Gopi Mattel, based in silicon valley, serves as General Partner and CEO at Lifeboat Ventures, a venture fund that creates disaster impact mitigation startups. He is the Founder/CEO of CellarStone, Inc., Director at Founder Institute, and Advisor for Pepperdine University’s Most Fundable Companies program. The views expressed are his own.
Olivia, Edison and Collette – all 11 and under – died in the unprecedented Texas winter storm. The state has been under a severe statewide power blackout. They were using a fireplace to keep themselves warm. In generally warm-weather Texas, fireplaces are not designed to burn for days and provide heat. Their grandmother Loan Le also died, while the mother Jackie barely made it alive with third-degree burns.
Texas does not see severe winter storms with a major snowfall. But in recent years, the jet-stream has become unstable and has extended far south in a wavy pattern. This was the cause of the unusual cold event. Surprisingly. areas located at the very north of the country such as Buffalo, New York, did not get any snow.
We are faced with more and more frequent and unprecedented events. Cold areas are hot and warm areas are cold. If the extension of the polar vortex had extended into India, it would have covered half the country. Most residences there do not have insulation and typically do not have any heating equipment or fireplaces. It could have killed millions. We are now living in the Age of Disasters.
More than 58 people had died already in Texas. Zoos and other facilities lost many wild animals as they froze to death. Hospitals had to send patients away because they did not have water which was needed for boilers.
Texans are facing many dangers in their own homes: Hypothermia, Carbon Monoxide poisoning, and the fire-susceptibility of homes. The knowledge and ability to preserve people through these disasters already exists. A house with Tesla solar shingles eliminated snow buildup and kept the power on. Many houses with battery backups from Tesla and others kept the power on. A house-owner was able to use his Ford F150 truck’s new power generator to keep the power going. Organizations, research and examples exist of these problems being solved.
Government has failed the people, even when its primary purpose is to preserve the general well-being of the people. Private businesses that have extractive models have failed their customers. Businesses focus on quarterly results and year-over-year growth. People are starting to get enraged and societies are becoming unstable. People are turning their attention to the political authorities already in Texas. People in power are more and more in danger – as we saw in January in the USA. Businesses are also going to be at risk.
But it is almost impossible to expect that individuals can effectively make all the right choices to build a resilient home, especially with cost considerations. Some may- most won’t. Government has to do detailed scenario-playing and create the codes and incentives to create resilient buildings and communities. Businesses have to change their model to be committed to the society that draws their profits from. Businesses have to take more responsibility for producing solutions that protect and preserve people. B corporations as an alternative to C corporation structures will help. One aspect of the business, venture capital, can have the long horizon of 10 years necessary to solve some of these problems.
What if there existed a company to create houses that have resiliency as the core value and are resilient to fire, water, cold, heat, storms, earthquakes, etc. It could be designed to be self-sufficient for power, water, and food, as well.
Other ideas to help in this area could be:
- Neighborhood solar smart grid to make houses power independent at low cost
- Power generator attachment to existing cars to provide backup power
Lifeboat Ventures, is thinking about these and a few more ideas to fund in its quest to mitigate disaster impact on society.