Trump’s “location” strategy…


Posted by sass | Posted in Community, Leadership, World Events | Posted on 04-09-2015

The essence of any real estate deal is to have the vision of what to do with specific locations. If you have a vision beyond others, you will pay more for that real estate and turn it into multiples of what others may have thought it was worth.

This is the essence of Trump’s current Republican nominee bid. You need me to take the Republican pledge? No problem. You need me to bash Clinton a bit? No problem. Whatever you need, I’ll make it happen. Why?

Because I want that ultimate location that none of you have figured out how to grab like I have…the headline. The top line of the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News website, CNN and others. Today’s real estate to me…is the media front page.

Does anyone truly believe that the guy who says he will take China’s president to McDonald’s instead of holding a state dinner for him wants to be the USA’s president? Get serious. This is all about location.

If someone in the media, who has the tools, were to do an analysis of how many times Trump’s name (aka brand) was in the top media headlines across print and electronic in the six months prior to his declaring himself a candidate vs post, I bet the graph would be astronomical. If that same analyst then figured out the value to a brand of having it splashed over so many headlines/front pages, I bet its in the hundreds of millions worldwide already.

So what if he’s given up his “Apprentice” contract as he likes to trumpet. Today, Trump is a brand. He rents his brand like he used to rent real estate. He doesn’t need the headache of managing it like he used to. His is a slow migration from capital asset to brand asset. The value of Trump licenses must have jumped sky high since his announcement. That’s the fact that is undeniable. The move from capital asset to intellectual ones across the globe is a trend that one can see through examples such as these:

1. Facebook owns no content, yet is the most used media site.
2. Airbnb owns no real estate, yet is the world’s largest accommodations provider.
3. Uber owns no taxis, yet is the world’s largest mobility company.
4. Netflix is the world’s largest movie house, yet owns no cinemas.
5. Apple and Google are the world’s largest app sellers, yet write no apps.
6. Amaya owns no casinos, yet is the world’s largest gaming company.

So when an old pro at one kind of real estate gets into another game, he simply uses what he’s learned and transfers the knowledge. This is what he has mastered and what too few understand. While there is no doubt that he’s disrupted the campaign, made a few good points about how the system is broken, that’s pretty much where it stops. He uses the ignorance of many to his benefit to keep the message going. In the end, he won’t be the President of the USA because of one reason…he doesn’t really want to be.

Where is the Canada I once knew?


Posted by sass | Posted in Leadership, World Events | Posted on 06-08-2015

As a federal election nears, I am left wondering where the Canada that I loved has gone to?

Much has been written by others about the rightward drift of the country under the Harper administration. This has led to a “mini USA” policy slant in many areas such as environment, guns and war. It is not the Canada we have been known as by the rest of the world, yet rather a mini version of our southerly neighbour.

One of the most glaring examples of this is actually in an area where the current American administration “outflanks” the current Canadian one, and that is regarding the environment and renewable energies (topics clearly close to my own heart). While Obama slows down the Keystone project, understanding its net effect on carbon is not as small as some claim, Harper jumps to criticize him while pretending not to? Seriously add the words “i am not trying to get involved in US internal policies”. A load of sh** that is.

In the area of war, Canada has become an “I’ll follow and support you” kind of neighbour, rather than have its own critical thinking about the folly of war that the US has dragged the rest of the world into in Iraq (under the false premise of WMDs) and also in Afghanistan (cleaning up the mess it left when it dropped support of Bin Laden against the Russians). Rather than have its own voice, Canada now simply mimics the past Republican presidents of the US, cleaning up their messes, as Obama has been forced to do.

And finally there are guns. Alberta Conservatives used to be a powerful group and this has led to the watering down of the anti-gun policies of previous canadian governments. Now with western Conservatives challenged, this is actually not as great an area of concern, simply because Canada simply doesn’t want to go back to the wild west days and doesn’t have as organized a gun lobby as the US does.

I will vote for the Liberals. I am not quite convinced that Trudeau isn’t ready, as the Conservative commercials keep hammering at. Yet let’s be clear, I’m also not quite convinced that he has the team around him to shore up weaknesses either. Rather than show me their ingenuity in new policies for a new world, the Conservatives use the old tactics of shoot at Trudeau, then explain later. This simply turned me right off. I’m not going to vote for a party who’s unique message is to point to Trudeau’s hair. Poor marketing. Not for Canada.

And so its not so much that I am firm believer in Trudeau as a firm “disbeliever” in Harper’s vision for Canada. The lesser of two evils it shall be for me. As for Mulcair…just not interested in throwing Canada into major debt and another economic decline. Non merci.

When our energy travels with us…..


Posted by sass | Posted in Electric Vehicles, Energy | Posted on 22-06-2015

Many are looking to the mobile phone industry for a model in which energy will be purchased, sold, created, stored and traded in the future. For this to occur we need a significant shift in thinking by the utility industries and regulatory bodies.

The utilities have proven quite challenging in giving up their “rights” to own energy distribution and sales in many territories. In Quebec, we have our long-standing “national jewel”, Hydro Quebec, which is essentially a monopoly over about 90% of the territory with a few municipal utilities here and there. This entity has steadfastly refused to let go of control, to promote distributed power or to have anyone else involved in energy sales. In Florida, the utility has gone so far as to successfully lobby to have it made illegal to off the grid. So we see the challenge in moving the bar when many entrenched positions refuse to budge.

We will therefore have to look to areas where energy is a challenge to be the innovators in this arena. Energy needs to become a currency just like air time. Where we use it is up to us, without boundaries its movable from our home to our cottage to our car charging. One account for family to buy more “energy time”. The ability to get discounts for buying future power and the option to sell some to friends or family as easily as that.

With the advent of electric vehicles, these “batteries on wheels” could provide yet even more sharing opportunities. Imagine driving up to your friend’s party, plugging your car in and providing energy for the evening? Or somewhere out in a campground for an evening cook-out. Then you drive to the nearest charging station for more juice and back.

It is not hard to conceive these concepts, yet the question is where will we see likely the most progress in their implementation. Somehow I get the feeling that companies like Tesla will be involved, because they have the vested interest of using their battery production capacity for more than simply moving people.

Stay tuned, we are in a phase where once EVs reach a tipping point, and when car makers are forced to change their biz models, you will start to see encroachment into the energy field from many sides. Exciting to say the least…

The automotive world, as we knew it, is done.


Posted by sass | Posted in Electric Vehicles | Posted on 29-05-2015

The automotive world turned modern societies on their heads with the advent of propulsed mechanical transportation over 100 years ago. The very first vehicles were in fact electric, yet then morphed into internal combustion engine models as that technology developed far quicker than did battery storage. Electric could simply not compete, and thus began the first transformation in the automotive industry.

After over sixty years as the dominant method of propulsion, companies began to experiment with two important issues in the automotive world. One was the issue of gas efficiency. Struck by the oil embargo following the Arab-Israeli war, car makers were ordered to make their vehicles more efficient, in order to reduce dependency on foreign oil. Second was the issue that people were maxing out their bank accounts and living on credit. No longer willing to fully pay for a depreciating asset up front, the automotive industry again evolved into a financial model vs a manufacturing model. It outsourced much of the manufacturing to third parties while become purely a finance, marketing, design and final assembly set of companies.

Enter the resurgence of electric, as battery technology began to be the recipient of much attention and funding. A couple of false starts with EV1 by General Motors and others, led to Toyota launching its Prius and Camry lines with batteries capable of a few kilometres at a time. This was then followed by Nissan launching the very first mass-market electric vehicle, while GM answered with its range-extended Volt.

The next disruption came at the hands of a company that nobody knew before, simply because it didn’t exist…Tesla. Having visited the Tesla factory in early 2012 in Fremont, California, I was very impressed by how “non automotive” my whole visit was. For all I knew, the robots could have been building fridges instead of cars. The office was more in line with modern technology company “open office” concepts than any of the ones I had visited in 2009-2011 in Detroit during the days I worked for another start-up I had co-founded in Michigan. This felt different and I knew they were going to do incredible things.

As with everything else, disruption is not welcomed by all. This is a car which has no universal joints, ball joints, muffler, radiator, oil nor fuel required. It just is so radically different that most automotive veterans will recognize few pieces of it when its brought down to its chassis level (as one can see in many Tesla showrooms). Oh and yes, lest I forget…there are no dealerships. Tesla owns 100% of its network in most countries (with very small exceptions in smaller Asian countries where it just doesn’t pay). So not only a radically different car, but a radically different way of “selling”.

As Tesla was launching, so were new services named “car sharing”. Essentially, the millenial generation asks itself which it would rather invest in…a lease for five years or a vacation NOW and for every year! It sees cars as a service, and so reacting well, service companies such as Car2Go, DriverNow, Communauto and others launched to satisfy that market niche. Next came UBER, initially as a “people delivery service”, and now we see them naturally moving into areas of former “fedex” territory for parcel transport.

So the entire automotive world is being challenged by two factors: a move towards more environmental technologies and a definition of transport as a service rather than an asset.

We will continue to see evolution in each of these segments and at some point, energy will be brought into the mix. An electric car uses 80% of its energy to move it. A gas car, only 30% at best. The rest is spent heating, cooling or just staying still. The move towards greater efficiency isn’t only in time management, its also in how we manage energy.

As we see this move, look towards two distinct changes. For one, car companies will own their showrooms and use dealers as service centre providers. Since dealers hardly make any money selling cars, they will accept to be this so long as their territory is protected. Second, you will see energy companies partnering with car makers to be able to employ the huge amount of energy stored in vehicles for all sorts of uses to help their power grid health and thus further minimize the need for fossil fuel generation.

This is not your father’s Chevrolet (to coin the phrase in many ads). We are about to see transformation in the automotive world no less radical than when gasoline took over from electric. On a personal note, its sweet to see this happening during my living days, and I’m proud to say that by the end of June, my visits to the gas station will be fewer and far between.

Zero Emission Laws Make a Difference


Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Electric Vehicles, Energy | Posted on 16-05-2015

Recently I’ve participated in a series of discussions regarding the viability and results of passing Zero Emission laws. For those that don’t know what these are, about 10 States in the USA have passed such laws regarding what percentage of electric vehicles must be sold in a state by car companies. They either make the quota or pony up substantial dollars when they don’t. Part of why Tesla reduces its losses each year is because other car companies must buy “carbon credits” from them for each car they produce.

In Quebec, at this time, there is a debate about how to proceed with such a law in order to force car makers to bring more inventory to the market. The view is that car makers (other than Tesla) are slow-boating sales in Quebec which clearly they do. For example, neither VW nor Mercedes make their EV’s available in Quebec. They sell them in “compliance states” where they are forced to do so first. Eventually, we may see those cars here, but it will be a long time coming.

Several associations which are organized for the purpose of promoting electric vehicles take differing views. Electro Mobility Canada doesn’t believe in consequences for car makers. Even the EV association of Quebec (AVEQ) used to be against such measures, again through a partnership with a car company which was offering incentives to its members. They have since switched their views. Frankly, I don’t really care what the associations believe. Any EV association which does not fully back laws either by helping to craft or promote them, is beholden to forces which are counter to its original intent. Management of these groups should reconsider their views, lest they become irrelevant to the discussion.

Personally, my view is that incentives for car dealers (who lose service revenues with EVs), salespeople (who must spend far more time educating customers about EVs) and consumers, should all be incented financially. Car makers who are not exclusively making EVs will also take far more time than the market may want. Therefore I would exclude them from any discussion (except for Tesla which supports such laws). The car makers provide a conflict of interest which is obvious to all. They will lobby to slow down most Zero Emissions initiatives unless its something which does not include any consequences for low or no sales of EVs.

Some people point to Norway as an example of how to promote EVs. No consequences to car makers and tons of sales. Well hold on a second…you pay gigantic taxes to buy a gasoline car in Norway and the price of gas is off the charts due to high taxes. If those people were being honest, they’d admit that the population of Quebec is not going to accept to pay double the sales taxes on cars or gas than Ontario. Just not going to happen.

This is why I won’t join any association which does not fully back a Zero Emissions Law. Now we can have differences of opinion of what that law should be doing, yet I have no time for assocations which do not clearly support one version or another.

My personal preference is to combined incentives with consequences. Car makers who put NO EVs into the market, should pay a flat rate per car. The fact that they’ve chosen to stay out of the EV market is their decision and their consequence. I say give them two years following the passing of a law to get up to the sales needed. They will promote cars accordingly, assign marketing budgets to make it happen, and ensure that inventory is easily accessible. If after two years a car company has not reached the agreed numbers, they start to pay. This gives them time to prove that consequences are not necessary, while holding them to a “fire” which ensures that they do all necessary to achieve reasonable levels of sales.

Final word…I am against the politicization of the discussion. I’ve read facebook posts where people blame the federal system and say that an independant Quebec would be cleaner and free to pass such laws. Baloney. Quebec could pass such a law today if it wanted. It just have to have the votes in the National Assembly. I wish people wouldn’t use every excuse under the sky to make it about Canada. This is about a choice of how to ensure clean air and pure water for our children. Let’s make the right choices.

Hybrid Energy Innovations Round Up


Posted by sass | Posted in Energy | Posted on 13-05-2015

Further to my original post on the hybrid energy conference in New York about a month ago, we’ve now had available the presentations which were made.

What I found most interesting is the consistent message by various presenters that things had to change in how utilities were viewed. In almost every presentation was a consistent theme that the role of utilities was changing and yet they are often stuck with legacy investments that they still are looking to recapture. This is what is causing many jurisdictions to either act slowly or to be counter to progress in the distributed or even off-grid realities they are facing.

One example is Florida where its now illegal to go off-grid. Imaging, a state run by a Republican governor not allowing people to make their own power choices. We know this kind of status won’t last long yet the reality of being tied to utilities that don’t want to move quickly is one of the challenges of the DG industry. Exceptions such as California, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, are precisely what gives hope that things are changing. Of course, announcements such as Tesla’s are game-changing as well. The amazing amount of orders received already (reservations) by Tesla for its home station is incredible in more than just revenues, it changes landscapes and forces issues to be looked at by a groundswell of popular support.

You can find the presentations made at the conference at for further reference. Conference presenters were kind enough to share this with the public and I believe its a great wealth of thought and information. The conference organizers did a great job of bringing a variety of presenters to the event and it was obvious by how attentive all of the attendees were to the presentations.

Second time around…


Posted by sass | Posted in Community | Posted on 11-05-2015

I seem to be having a few “deja vu’s” recently and it gave me pause to think this weekend about how history can repeat itself when we don’t learn the lessons of the past sufficiently.

I am today faced with similar corporate “forks in the road” as I was many years ago when I led ICP to go public. Developing IP (intellectual property like patents and trademarks) in addition to a pipeline of sales requires investments which can often only yield paybacks years thereafter. Doing it “on the skinny” is what we’ve done for three years and while we’ve all eaten well and had rents paid, there are moments of challenge which I won’t give more detail on here.

On the personal side, I’ve met some amazing people in the past year and that tells me I am being rewarded for the conscious changes made. The key for me is to look back at what I learned and, funny enough, I find that when I look both professionally and personally, I can see parallels in the lessons. Here are just a few which occupied my thoughts the most:

1. Know thy partners

It is incredible how excitement can overwhelm prudent thought in the selection of partners in all areas of life. Clearly, the lessons of past will lead me to understand and know a partner better than I did when deciding to “take a plunge”. Yet, I also believe that partners reflect us and that we attract them, so by no means do I fault any partner of the past, they were simply my mirror. I see the type of partners that I am attracting today, and I can’t help but smile. I guess I’d say I once was a “hare in a Porsche”, and now I’m a “turtle in a Tesla”… :)

2. Know thyself

What I have learned in these past few years is much about ownership and accountability. To refute my own faults of past, to not shore them up, change myself or choose a partner who may compliment areas of weakness would be to repeat past experiences which would not serve well. It’s what I call “dropping the mask”, owning it all with integrity, and choosing change. I know where I am strong today, and I now know where whatever the endeavour (personal or professional) I’d best either take the time to strengthen myself or to leave it to someone else to handle that can do it better.

3. Give to gain

The challenge of  small business environments is how the owner(s) feel(s) everything is on their shoulders. It’s like being a parent. Getting into partnership, again personal or professional, gives us a chance to share loads, and yet only turns out well if we bring an open attitude and let go of the reigns we previously held in order to not only validate but to elevate our partners. Lao Tzu’s ultimate statement on leadership is that the truest of leaders are blind to the people who work with them. I can’t claim to have reached anywhere near that pinnacle professionally yet I continue to aspire and work on it. Personally, I see it as a partnership of “different equals”, each with their own challenges and abilities, creating a greater unit together than they’d be apart. Of course, on the personal side, at this stage of life, there are realities to work into priorities in all circumstances (aka kids, homes, families, businesses,etc…), yet even then, working on the same principle of “giving to gain”, everything can be considered and worked around. Second time personal relationships have an inverse likelihood of failure to second time businesses. Why is it that so many learn the lessons professionally yet fail to do so personally? (80% of second relationships fail while a strong majority of second businesses blossom). I’ve concluded that it’s because the biggest error in getting into personal relationships based on “what am I getting” is the most often repeated premise which causes the rampant failures while a business partnership often has clearer parameters which people take the time to often spell out in a contract. You don’t get “honey, you take out the garbage and I feed the cat” as clear personal relationship parameters, though there are broader ones that are often agreed.

4. Manage Expectations

Whenever we start a new relationship, whether personal or professional, we must beware of the tendency to over-promise. Many love the excitement of taking a company public or of a new romance, yet the fact is that there are no shortage of challenges that will come into play. Turning them into opportunities to grow is the key to how together with new “partners” obstacles are turned into positive events and are managed to everyone’s relative contentment. My favourite answer to questions these days is “I don’t know”. Because truly, I really don’t have all the answers. I have far more questions. The search for the answers is a wonderful journey. Admitting we don’t have them all is a good step to mutual success.

5. Be True

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life is that if we don’t speak our minds about something which bothers us we are essentially dooming the relationship, be it professional or personal. Approaching issues with integrity and transparency allows for partners to know exactly what is ailing and how together you can fix things. I’ve always said that identifying issues is easy, working on solutions is where the real work is. Always bring solutions to a table of discontent and you’ll turn that table into one of joy and satisfaction a lot sooner.

So folks, those are five things are lessons of past which I believe would serve anyone well, hence my sharing them today. This post was my lunch break from a major initiative which will likely change the landscape for our company, just as my new residence (and OK, yes, I’ll admit…the T car too :) ) is providing to me personally at this very same time.

We often get what we deserve, though sometimes we simply have to wait for it a bit longer. The universe is never wrong, it knows when we are ready. Good or bad, “I don’t know”…its just a such an awe-inspiring journey and I can’t wait until tomorrow…

Walking the Talk of Clean Air…


Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Electric Vehicles | Posted on 25-04-2015

There is a drive in Quebec (pun intended) for a zero emissions law which would force car makers, much like in 11 states in the US, to sell a minimum number of electric vehicles as a percentage of sales in order to help reduce carbon emissions caused by transportation.

This proposed law penalizes car companies that don’t meet the standard. I happen to feel that an incentive approach would work better for the following reasons:

1. Consequence-based action is only OK in the void of alternatives which incent positive behavior.
2. We can rally car dealers, salespeople and car buyers to be on the same team with the right financial and other incentives (car pool lane, lower registration costs).
3. The majority of Quebecois (and Canadians) don’t believe we have an environmental problem.

To me the critical point is the last one. “Fix a pain point” is the term used by venture capitalists when urging entrepreneurs where to look for something worth investing in. The fact that we don’t feel the pain here is a major deterrent to politicians getting behind a zero-carbon initiative which penalizes participants who don’t reach a certain threshold. Given this reality, my belief is that if we incent car salespeople by a fixed commission bonus per EV they sell, car dealers with a fixed margin bonus per EV that rolls off their lot, and consumers with a variety of incentives being financial and other, we can be far more effective in achieving the same goal.

There are many lobbies that will fight a zero-emissions law which penalizes, namely: car makers, big oil, etc. We can get rid of their objections by focusing on positive change and consequence to changes in behavior.

While the end goal remains the same, we may simply differ on how we believe it can be achieved. As for me, I’m glad to report I’ve finally taken the Electric Vehicle dive and plan to recharge it using solar energy on the roof of my next home this summer….

How using different language can help us unify around environmental initiatives.


Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Community | Posted on 14-04-2015

I had an interesting lunch with a cousin of mine in NYC last week. He is a proud Republican (nothing wrong with that ;) ) and does not agree with any of the so-called “climate change fanatics”. His view is that the science is on both sides of the argument. As the conversation went on, I began to wonder whether or not he had a very good point in that the verbiage used by the “Treehuggers” was as extreme as those protecting coal jobs in Kentucky, which is to say non-inclusive and of dubious character.

What would happen if we were to find language and purpose around which we could unite? What would happen if the conversation was not about “climate change”, which creates discord, but about health, clean air and water. When I used those words, he agreed whole-heartedly. So perhaps he is right…the left is using language which is actually of a “fascist” nature in trying to over-regulate. What if regulation wasn’t geared towards some sort of questionable goal? What if regulation was to help our kids have clean air, clean water, clean lungs and a clean earth to live on when we are all dead and gone? Would the ensuing benefits to the “climate” not come, although through a different path?

I believe it is well worth looking at another paradigm shift. We used to talk about global warming. Then we moved to climate change. What if we simply talk about a “clean earth policy”? Who could be against that? And what if that policy helped industry create jobs through the pursuit of technologies which helped deliver on that goal? I know that to some this may seem like semantics, yet language is so powerful a tool in the creation of unity that I’m beginning to wonder if he isn’t right about the methodologies of “liberals”…perhaps the environmental guys are acting like fascists in dictating rather than unifying?

Show me the money. That’s what industry wants. It’s what a healthy economy wants. So why not show how investments in such technologies which can deliver a “clean earth” will yield greater rewards/returns than investments in dirty energy. Let’s drop the world renewables. Let’s just call them clean and dirty. In Australia, they use the term “black energy”. Maybe that’s not politically correct in North America. Can we generate new suggestions to create a greater width of population and political interests which would support the “end-game” together?

Thoughts welcome…dirty air and water…not so much.

The new Energy Currencies


Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Community, Energy, Leadership, Renewz | Posted on 06-04-2015

I’ve been invited to speak at the upcoming Smart Grid Conference at UOIT (University of Ontario, Institute of Technology) in Oshawa, Ontario, to be held between Aug 17-19th, 2015.

The new millenium and its energy, currency and carbon realities are game changers for how transactions will occur. Direct from your iphone to mine, money will transfer immediately. Gone will be the days of payment lags, inefficient transfers or high fees. Technologies are changing how we will transact for energy on all fronts. Metrics of a new generation will be different from the older one. You can find my abstract here at