Technically Elegant – I read a piece today about General Fusion in BC. A company that is developing technology to produce clean energy by making little stars here on earth in their fusion reactor. The technology works by injecting plasma into a sphere filled with molten lead-lithium before an array of pistons drives a pressure wave into the centre of mixture that creates fusion conditions where atoms fuse together and release a lot of energy (and no long-lived radioactive waste) in the process. My technical side gets really excited about what this company is doing, the equipment and engineering drawings look like they’re taken out of the latest Iron Man movie. That’s important at this stage as it attracts and inspires some of the best and the brightest technical minds to solve a big but beautiful problem with equipment that just looks cool. There’s an embedded lesson here about people (and really the business of getting clean technologies like this to market is largely about people) that technology entrepreneurs should consider as they plot their path forward – as much as the content of what your technology does matters the packaging always matters as well. If what you’re pitching is a Tesla Model S don’t neglect to recognise and leverage the emotional response that the smooth curves generate in your audience. If you have a new way to treat sewage waste…well I’m sure you (literally) get the picture and that’s my point.
Once the techno-euphoria has passed my rational, company-and-market-building side takes over and I have sobering thoughts about the technical, regulatory, market and other challenges that lie ahead for General Fusion from something as simple as not wanting to be the technician on night duty when part of the system fails to the potentially long and difficult PR campaign of explaining to the public why this can’t create a black hole that will swallow the planet. I know there are tough challenges to come (we help solve them all the time for projects and companies in this sector) but hats off to the General Fusion team for such a technically elegant start to solving a truly out of the box problem.