PG&E’s CEO on T. Boone Plan: Not the Right Way

PG&E CEO Peter Darbee, at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Energy Summit at Stanford on Friday, told us that he was “concerned” about the plan unveiled last week by oil baron T. Boone Pickens to get the U.S. off oil. While reducing foreign oil consumption is the right thing to do, he said, the idea of replacing foreign oil with natural gas is a problematic one.

First of all, Darbee said, there isn’t that much domestic natural gas to go around, and the foreign natural gas providers are the same ones that currently provide us with oil. And from a national security perspective, converting our cars to natural gas wouldn’t change our energy-based security issues, he said; electric cars and hydrogen-based cars are a better alternative.

Darbee also said he’s becoming increasingly worried about the investment tax credit, which provides funds for up to 30 percent of the cost of a solar or wind system and is set to expire by the end of the year. As the Chronicle recently noted, PG&E has signed contracts with developers including several solar thermal companies that may put their projects on hold if the ITC is not extended. If the companies abandon their projects, PG&E would be left scrambling to meet the state renewable portfolio standard, which says the California utility must have 20 percent of its power from renewable energy by the end of 2010. Short URLs for Developers

ScreenshotThere’s no shortage of services out there for shortening URLs (here’s our roundup of just a few of the alternatives). But that’s not stopping new entrant from making a bit of a splash on its introduction. They offer web or bookmarklet access and the ability to pick your own keyword. The immediate consumer appeal may be limited – they require more clicks than some of the competition for the simple act of shortening a URL and putting the link on your clipboard – but they’re liable to appeal to web developers.

That appeal comes in three pieces. First, they thumbnail the pages you bookmark and mirror backup copies on Amazon. Second, they do link-tracking and give you a simple info page to see what’s happened with your shortened URLs. Third, they offer REST API access to both make bookmarks and retrieve information – making them a prime candidate for mashup use. ReadWriteWeb also says they have semantic and geographic analysis features on the backend, so they’re worth keeping an eye on as a potential semantic mashup partner as well.

NTV Station Today: Science Comedy, Cheerocracies

NTV StationReady? OK! Liz already linked to our George Carlin memorial earlier, but today we also have Karina Longworth’s review of the new science comedy series Improbable Research Collections. How to describe it? Karina puts it best: “Have you long felt that the one thing the web video world has been sorely lacking is comic treatments of scientific studies on homosexual necrophilia? Well, you’re in luck!” Check it out, and don’t be afraid to add your own thoughts!

And elsewhere on the web, Oprah Winfrey inspires the Stanford class of 2008, and we spotlight my favorite of the shorts premiered at the YouTube Screening Room, Our Time is Up, starring Kevin Pollak (with a brief appearance by Jorge “Hurley on Lost!” Garcia). Also, we have an important news update: Bring It On is now available on Hulu. Remember: NewTeeVee is a cheerocracy of online video. And we at the Station are your cheertators.

Photosynthesis on a Chip

Most solar companies use silicon to turn solar energy into electrical energy, but researchers at the University of Tel Aviv have recently moved to go green in more of a literal sense. Rather than silicon, they’re using bio-engineered plant proteins to build their PV base. This is very cool, and they aren’t the only ones.

Researchers at Cambridge University, MIT, Stanford and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are also trying to bio-engineer photosynthetic chips to convert the sun’s rays to AC or DC power. A company called BioSolar is trying to use plant-parts to replace the petroleum-based plastics in solar systems.

The Israeli team claims that they can convert up to 25 percent of the sun’s energy to electricity compared with 14 percent for silicon-based PV cells. They also say they can do this for $1 per square meter, whereas the same amount of silicon substrate would cost $200.

If this research makes it out of the lab, the benefits would be significant. Silicon doesn’t face as much of a shortage anymore, but the cost advantages of a plant substrate would still be substantial. It’s possible that thin-film solar advances will render the silicon-based panels obsolete in a few years, but mass production has been an ever-moving target for the thin-film guys. For now we’re still playing with the sun and sand.

Google Docs Adds PowerPoint Export and Saved Searches

Google Docs is a definite blessing to web workers.  It allows for easy document creation with only a web browser and includes collaboration tools that enables you to have co-workers view and edit your documents, all with version control.

Save as PPTGoogle Presentations, Google’s attempt at a Microsoft PowerPoint-like application was recently launched.  To enhance cross-office collaboration, users can now export to PowerPoint.  To use this feature, chose “Save as PPT” from the File menu from within Google Presentations.

Also, you can use now save your searches.  So if you’re looking for a document from a particular person named “Joan”, you can save your search for future use for quick file reference.

[via Google Docs Blog]

Found|LINKS: Mar. 29 – April 5

This week’s short list of stories, posts and other founder-resources you shouldn’t miss.

1.) missionaries.png From VC John Doerr, check out this slide outlining the difference between mercenaries and missionaries of entrepreneurship.

Missionaries are good (passion). Mercenaries are not (paranoia). The slide is from a presentation Doerr gave at Stanford on April 2, 2002 (!). We got it courtesy of our friends at VentureHacks, who do a great job of finding needles in haystacks.

Also watch the video of Doerr’s talk:

2.) Valuation: Bad economy? Yeah. Selling opportunity? Maybe. Check out Inc. magazine’s flagship company valuation guide, The Most Valuable Companies in America : “Investors are loaded with cash. Boomers are looking to buy. Foreign firms are eager to invest. What does that add up to? A seller’s market for your business.” It describes the main buyers (serial entrepreneurs is one to pay attention to!) and has slides on cheap vs. expensive shops. We note that besides software, the hottest businesses are “anything aimed at the aging U.S. population.” (F|R has written about this previously.)

3) Understanding Venture Capital. It’s a hard nut to crack. But this paper form Havard Working Knowledge attempts to decode the often seemingly arbitrary valuations of vc-backed startups by “explor[ing] mechanisms for limiting the asymmetric information that potentially plagues the acquisition of young venture capital-backed companies.” As you seek funding for your own company, this ought to help you understand how startups are VC-funded and why; how they’re bought and sold, and why. One of our key takeaways: it is strictly because the notion of value is relative/subjective that relationships are so important in this business; for deals to work well it is critical that perceptions of value between two parties are compatible, which usually (but not always) means interests must be aligned. Hence Harvard’s emphasis on the “bridge-building alternative [because] the personal relationship between the two firms is critical to conveying value-relevant information about both the target and the acquiring firm.” Just ask Jerry Yang at Yahoo!.

How to Work the Room 3.0: Cyber-schmoozing

In my first Found|READ post, How to Work the Room, I gave you tips on how to amp up your social graces for the business party circuit, because — a much as we might hate to admit it — a founder’s startup success depends almost as much on networking as it does on engineering skills. And since there is no such a thing as Social-Business Protocol, Found|READ has asked me to establish one.
This is Chapter 3: killer tips for how to network better in cyberspace a skill which may be more meaningful now than how you ‘work it’ in the real world. And here is one thing I know for sure: it’s about to become #11 on the list of Business Skills Stanford B-School Won’t Teach You. So get out your pen… Read More about How to Work the Room 3.0: Cyber-schmoozing

9 Things Stanford B-School Won’t Teach You

Editor’s Note: Our instructive humorist, Larry Chiang, is at it again. If you enjoyed 9 VC’s You’re Gonna Want To Avoid, you’ll like this week’s submission, on some all-important business skills no founder could glean from a GSB syllabus. We’re co-sponsoring Larry’s contest to discover the best founder’s skill acquired outside an Ivory Tower. Submit yours at the end.
1) Triple-Threat-Got-Game. Big Ducky (that’s me) thinks the key to success is having as many options as possible. Three is better than two; just as in hoops. Pass. Shoot. Drive. In founders’ terms this means 80% of your time should be spent bringing money in the door — I mean revenue! If founders aren’t money pressured, then VCs will provide better terms (DRIVE). If a founder doesn’t have to sell his biz during a downturn, he can sell it whenever he wants to (PASS). If a founder can sell when he wants, then he can generate a return (SCORE). Willie Sutton robbed banks “cuz that’s where the money is.” He meant, banks have more money than the corner store. Be the ‘bank.’ Them ‘robbers’ will come. (And you know who I’m talking about!) Read More about 9 Things Stanford B-School Won’t Teach You