For the past couple of months I have been volunteering with the Cleantech Open (CTO – www.cleantechopen.com) here in Northern California. The CTO is a business plan competition held in 3 regions in the Western U.S. The groups are provided with opportunities to learn about business planning, get feedback, practice their presentations, and be mentored to what they hope will be a winning business plan – for both the competition and to get funding from a VC…
Most of my time has been spent helping with the CTO’s first Operations Industry Clinic which was held last Thursday evening at the offices of a very interesting company, D2M (Design to Manufacturing – www.d2m-inc.com), in Mountain View – but more about them later.
There were 2 presenters who gave both valuable information and examples which the CTO contestants could use in developing their specific prototypes and operations / mfg / supply chain processes and business plans. The evening was a very good primer on all aspects of manufacturing and operations with particular info on how to decide whether to contract out or start your own. The biggest take-away for me was that either way a company needs to maintain visibility and control over their suppliers, service providers, and quality processes. It also underscored how operations decisions have the potential to make or break a new or existing company.
Paul Tasner from Method Products (www.methodhome.com) was the second presenter and he walked the group through the issues and challenges he had encountered when he joined Method to run their supply chain operations. He talked about the distribution changes he had implemented, the challenge of being a small fish in a large pond but still working out sustainable solutions with his service providers, and to never underestimate what you can accomplish.
Two people from D2M’s management team also participated in the interactive presentations by giving the group the benefit of their experience, particularly around prototypes and contract manufacturing (they have worked with many existing companies and start-ups). After the official clinic discussions were over we broke into 2 groups and got a quick tour around the D2M facility.
Tim Billing, COO, led the group that I was in. D2M is moving toward more project based work groups and open cube seating. They are finding that it makes for more innovative and collaborative results. Tim described a number of the projects they are involved in – some cleantech related (eg a better toilet) and some humanitarian related (easier ways to transport water for women in Africa).
The entire evening was very successful, good food (provided by D2M), good information, and some real-world examples of people helping people and the planet. Very much aligned with the reason people get involved with cleantech in the first place!
President, Reclipse Group