Better Place Founder and CEO Shai Agassi has what has been called a "breathtakingly ambitious" systems-based approach to electrify the automobile and help free the world from its dependence on oil. This is a rare chance to hear directly from Agassi his perspectives and preconditions on how the transformation from oil-based to sustainable transportation will continue to unfold and the role that Silicon Valley and the wider investor community can play.
Better Place Founder Shai Agassi, and served as Better Place CEO from the company’s founding in 2007 until October 2012.
As a member of the Forum of Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, Agassi was asked, “How do you make the world a better place by 2020?” In response, he wrote a white paper that envisioned a replicable model of a single country able to wean itself off oil for transportation by harnessing renewable energy to power zero emission electric cars.
Agassi’s vision and white paper led to Better Place, which he grew into a global company with operations in Europe and the Middle East, the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific Region. Under his leadership, Better Place turned his vision to reality in Israel and Denmark in five years, with plans to scale its operations far beyond its initial core markets.
Widely recognized for his foresight and leadership, Agassi was awarded in 2011 the “Legion d’Honneur” by the French government for his contributions to sustainable transportation. That same year, the City of Mannheim, Germany, birthplace of the world’s first automobile, awarded him the first ever “Bertha-Carl Benz Award” for being a role model in taking on large challenges related to climate change. Ernst & Young also recognized Agassi in 2011, naming him “Entrepreneur of the Year” in Israel.
Agassi, who began computer programming at age seven, received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, where he began his studies at age 16. Better Place is Agassi’s first sustainable, social enterprise, which he founded at age 39, after successfully founding three high-technology companies.
Before Better Place, Agassi served as an executive board member and President of the product and technology group at SAP, the world’s largest enterprise software company. Agassi served as an executive board member since 2002, when he became the youngest member of the executive board where he served for another five years. He left SAP in 2007 in order to start Better Place and dedicate his experience to solving the issues related to oil dependence and climate change.
Mark Johnson is a recognized expert on business-model innovation and co-founder with Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen of Innosight, a strategic innovation consulting and investing company.
Better Place founder and CEO Shai Agassi claims China, in an attempt to stay one step ahead of U.S. automakers, is already at work copying his battery switching system for electric vehicles (EVs). The Chinese attitude on his company's technology? "The earlier we copy it, the better we are," says Agassi.