Swatch, Samsung… at this point, the Olympic logo on any product is an icon for “don’t buy me”.

Last but not least, there’s a Facebook group that expresses similar sentiments. I don’t agree with everything they say, but they’re close enough and are the largest of a handful of similar groups. Join them and be counted.

* I mean this in the “wow, this is inexpensive” sense, not in the formal economic sense.

Viral Marketing from a Venture Capital Company?

Two interesting things about viral marketing:

  • In a lot of cases, you can’t even be sure if there was originally a marketing intent behind it.
  • Just about any business can wind up as the subject of a viral “buzz”.

That’s any business, even including a Sand Road Venture Capital firm. Take a look at this “Anti-Portfolio” from Bessemer Venture Partners.

I’ve had that link sent to me via IM twice today. That’s buzz.

Why does it work? It’s true, it’s funny, and it’s out of the box. Every VC I’ve met to date seems to like to put forward the image of near-prescient infallibility. Openly admitting to your mistakes, and naming names is an utter reversal of this image-making. It is so novel and unusual that it’s immedately worth passing along. Not only that but it instantly humanizes the entire firm and makes them seem like the sorts of people you’d like to pitch to first.

Its both superb and brilliant — be it intentional or not.