Globes published today an obnoxious article (Hebrew) about Better Place – Shai Agassi's electric car venture. From the first word through the last, it was clearly setup as a hit-job by a clueless nobody "journalist" who has obviously never tried to accomplish anything meaningful in her life.
Disclosures: I'm not an expert on the subject matter. I'm not very familiar with the company. I've never met or spoken with Shai Agassi, and have no other connections I'm aware of with his company.
The "article" attacks Better Place for failing to deliver on a variety of milestones that the "journalist" had apparently expected them to. For example, they did not yet start manufacturing cars or employing 50,000 people in Israel after less than two years since the company was founded. The writer of course has started multiple successful companies, and has extensive experience in building factories within months….
This seems to have been going on for a while now – On the one hand Better Place has gotten some incredible press, and on the other hand "journalists" ripping apart Shai and the company, as if they owed them or the public anything (they don't…). It's sad to see this kind of hit-job journalism which is designed to do nothing more than sell a few more copies of the newspapers. The cost of hit-jobs by mediocre writers is much cheaper than actual journalistic work by journalists. And unfortunately, tabloid crap like this sells newspapers…
So as an FYI to Ms. Shlomit Lan – startups in general, and specifically one as ambitious as Better Place, take years or decades to build. During those years, as long as it's a law-abiding, private company, it owes *nothing* to the public as it relates to timelines, milestones, business models, pricing, etc, etc. Building a great company is never as simple or quick as it seems, and if they figure out half of the challenges they currently face in say 5 years, that will be an incredible achievement. Passing this kind of judgment on the company so early in the game proves you're either clueless, or jealous, or you've intentionally setup a hit-job.
A couple of years ago I attended a conference where Yossi Vardi was part of a panel judging startups. After passing criticism to a couple of the entrepreneurs, Yossi stopped the conference, took the microphone, and said he has something critically important to remind all the judges, journalists and investors dealing with entrepreneurs. He quoted Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 speech (also covered by TechCrunch here):
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Shai Aggasi is the man in the arena. He might fail miserably, but he will do so while daring to make great things happen.
I know too little to determine whether Better Place is good for the environment or bad (I suspect it's a pretty good alternative to buying oil to fund the bad guys and burn it to destroy the world…). I simply dread the day that "journalists" kill innovation and innovators by abusing their power to run hit jobs like this on the men in the arena. Therefore I had to respond.
Finally – to anyone who is genuinely interested in this project, I highly recommend this hugely inspiring talk that Shai Agassi recently gave at TED: