Layoffs at Better Place Might Be Good for Israeli Economy

I feel for the employees of Better Place, whose religious zeal and tireless work ethic brought the world to its feet, cheering for the all electric grid and car to hit the road. And hit the road it did. But the road turns out to be bit bumpy. Getting laid off is very challenging for them and their families and they deserve our support and encouragement as they regroup.

Two years ago, I wrote the following about Better Place in theHummus Manifesto Part 3:

“The closest thing to something as bombastic, patriotic and bleeding edge as this, is Project Better Place and I think it has done a lot of good for the country. Shai Agassi has brought over $300M in investment into our economy at a time when local venture capital is shrinking. That is what Big Hairy Audacious Projects do. They capture imagination and attract investment in a way venture capital is not doing right now in Israel. I do not know whether Better Place the company will succeed but on a national level it has already succeeded in training people in electric vehicles and attracting global attention to Israel the innovator.”

So, I want to look at the bright side for the Israeli economy of 150–200 engineers, highly skilled and trained on someone else’s shekel (thanks Idan Ofer), pouring into the Israeli job market and starting entrepreneurial opportunities.

Smart Grids are a technology of the future. Electric or Hybrid cars are a technology of the future. Whether that innovation continues at Better Place or at a start up is not relevant for Israel’s economy. In fact, I could make the case that a focused startup, FOCUSED on one key element in the Better Place “boil the ocean project,” might breakthrough and create the next Checkpoint, which focused only on network firewalls for many years. If a few talented engineers create a smart grid or energy storage for Africa based on what the learned at Better Place, that is a win for Israel. If a few talented engineers go off and create software for more efficient energy networks that wean the world off of oil, that is a win for Israel, for our economy and for employment opportunities here.

I am betting on the great engineers of Better Place Ltd. to go make the world a better place and build many great Israeli Startups in the process. Go get em, make us proud and make the world a better place. We believe in you.

[Originally published on 28th October 2012 by MIchael Eisenberg]