Steve Wozniak Launches his Next Billion-Dollar Venture

Apple co-founder rolls out Efforce to enable any investor to help the planet and participate in the massive $250 billion energy efficiency market. 

This is not specifically manufacturing or even technology news. What we have here is a unique financing instrument to help companies achieve energy savings. Energy savings were a part of my portfolios over my years in product development. I view it as a Lean initiative in that it is a process for eliminating waste. Not to mention side benefits of both helping a company’s bottom line as well as helping the planet’s bottom line.

Here is the press release I received last week.

Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, is rolling out his second company, Efforce, to transform and disrupt the energy efficiency market, 45 years after starting the computer company that changed technology. His new business may be on track to do the same with a token listing December 6, 2020 that sent its market capitalization to $950M in the first 13 minutes,10 times the listing price. The company had received an initial valuation of $80M by investors in private sales.

Efforce is a marketplace that enables companies to undertake energy efficiency measures at no cost so that they can invest their liquidity in more critical tasks. With Efforce, the energy efficiency market is accessible to large and small investors alike who can then monetize the transferable energy savings.

Currently, financing energy efficiency measures can be a complex mix of financial and regulatory challenges that limit the speed of growth. Efforce uses an innovative web-based platform to leverage the blockchain, and tokens called WOZX, as the mechanisms to create a seamless platform to spur global energy efficiency. Efforce’s WOZX tokens were listed December 6, 2020 on bithumb.pro.

When Wozniak started Apple his goal was to build smaller, more efficient machines that one day could be accessible to anyone. Through his involvement in Efforce, Wozniak continues to focus on efficiency, broadening business access to energy improvements as well as public access to energy efficiency investments. 

“Energy consumption and CO2 emissions worldwide have grown exponentially, leading to climate change and extreme consequences to our environment. We can improve our energy footprint and lower our energy consumption without changing our habits. We can save the environment simply by making more energy improvements,” said Wozniak. “We created Efforce to be the first decentralized platform that allows everyone to participate and benefit financially from worldwide energy efficiency projects, and create meaningful environmental change.”

“In these difficult times, many small companies are struggling,” said Jacopo Visetti, project lead and co-founder, Efforce. “They can’t afford to switch to LED lighting, streamline production processes, or even insulate to conserve heat, all of which could save them money in the long term. Efforce allows business owners to safely register their energy upgrade project on the web and secure funding from all types of investors around the world. The companies will then have more available cash to use for other critical projects such as infrastructure or hiring.”

The Energy Efficiency Market

The market for energy efficiency projects has reached a staggering $250 billion.* Not only is private industry contributing to the booming market, but governments including the EU and China are investing heavily in energy efficiency funding. However, in order to achieve the International Energy Agency’s Efficient World Scenario, the sector still must double the size of investments to $580 billion by 2025.

Today, investor groups called energy services companies (ESCOs) must have access to large amounts of capital (typically $200,000 minimum) to undertake energy efficiency improvements. They often are unable to turn to traditional banking channels as banks lack the technical expertise to properly assess the return on investment.

In contrast, the Efforce platform democratizes the market. “We have created a business model that allows anyone to participate in the greater good of making the world cleaner and healthier, all by leveraging efficiency for economic growth,” said Visetti.  “Energy efficiency is a way to create a sustainable future, and this is a way to help counter climate change, reduce carbon — and make money while you do it.” 

The Efforce Business Model

Using the Efforce platform, the process of financing and undertaking projects is streamlined:

  • ESCOs register an intended energy efficiency project which is then validated by the Efforce team. 
  • Efforce develops the project with the company, including evaluating the investment need, calculating the anticipated return, and creating an Energy Performance Contract (EPC) that details the savings and the duration of the returns for the company and investors.
  • The platform then lists the project for crowd contribution. The participants may buy into the project using fractional or whole WOZX tokens. 
  • Efforce measures energy savings on these projects through smart meters attached to the blockchain. The savings data are loaded to the investor’s profile as an energy credit for use or sale by the investor. Energy credits are distributed in megawatt-hours.  

The company is run by veteran executives highly familiar with the energy efficiency sector, who after a decade of experience with the less efficient but still-profitable ESCO model began to develop the Efforce business model and platform. Visetti previously founded Milan-based AitherCO2, with annual revenues of $240 million and no outside investment funding. Wozniak was attracted to Efforce for its unique approach to democratizing energy efficiency, and this is the only company he has participated in as a co-founder since Apple.

About Efforce

Efforce has created the first platform leveraging the power of blockchain technology to democratize access to energy efficiency projects and investment opportunities. Co-founded by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Jacopo Visetti, Jacopo Vanetti, and Andrea Castiglione who have more than a decade of experience in this field, Efforce believes in a world where sustainability actually generates outsized benefits without consumers needing to change their energy behavior. For more information, visit www.Efforce.io.

Partnerships Allow AVEVA (and others) to Scale

I wrote about the Microsoft and AVEVA announced extension to their partnership a couple of weeks ago to focus on Microsoft cloud services—especially Microsoft Azure (infrastructure, data and AI services). Key focus areas include the connected worker and building a common Asset Strategy (Asset Performance).

Mario Joao, vice president of AVEVA charged with developing these partnerships and alliances, took some time to chat about the Microsoft partnership.

“The companies have had a long history of working together,” he told me. “Partnerships and alliances are the only way forward to scale our offerings to customers. The relationship was solely based on technology. Now, it encompasses more than that by adding sales and focusing on results.”

  • Transforming Industrial Workforce–much of the work is geared toward workforce, the user experience, use of Microsoft Teams, and workforce safety,
  • Microsoft Azure Cloud AI–enhancing cognitive search, working with Asset Performance Management,
  • Further adoption of cloud with Azure–many companies have adopted an industrial cloud strategy, but many are still evaluating with many astute questions regarding security, geo-location of the servers, safety of operations data,
  • Emphasize business value–especially to both OT and to IT teams,
  • Foster sustainability,
  • Note: Microsoft is hiring people with industry expertise,
  • Microsoft provides a platform; AVEVA builds on top with applications that add value to customers.

Emerson, Schneider Electric, HPE, and Apple all in a day

At one point this morning, I had two screens open streaming Schneider Electric and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and the phone rang. I figured it was telemarking. I answered it intending to disconnect immediately. It was a PR person who told me the SVP of a company wanted to talk to me about digital transformation. So, I quickly told her my bad days the next couple of weeks. She subsequently wrote back to say they were seeing if he had any time on his calendar (translation, her boss told her to drum up some interviews and I’ll wind up talking to a junior assistant manager somewhere–but that’s life in the big city).

Emerson Global Users Exchange–Virtual

Decidedly a low-key event this year. I was either limited to just the keynote or I couldn’t find a proper link to anything else. But the keynote was interesting. CTO Peter Zornio and Group President Digital Transformation Stuart Harris spoke about, well, digital transformation. Nothing about valves or instrumentation and a little about sensors. Emerson Automation Solutions has come a long way the past few years.

Zornio began with a topic that was heretical only a year or two ago–cloud. Now that engineers and managers have discovered the usefulness of cloud computing, it has become used in many companies. No, we don’t talk about control in the cloud. That baby has been put to rest. However Emerson and its customers have discovered the inflection point of OT and IT is data. And the cloud is a natural home to data.

They discussed briefly some products, but I have not received any information, so more coming later. But unsurprisingly they are talking edge and analytics.

As much as I like listening to Zornio and Harris, Lance Fountaine of Cargill stole the show for me. He discussed the company’s Smart Manufacturing initiative. He kept going up and down the stack discussing roles at the top and at the plant floor and how all have a place in the digital transformation experience. He mentioned “both bottom up and top down” many times. And, beginning with business strategy and then applying the technology to support it. The SM system includes three parts: innovate–look for new ways and new tech; incubate–figure out how to scale, what really wins, small scale trials; and graduate–how rapidly can a solution be rolled out.

Schneider Electric

The keynote from North America CEO and President Annette Clayton contained the word anti-fragile several times. I don’t think she was referring to Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Anti-Fragile: Things That Gain from Disorder). Resiliency was another key word. Realizing that electrical is about 75% of revenue for Schneider Electric, I didn’t expect much discussion of automation. That part discussed the EcoStruxure Automation Expert software-defined control that I’ve previously covered. The important point to emphasize is the link of this product to Open Process Automation. I’ve been told that this is a very important initiative for Schneider Electric. We’ll see how it develops.

HPE

The HPE conference was on the future of work and the workforce. It was a series of panels which I found difficult to transcribe. Only a part of the conversation was manufacturing or industrial. But…it is important by pointing out the importance of connecting people and work, people and people, and place to (perhaps mobile) place. HPE builds the infrastructure from enterprise to edge to networking to perform all the important connections. More than any discussion of robots replacing humans, this issue of connectivity is key.

Apple

OK, so I’m an Apple geek. I’m typing this on my 6-month-old 13″ MacBook Air (which I love) even with its Intel processor. As expected, Apple introduced its ARM-based, Apple-designed silicon–dubbed the M1. It is powerful. I was drooling. So, was the first computer out of the box with it the anticipated new 16″ MacBook Pro? Nooooo. It is the new 13″ MacBook Air. Darn, a little patience and I could be ordering that baby. That’s OK. I’m happy with this machine for now. If I buy anything new (if?), it will be an iPhone 12. I have a 10. It must be time to bolster the economy and upgrade.

Wrap up

Too much screen time today. I was finally able to buy weights. It’s time to knock off and do my lifting and Yoga. Can’t let this virus thing make me sedentary.

US National Manufacturing Guard: Building Resilient US Manufacturing Base


There exists inevitable dynamic tension between companies seeking international trade—something as old as human civilization—and the governments of nation-states charged with protecting its citizenry. Note that I am an American citizen on the one side of things, yet I have dealt in international business and was trained in international relations at the university, so I embody that tension. Not to mention that this blog has quite an international audience. One of many, many reasons I don’t do politics.

Despite continued centralization of government in the United States, it does remain a federation of states in many aspects. Alone among industrialized nations, the US lacks a coherent manufacturing strategy. As supply chain problems caused by the COVID-19 crisis (cited by the Manufacturing Institutes below) along with the increasingly hostile trade disputes with China show, the country’s manufacturing base has perhaps become too dependent upon international supply chains. 

An organization currently forming composed of many of the US Manufacturing Institutes proposes a “Manufacturing Guard.” From its white paper we learn the background: The current COVID-19 crisis has challenged America’s ability to respond rapidly to a threat and exposed vulnerabilities that must be addressed to ensure America’s national and economic security, and public health, in the face of threats such as pandemics, war, and the rise of more technologically advanced adversaries. As we recover from the current crisis, and prepare for the possibility of the next, it is well past time to think about our security and competitiveness as linked to our manufacturing, supply chain, and workforce capabilities. 

The 2018 National Defense Strategy calls for increased and sustained investment, innovation, and discipline from all aspects of America’s industrial base to guarantee the nation’s ability to compete in an increasingly complex security environment. 

To restore domestic control, resilience, and flexibility, a multi- faceted national program must be developed to map the current, architect the new, and implement an optimized manufacturing base that affords the U.S. strategic control over critical supply chains. This undertaking will require a systems-level reimagining of manufacturing and talent development with a focus on optimizing what already exists in the U.S. domestic asset base and flexibly adding distributed capacity for basic feed stocks, intermediates, and finished products that are currently only manufactured overseas. The Manufacturing USA institutes, which are each tasked with establishing and growing ecosystems around specific technology areas, are uniquely positioned to answer the call and build a more resilient U.S. manufacturing base to better prepare for the next crisis. To address these needs, we propose the following: 

I) Create a national Manufacturing Guard: We make the analogy to the National Guard’s readiness to defend our country to propose a national Manufacturing Guard. This group would be comprised of leading corporate experts in manufacturing and production, and they would train annually for agile and effective response during a crisis to mitigate scenarios that threaten supply chains and impede immediate availability and access to necessary products across the country.

II) Create a national, real-time Supply Chain Data Exchange: The Supply Chain Data Exchange infrastructure would enable a secure, end-to-end data backbone for real time visibility and the mitigation tools necessary to support the resilient production of critical products needed during Covid-19 and future supply chain disruptions. 

III) Create the Technology Corps: The Technology Corps will ensure Americans can be rapidly educated on emerging advanced manufacturing technologies. The Technology Corps will establish a workforce pipeline to respond to national security needs and will be a pipeline into the national Manufacturing Guard, providing individuals who will have worked with industry leaders and understand the importance of keeping our manufacturing capabilities up to date and safe. 

IV) Form a Resilient Manufacturing Task Force and a Resilient Manufacturing Advisory Council: A Resilient Manufacturing Task Force is required to convene and develop a plan to create the national Manufacturing Guard, the Supply Chain Data Exchange, and the Technology Corps. The Task Force will also be able to begin mapping critical gaps in the supply chains across sectors and identify opportunities to refine current, and design new, technologies for an optimized system design.

Your Call to Action

We are offering two identical, online events to share these insights and strategies with the national manufacturing ecosystem. The first was September 29. You can still register for the second one as described below.

Webinar #2

  • Thursday, October 1, 2020
  • 2:00pm Eastern / 11:00am Pacific
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Speakers:
    • John Dyck, CEO, CESMII
    • Chandra Brown, CEO, MxD
    • Kelvin Lee, CEO, NIIMBL (moderator)

Register Online

Agility is the Key in IIoT

KC Liu, founder and CEO of Advantech, the Taiwan-based electronics company, has always been a sort of philosopher/businessperson. Over the 20 years or so that I’ve followed the company several books have added to my library thanks to him. The company continues to build on its base of Adam I/O modules and industrial computers. But Liu continues to conceive new strategies and technology directions to keep the company fresh and interesting.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, yes, the first day of autumn, I sat in on a global press conference at 6 am my time followed by a few hours of presentations. And, once again, the companies that provide the infrastructure for virtual conferences and the companies that use them deserve commendation for well-planned and executed events.

Data, cloud, app marketplace, ecosystem, partners, Platform-as-a-Service were key concepts as executives explained where Advantech plays in the IoT market—industrial, smart cities, and more.

“Agile innovation in the area of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will be the key in driving forward digital transformation in industrial applications into 2021 and beyond,” said Advantech IIoT President, Linda Tsai, to more than 2,000 delegates at the company’s first ever global IIoT Virtual Summit, entitled ‘Connecting Industrial IoT Innovation’.

Ms. Tsai explained: “Figures from IDC suggest that by 2025, there will be 41.6 billion IoT devices in use worldwide, generating 79.4 zettabytes of data. Connected devices will pervade every aspect of our personal and business lives, and a complex mix of technology and infrastructure will be more crucial than ever to harnessing the power of the data generated by these devices. 

“As a leader in embedded computer systems for industrial applications, Advantech is leading the way in developing more powerful edge computing solutions which are compatible with all types of IIoT devices as well as data centers and cloud providers and can aggregate these vast quantities of data, allowing users to optimize operational effectiveness in their facilities.”

Much of Advantech’s pioneering work in this area centers on its strategy of co-creation: collaborating closely with systems integrators and developers to create edge solution-ready platforms (Edge SRP’s) or IApps (Industrial Applications) to make digital transformation as rapid and simple as possible. Advantech can support optimization in areas from iFactory to industrial equipment manufacturing (IEM), industrial AI, smart automation, transportation, energy & environment and iLogistics.

Ms Tsai went on to identify six key technology trends for 2021: digital transformation, 5G, decoupling, device-to-cloud digitalisation, empowered edge and artificial intelligence (AI).

“According to the GSMA Mobile Economy 2019 Report, 5G will contribute more than US$2 trillion to the global economy up to 2035, of which 35 per cent will go to the manufacturing and utilities sectors. Meanwhile, research from MarketsandMarkets estimates the value of AI in the manufacturing at US$17.2 billion by 2025.

“Advantech has developed an extensive portfolio of AI platforms including edge AI systems, sensors and inference servers, as well as deep learning training servers, to assist customers in exploiting the potential of AI. Meanwhile, in the area of device-to-cloud, we are again at the forefront of innovation, with solutions including private cloud solutions, industrial APP, edge intelligence software and cross-platform middleware – all specifically developed to combining optimised computing with robust and reliable performance in even the most demanding environments.”

“There is no getting away from the fact that digital transformation will impact every manufacturer in the world in the years to come, and harnessing the power of data will be critical to competitiveness as we move from Industry 4.0 and towards Industry 5.0. Our global Summit has brought together partners from across the world to find the best ways to collaborate and exploit the power of new and emerging technologies, to optimise efficiency, performance and commercial success.”

Jash Bansidhar, managing director of Advantech Europe, added: ““The macro strategy of driving Industrial IoT development through the adoption of AI, 5G and edge computing is central to the further adoption and exploitation of IoT technologies. Our mission continues to be to work with ecosystem partners to deliver sustainable success in the post-pandemic era.”

GeoTechnology and Manufacturing

I believe that trade has always been “international” in the sense of trading a commodity I have surplus for something I need that someone else has, who could also use my surplus. You can look at the Hebrew Bible for examples. Or documents from China of ancient times. I’ve heard stories of the AnasazisZ¸Z tribe that live for quite some time in the New Mexico/Colorado area.

Often, though, I’ve wondered about trade versus national security. I once had a customer that built tanks for the Army—the M1 Abrams. Always fighting the last war, the Army had them painting all the tanks camouflage. I quoted a robotic system to replace and update that painting line. Then came Desert Storm. The next day they were painting everything “desert sand” and didn’t need the robots. Oh, well.

But I’d think about how our financial geniuses had us moving manufacturing overseas. And I’d wonder, what happens in the next war? If we go to war with the country where our manufacturing moved to, we’d be screwed. What if we built those tanks in another country?

Or look at companies in our industrial technology space like, say, Rockwell Automation who has long ago moved its controller development and manufacturing to Asia. So much of that work is being done in Asia that they moved a Senior VP to Singapore for a while.

Life is full of delicate balances. How to balance the benefits of international trade and national security. We are living through one swing of that pendulum right now. Someday it will swing a different way.

This line of thinking began with an editorial by Gideon Lichfield, editor in chief of MIT Technology Review, who introduced a recent issue of TR:

In the last few decades, the received wisdom among global elites has been that technology tends to make the world flatter, smaller, more open, and more equal. This now seems increasingly false, or at least simplistic. Countries are vying for dominance in technologies that could give them a strategic advantage: communications, energy, AI, surveillance, agricultural tech, cybersecurity, military tech…and now, amidst a global pandemic, medicine and manufacturing. The urge for nations to amass technological prowess and use it as an instrument of geopolitical power is what we mean by technonationalism. The thesis of this issue is that the post-Cold War order was already splintering, and covid-19 is finishing the job.

The biggest driving force in this trend is China’s rise as a tech superpower and the US’s consequent belligerence as its supremacy comes under threat.

We all work in this environment. As we participate in decisions, we have to decide at what point are we an international company (which almost all are) and at what point are we a national company?

It’s complex, but we have to make our way through the complexity to do what’s best for us all.

GeoTechnology Games

I believe that trade has always been “international” in the sense of trading a commodity I have surplus for something I need that someone else has, who could also use my surplus. You can look at the Hebrew Bible for examples. Or documents from China of ancient times. I’ve heard stories of the Anastasi tribe that live for quite some time in the New Mexico/Colorado area.

Often, though, I’ve wondered about trade versus national security. I once had a customer that built tanks for the Army—the M1 Abrams. Always fighting the last war, the Army had them painting all the tanks camouflage. I quoted a robotic system to replace and update that painting line. Then came Desert Storm. The next day they were painting everything “desert sand” and didn’t need the robots. Oh, well.

But I’d think about how our financial geniuses had us moving manufacturing overseas. And I’d wonder, what happens in the next war? If we go to war with the country where our manufacturing moved to, we’d be screwed.

Or look at companies in our industrial technology space like, say, Rockwell Automation who has long ago moved its controller development and manufacturing to Asia. So much of that work is being done in Asia that they moved a Senior VP to Singapore for a while.

Life is full of delicate balances. How to balance the benefits of international trade and national security. We are living through one swing of that pendulum right now. Someday it will swing a different way.

This line of thinking began with an editorial by Gideon Lichfield, editor in chief of MIT Technology Review, who introduced a recent issue of TR:

In the last few decades, the received wisdom among global elites has been that technology tends to make the world flatter, smaller, more open, and more equal. This now seems increasingly false, or at least simplistic. Countries are vying for dominance in technologies that could give them a strategic advantage: communications, energy, AI, surveillance, agricultural tech, cybersecurity, military tech…and now, amidst a global pandemic, medicine and manufacturing. The urge for nations to amass technological prowess and use it as an instrument of geopolitical power is what we mean by technonationalism. The thesis of this issue is that the post-Cold War order was already splintering, and covid-19 is finishing the job.

The biggest driving force in this trend is China’s rise as a tech superpower and the US’s consequent belligerence as its supremacy comes under threat.

We all work in this environment. As we participate in decisions, we have to decide at what point are we an international company (which almost all are) and at what point are we a national company?

It’s complex, but we have to make our way through the complexity to do what’s best for us all.