Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Eco Business Pioneer Update

In a task somewhat unrelated to sustainability, updating members of our sales force on transportation options for a meeting coming up later this month, I found myself reading an article that provided an update on Planettran. The article appeared in the Wall Street Journal site a few weeks ago.

I met Seth Riney, the founder of Planettran, at a Responsible Business Association of Greater Boston meeting back in 2003. He had just founded Planettran and I loved the idea. Seth's commitment to the ideal that environmentally friendly business solutions had to be just that, profitable business solutions, was music to my ears. At the time, I was less concerned with how successful a business was, only that it take responsibility for its actions. I sold my car and was working at one of the local bike shops, focusing on transportation and land use issues, something that has a strong influence on our propensity for emitting CO2. In any case, Seth's hard-nosed capitalistic attitude; reflecting his belief in the marketplace's ability to help move us in a sustainable direction was refreshing and energizing.

In the early stages of Planettran, I spoke with Seth about working with him. I have to admit, I was a bit scared about the uncertainty associated with working with a small start-up. While Seth and I did not talk about it in great detail, I know I was thinking about what it would be like to invest some of my own capital in the company and work to help it grow from almost the ground up. If I am honest with myself, I was not willing to make the leap and accept what sacrifices may have been necessary to make it happen.

I admire people like Seth; people that recognize an opportunity, believe in the potential, and go for it. I remember the battle he started waging with the City of Cambridge over taxi medallions. I do not remember all of the details, but what I believe it came down to was that the market for cabs in Cambridge was regulated in such a way as to keep out new entrants and competitors, therefore stifling innovation. Seth adamantly wanted them to issue new medallions such that hybrid cabs could be introduced as a new company. I am not sure if he won that battle or at least influenced the city or the companies, but one thing is for certain, in 2007 I see hybrid Toyota Camry taxis on the streets of Cambridge. If it has any connection to Mayor Bloomberg's plan to encourage the updating of NY's cabs with hybrids by 2012, I have no idea. The good news is the hybrid update will be just in time for the intergalactic alignment and Mayan Apocalypse.

Oh, and it is good to see that the Planettran swarm has developed a hive in San Francisco. It's a perfect place for it.

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