SAN FRANCISCO--Shai Agassi's ouster
as CEO of the battery-infrastructure company he founded,
Better Place, is an object lesson in techno-business strategy:
Breathtaking vision doesn't always track with reality.
Or, as Bill Clinton might say, "It's the infrastructure, stupid."
[Get a 10% discount on ARM TechCon 2012 conference passes by using promo code EDIT. Click here to learn about the show and register.]
Any technology idea is only as good as the infrastructure in place
to support it; and any infrastructure needs to cotton to the human
experience. They all sit on the shoulders of what preceded them.
Mobile phones took off because they were a mobile extension of a
familiar technology; they've exploded as developers have built on
that simple premise with software and apps, which, themselves, are
built on another familiar experience, the personal computer. The
television was an extension of not only radio but live in-person
performances and so was understandable from a technology and human
experience standpoint. Building the infrastructure was low risk
because we knew the user experience would be familiar and
Rarely comes the innovation that hovers far away from those
shoulders, untethered, but sometimes it has to happen because we
understand the long-term social benefits. The railroad
infrastructure had to be built to make the harnessing of motive
steam power work, but society understood the long-term value in
making the investment. Automobiles came next with no gas stations or
roads to speak of at first, or even a use case in how to operate the
vehicles, but we knew the enormous benefit that would accrue to
society, and the alternatives were unacceptable or wearing thin.