Lyndon Rive – Green energy CEO (SolarCity) and Underwater Hockey player

Even though Lyndon Rive is the architect and builder of a successful IT company and now serves as CEO of a growing solar power operation, the most interesting thing about this 30-year-old South African may be that he plays mid-mid position on the (and I’m not making this up) U.S. Men’s Underwater Hockey Team. The sport works pretty much like ice hockey except, of course, the playing field is the bottom of a swimming pool. Two teams of six players each hold their breaths for as long as they can and smack the puck around the pool using a foot-long stick. Rive’s been playing since 1992.Hockey aside, his head seems to be placed well above the water. Rive, along with brothers Peter and Russ head SolarCity, the leading provider of solar energy systems to homes and businesses. They want to bring solar power to the mass market by making it affordable. SolarCity’s method of accomplishing this is by group buying. The company’s sales force blankets a targeted neighborhood and when it gets 50 or so commitments, buys the solar panels and sends out installation teams to erect them. Customers save 20-30% from the group discount.Rive thinks America is ready for solar power. “People want to go green,” he said, “but they won’t do it if it costs them an arm and a leg. Even the extreme environmentalists can’t justify it.” He feels mom and pop solar operations don’t offer the stability that SolarCity provides, backed by capital provided by his cousin, Internet giant Elon Musk (who serves as chairman at SolarCity) and JP Morgan Bank. They recently received $21M in new funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson. SolarCity employs around 150 full-time employees and installs 60 to 70 systems a month. It concentrates on California but has plans to expand to Colorado.

Rive @ the Going Green 2007 conference.In 1998 Lyndon and Russell Rive created Everdream, which serves small businesses that have fewer than 20 employees by providing computer hardware, round-the-clock technology support services, desktop management services, Internet access and free online training for a single monthly subscription charge of about $150. Offerings include application management, software distribution, hardware integration and help desk services. The brothers started selling their services going door-to-door on skateboards and, after securing some seed money, grew the business within eight months into a 100-employee operation occupying a 40,000-square-foot space. The Rives have since replaced themselves at Everdream with another management team so they could start SolarCity, but Lyndon still serves Everdream as vice president.Rive’s past business ventures include an alternative health production and distribution company, which he grew to over 1000 sales representatives with multiple product lines within four years.At this month’s Solar Power Conference in Long Beach, Calif., Rive said that payback is not the way to look at the decision to use solar energy. “Return on investment is the way to think about it. A savings account gives you 2% return. Solar system return on investment with a utility like Los Angeles Department of Water and Power that has lower rates is 5%-6%. Solar system return on investment with a utility like Southern California Edison that has higher rates is 10%-12%. And studies show a solar system increases the value of the house more than the cost…..It is the best home improvement you can do for property value.” On why he is now in the “green” market Rive, in an interview with ABC News, said,”Looking at the world’s biggest problems, software is not going to address it. It’s one of the few industries where you have the opportunity to make some money and do good.” Here’s another writeup on SolarCity in Fast Company.Rive does have other interests besides business and underwater hockey. He lists his hobbies as kitesurfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding and mountain biking.

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Mark Shuttleworth – Ubuntu founder and first African in Space

Mark Shuttleworth is a young, South African multi-millionaire who places himself in the category of people who are both privileged and lucky and want to do something positive with their good fortune. His Ubuntu Project, HBD enterprise, and the Shuttleworth Foundation all serve as reflections of that thought.Born in Welkom, South Africa in 1973, Shuttleworth grew up in Cape Town and graduated from the University of Cape Town with a business science degree in finance and information systems. While still in college he founded Thawte, a company that specializes in Internet security and digital certificates. Thawte became the first company outside of the United States to offer an encrypted server, making commerce over the Internet more secure. In 1999, he sold it to VeriSign for stock valued at $575 million.

Using the profits from that sale Shuttleworth founded HBD Venture Capital, a group that invests in South African companies that hold the potential of serving a global marketplace. HBD refers to “Here Be Dragons,” a term used on ancient maps to mark uncharted territory. HBD invests in an interesting array of business ventures, from Themepack, a company that uses pencil cases to deliver messages to schoolchildren, to incuBeta, a Web2.0 company supplying paid search engine advertising and optimization. HBD recently invested ZAR25mm ($3.5mm) in incuBeta.Other investments include EDH, Metricap, Mybeat, and CSense Systems. HBD also offers managed investments: Impi Linux, Ubuntu’s provider in Africa; HIP2BSquare, which presents math and science to students as cool subjects and well-worth their time; and Fundamo, a leading company internationally of providing ways for organizations to do banking and other transactions from their mobile devices.

Ubuntu logo

In 2004 Shuttleworth founded the Ubuntu project, a free, open source, Linux-based operating system that’s growing in popularity among businesses and individuals. “Ubuntu” is an African concept and was once described by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as defining an open person who is available and affirming to others, and who knows that they are part of a greater whole. The Ubuntu platform contains around 1,000 pieces of software that include spreadsheet, word processing, Web browsing, instant messaging and presentation programs. Several Dell computers now come preloaded with Ubuntu. Google also uses Ubuntu on the computers in their offices. Shuttleworth’s Canonical Ltd., headquartered in Europe, is the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu.Another example of Shuttleworth’s philosophy of sharing his wealth to benefit others is his Shuttleworth Foundation. This organization funds projects aimed at improving the quality and reach of education in Africa, and has done work in all nine provinces of South Africa. It also serves to fund ideas that can create positive change in civil society. The ideas selected must originate in South Africa or come from another part of the globe but be beneficial to South Africa. It is estimated that Shuttleworth has given away nearly half of his fortune to charitable causes.In April of 2002 Shuttleworth fulfilled his dream of space travel by flying with the Russian crew Soyuz TM-34 to the International Space Station. He spent a year of his life and $20 million of his bank account training for and paying for the privilege of becoming the second-ever private citizen (and the first African) to be launched into space. His trip wasn’t just for fun, however; he conducted several experiments during the flight, including research on AIDS, stem cells, and muscle development and atrophy. He trained in Star City, Russia, for the eight-day mission. Since he has been back on earth he has shared his experiences and at the same time promoting science and math to more than 100,000 students. This, in turn, led to Hip2BSquare.His blog, lists many of his likes and dislikes. They include Cesaria Evora, Sinatra, flashes of insight, skinny-dipping and the string theory (likes) plus legalese, wet grey winters and public speaking (dislikes). Shuttleworth is single and lives in London. He spends his spare time reading and lists travel, naturally, as a favorite hobby. He gets to travel the globe in his own jet, a Bombardier Global Express.

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Parkinson’s laws – THE management guide

Published in the mid-1950’sParkinson’s laws are still very relevant today.PARKINSON’S LAW: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

  1. “An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals”
  2. “Officials make work for each other.”

PARKINSON’S SECOND LAW: Expenditure rises to meet income.PARKINSON’S THIRD LAW: Expansion means complexity, and complexity decay.THE LAW OF DELAY: Delay is the deadliest form of denial.THE LAW OF TRIVIALITY: The time spent on any item of a committee’s agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum of money involved.INJELITANCE: A vital Parkinson contribution was his diagnosis of why certain organizations suddenly deteriorate: the rise to authority of individuals with unusually high combinations of incompetence and jealousy (“injelitance”).

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Jack Welch / Lars Dalgaard Keynote video

I really enjoyed the keynote QA of Jack Welch and Lars Dalgaard during the Successfactors User conference earlier in June. You may view it here, after entering some contact info. You will need Windows Media player or Real player to view it.Enjoy!

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Guest lecture @ GSU Robinson College of Business

I’m giving a guest lecture to MBA students at the Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University in Atlanta on June 13, 2007. The topic will be the difference between doing business in South Africa and America. I will add an outline of the presentation to this blog in the next couple of weeks.If you have any comments, suggestions and ideas please leave a comment.

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Jack Welch Keynote at SuccessConnect in New York

I attended the SuccessConnect keynote of Jack Welch and Lars Dalgaard in New York on June 7, 2007. You can find a short video here: Keynote Video. Carlos Watson did a great job moderating the Q&A session. [Update: You’ll find the long version of Jack’s keynote here.]The following comments from Jack and Lars were the most memorable for me:

  • Jack: HR should be equal to Finance in corporate America. People first, then strategy.
  • Lars: Megatrends (e.g., baby boomer’s leaving the work force) are forcing corporate America to elevate HR’s role in the organization.
  • Jack: Managers should commit to telling employees where they stand — the good and the bad, the Stars and the low-performers. HR needs Sarbanes-Oxley like compliance. “Phony appraisals are a SIN!”
  • Jack: 20/70/10 rule: Let 10% of the non-performers go, highly reward the top 20% and compensate the middle 70% well.
  • Lars: Most important interview question — “What did your mom teach you?”
  • Jack: Most important interview question — “Tell me about your previous job?” If the person has a victim mentality then let them go. If you find a star, then hire them on the spot. Don’t send them to HR and don’t let them leave the building. Give them love!
  • Jack: Terminate people with dignity. Help them find another job. They will be a reference — good or bad — you want them to be a good reference. Spend a lot of time with them after they leave the company.
  • Jack: The following are the top 3 character traits of a leader:
    1. Authenticity: Top character trait as a leader. Be real and true to yourself.
    2. Resilience: If a leader falls, how do they get back on the horse!
    3. Ability to look around corners: This is a leader’s secret sauce. Their ability to see around corners to spot hidden trends and changes in the direction of a business.
  • Jack: The compensation system should align with what you want to achieve as a leader.
  • Jack: Performance gets you in the game, aligning with company values gets you promoted. For example: If a manager delivers the numbers, but doesn’t life the company values — BAD, get them out. Long term they will destroy the company. Top performers are people who align with company values and deliver the numbers.

Jack’s final comment was the most important. Candor with your employees and management is the most important thing in business.What do you think of Jack’s approach and management style?

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