The 6th Annual California Clean Innovation (CACI) Conference was held this past Friday at UCLA’s Covel Commons. After volunteering to help organize the event over six months ago, it was a pleasure to see the efforts come to fruition. Granted, the majority of the work was completed by MBAs from UCLA’s Anderson School of Business. But Rady students can expect to bear the brunt of the workload next year when the conference returns to San Diego (the location switches back and forth each year between LA and SD). So what is CACI? The website will tell you that it’s a “forum for investors, entrepreneurs, managers, and students to review the current clean technology trends and commercially viable innovations.” That’s a pleasant way of saying it’s a hodgepodge of networking opportunities. I certainly did meet a lot of industry professionals, and learned some neat things in the process. Here’s a run-down of some of the event’s highlights.
1) Paperless Programs. The schedule for the day was posted in several easy-access areas for all to see. And there was a downloadable app for attendees to navigate their way throughout the day. You could create a schedule on you cell phone, select your favorite panel topics, and comment via live streams on Facebook and Twitter. You could even scan through a list of registered attendees.
2) Electric Vehicle News. I’ve recently started to get extremely interested in the potential for EV’s to enter the mainstream market. My favorite panel of the day discussed topics related to EV Infrastructure – speakers included representatives from EVConnect, GM, AeroVironment, and Wheelz. It was interesting to hear them agree that they’re actually looking forward to the end of government subsidiaries. One panelist commented that “there hasn’t been a Clean Technology that didn’t start with incentives. But gradually, you ween yourself off those monies – and that’s when you want the government to get out of the way ASAP.” It seems as though these reps feel the market is ready to be tested. One of the biggest challenges is the need to balance the increase with EV consumers with the progress of the EV infrastructure. If either one gets too far ahead of the other, disaster could ensue.
3) Fast-pitch Competition. I’ve seen Shark Tank on TV, but this was the first time I was a live audience member for an elevator-pitch competition. Five companies had 90 seconds each to present their business plan to a panel of three judges. Of the five presenters, I only felt that one company really had a complete pitch – Greenbotics. I was amazed at the number of presenters who seemed to be so far down the path of product development, but haven’t had a single conversation with a potential consumer. A year ago, I probably would’ve been in the same place. Thanks to my MBA education, I’m able to criticize bad pitches in a 500-word blog. Thanks Rady!