Shai Agassi steps down as CEO of Better Place

The charismatic leader Shai Agassi has stepped down as CEO of electric vehicle charging company Better Place. Globes reported this and Better Place just confirmed it with me. The article says that the Better Place board removed Agassi as CEO and replaced him with Evan Thornley, CEO of Better Place Australia.

Agassi will remain on the board and will remain a shareholder in the company. The Globes article also says that Better Place has wracked up losses of $490 million since it was founded, and that Israel Corporation, which owns almost a third of the company, holds a $160 million loss. The President of Israel Corp, Nir Gilad, is quoted in the article from a remark he made in August, saying: “I too would be glad to know when we will start making a profit from Better Place.”

While Better Place clearly needs to start making revenue off of its inaugural network, I think pushing Agassi out will be pretty detrimental to the brand. Agassi was the vision and face of the company.

But as many have reported, the roll out of cars in Israel has been slower than expected. NPR reported as of August that 300 cars were sold in Israel, fewer than the company would like. In late August Better Place raised a $50 million loan (€40 million) from European Investment Bank to finish building out its networks in Denmark and Israel.

Better Place needs a lot of funds to get its networks built out. The company installs both charging stations and battery swap stations to create a network that enables its users to drive electric cars with the same convenience of gas cars. Better Place partners with utilities and governments in countries to provide subsidies to make the cost of the electric cars to its customers very low, and partners with car companies like Nissan to make the vehicles’ batteries swappable. The customer then pays a subscription service for driving and charging the electric car.

Founded in 2007, Better Place raised $200 million in equity just last November, and said at the time the company had a valuation of $2.2 billion. Before its latest loan, Better had raised more than $750 million, from investors including GE, UBS, VantagePoint Venture Partners, and others.