With the official commercial launch of the California Mobility Center (CMC) taking place yesterday, our Founder & Managing Director, Scott Ungerer, wanted to answer the top four most frequently asked questions he gets about the CMC. Scott has been highly involved with the CMC since late 2018 as part of EnerTech’s strategic partnership with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and was recently named Senior Partner in the Office of the CEO at the CMC.
What is the CMC, and how is it different from other organizations?
The CMC is a new type of organization. However, at first look, it may resemble some other well-established organization types - incubators and accelerators. As co-architects of the CMC, we have intentionally focused on a different element of the journey for an early-stage company; that of commercialization and deployment.
The CMC is a purpose-built organization focused on improving the pace of reaching large-scale deployment for mobility innovation into the marketplace, namely the California market (as a proxy for markets everywhere). Therefore, the relationship between an innovation company (a CMC Client) and the CMC ecosystem will ideally continue until the Client has reached a scalable deployment in a well-defined portion of an early majority market (to use the term made famous by Geoffrey Moore in his Crossing the Chasm book).
The approach used by the CMC to support an early-stage innovation company is to bring together the most appropriate resources at the appropriate time in an innovation company's evolution, using a facilitated commercialization collaborative approach that leaves all involved parties with a win-win-win type of outcome.
What is the mobility sector?
Amazingly there does not seem to be a single simple definition of the mobility sector. Here is how EnerTech thinks about it:
Mobility is the market area where four multi-trillion-dollar industry sectors are dramatically evolving, interfacing, and intersecting: electrification, autonomy, smart mobility, and connectivity. The precise future role of each established sector in mobility is still being defined.
Mobility starts with a fundamental reimagination of the automotive sector led by a total shift of its power train from internal combustion engines to alternatives led by electrification of consumer vehicles up through light and medium-duty trucks. Hydrogen-based options, such as fuel cells, are emerging once again as attractive alternatives for larger trucks. Both of these industry shifts will drive massive amounts of required investment in the equivalent of totally new “refueling infrastructures” for each.
Digitalization is another primary driver of the shift in automotive as end users are playing a more prominent role in defining the features and functionality that are of most interest to them. Along with digitalization comes the technology roadmap for autonomous driving and its applications for both consumers (ride-sharing), delivery vehicles of various shapes and sizes, and applications in agriculture, mining, and other off-road applications.
These changes logically lead to opportunities for improved traffic management, and specifically congestion management. The connectivity between vehicles and the cloud provides a more solid foundation both technologically and data availability-wise for cities to reposition the use of their roadway system and creates opportunities to monetize their assets in a way more commensurate with the expected uses in the future.
The final noteworthy point is that the electrification transformation underway dovetails with a similar massive shift in the power industry which is increasingly moving toward renewables and various forms of distributed energy resources (of which EV charging infrastructure will quickly become a dominant feature). This evolution of the power industry also includes an increase in the use of digitalization.
Arguably, we are witnessing an evolution as massive as the movement of tectonic plates in the world of geography, but this is business. Our business, I must admit, is inspiring and exuberating.
While the CMC vision is to eventually build itself into supporting all these areas within mobility, as a startup organization ourselves, we want to be clear that our capabilities will expand over time, addressing those areas that the marketplace deems most relevant at the beginning.
What type of companies will find the CMC helpful?
For Clients, the CMC is designed to provide support to early-stage innovation companies in the advanced mobility sector, ideally from the technology development stage to the go-to-market stage.
The CMC’s goal is to decrease the time it takes for a company to reach a scalable, sustainable deployment into the marketplace. The approach we use to accomplish this feat is to bring in the key types of partners needed much earlier than would usually occur, starting from within the CMC membership, that will eventually fill a role in a company’s success (as customers, go-to-market partners, or joint development partners). This information engagement will enable a broader set of success factors to be understood and addressed earlier in the journey. The CMC plays an active role in the methods of information exchange as a way to continuously refine and improve this form of interaction.
What areas does EnerTech provide support?
As a Founding Member, EnerTech remains active in supporting all aspects of the CMC.
EnerTech was initially designed as a corporate venture capital fund whose primary purpose was to provide market and technology insights to its sister businesses (both regulated utilities and competitive energy businesses). There are many friction points in developing the relationship between a relatively small early-stage innovative company and their target customer, which is typically an industry incumbent with significant market presence, brand recognition, related customer expectations, and their internal processes designed to maintain their stellar reputation. EnerTech has been working for 25 years with our portfolio company management teams to identify and overcome these friction points.
Additionally, as a venture capital firm that has worked with more than 70 early-stage companies in these sectors, EnerTech brings a vast amount of knowledge and experience across financing options and shareholder value creation techniques that address the circumstances unique to these industries.
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by Scott Ungerer
Scott is the Founder and a Managing Director of EnerTech Capital. He has played the lead role in EnerTech's involvement with SMUD and the California Mobility Center. EnerTech is a co-architect and Founding Partner of the California Mobility Center, along with our long-time Strategic Partner, SMUD, the lead Founder of the CMC.