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PHOTO CAPTION: Battery exchange station in Israel, one of several dozen the company built both in Israel and Denmark.

Better Place: A Success That Hasn't Yet Reached Its Goal

Sagi Melamed looks at the collapse of the Better Place electric car network in the context of what it achieved.

Published: 16-Jun-2013

Better Place, the electric car company started in Israel in 2008, recently declared bankruptcy. Newspapers were full of learned analyses of why entrepreneur Shai Agassi’s initiative had failed. I claim the initiative did not fail at all. I believe this was not a failure, but rather a success that has not yet reached its goal.

Let me explain myself.

I do not know Shai Agassi personally, but I have met him on a few occasions. The first was six years ago, when he was the keynote speaker at the annual gala of the Harvard Club of Israel. Attendees at the event had all encountered many articulate and charismatic speakers, but Agassi, 45, was in a class of his own. He simply mesmerized the audience, depicting an idea that was simple, yet far-reaching and visionary. His idea combined security needs (weaning the world off oil dependency), Zionism (Israel leading the revolution), and environmental considerations, all wrapped up in a for-profit business model. How could the audience fail to be enthusiastic?

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