The Economist Effect

Being at the right place at the right time can quickly disrupt established industrial and economic systems intentionally designed to resist change. 

Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News

In late 2009, at the end of the worst financial crisis since the great depression, my company was featured in The Economist magazine.

For those who don’t know, The Economist is an old, influential, respected global economics print magazine. At my disruptive startup cleantech company, I was the defacto marketing guy. After the article about us was published? I was more than a marketing guy. I was a hero – at least in the company and our small circles of influence.

The Economist article immediately gave our lithium battery startup a legitimacy that could not be bought for any price. I know; I later tried without success to get them to do a follow-up story. 

Yes, we were a young, scrappy, bootstrapping Greentech startup with radical ideas about how to use energy. Yes, we were attempting to clean a traditionally very conservative industry. But that story isn’t unique, especially in Vancouver, the home of high-profile tech companies and myriad other startups, all vying for attention and funding. We did not stand out very much – until The Economist feature. 

The reason the writer thought we were worth writing about had little to do with who we were. Sure, I sent them a press release letting them know we existed, but the real reason they wrote about us? We were the first to have a product to fit a specific need, and it was the right time in history for that product, but I didn’t know it then. At the time, we thought we were brilliant and our egos ran with it. Looking back with the wisdom that age brings, it is only now that I can see how big and disruptive that technology would be. Today the first company is now two, and together they have prevented millions of kilograms of carbon from entering the atmosphere, something I am intensely proud of.

We had a strong team, but we weren’t so special; we were just in the right place at the right time, and we subsequently rode a rocket ship of growth with the proverbial hockey stick curve. It was an amazing experience, even if, at the time, we didn’t realise how incredibly lucky we were.

More than a decade later, again through the ever-clarifying lens of wisdom, I feel much the same about what we do at Happy Eco News. We are small, have challenges, and maybe it won’t be all black-tie events and expensive hotels (nor do we want it to be), but we, and others like us, are on the verge of something important. Once again, I find myself at the convergence of a maelstrom of powerful influences and, by sheer fate or luck, in a position to help disrupt the status quo. Once again, I am surrounded by smart, innovative people. Once again, forces bigger than me are pushing me ahead, to where now, I step forward.

I am no longer the naive, idealistic young man I once was, but I have not allowed myself to lose sight of the big picture or become jaded. If anything, I am more humble and grateful than at any other time in my life, and more than ever, I believe we humans, at our core, are mostly good. We have it in us to make the world much better. To help nature heal and repair. To fix what is wrong with the physical systems and the stuff wrong with our society, to identify and de-amplify the phony people and things that society seems to idolize. The people and things that would manipulate people into harming themselves and their cohabitants on earth. 

Existing commerce and governance systems are huge forces designed to resist change. The problems they create, even when broken down as smaller individual problems of climate, social injustice, pollution, biodiversity loss and corporate greed, feel overwhelming each on their own. In our hearts, we know they are intrinsically linked. This can often seem too much, especially when we feel alone and separated from others by a false world of algorithm-controlled interactions. The human system becomes overloaded and breaks down while the industrial machine grinds on, doing what it was always designed to do; extract resources and turn them into numbers. 

There has never been a more important time to take action against injustice, and there is no shortage of causes a person can support. They are all important; the interesting thing is that every person reading this will have one at the top of their own list. It is the one thing that resonates most deeply in their hearts. The thing whose continued existence bothers them the most.

That one wrong you can’t bear to see any longer is the cause you should support and make right. Pick your cause and go MAKE A RUCKUS. Do something, do anything. Take action. 

PS – Thank you, Seth Godin, for my ad on your podcast and for all you do. I truly believe the world would be better if more people worked to serve others as you do. For those in the Happy Eco News audience who want to learn how to make a real impact, I suggest they check out the Akimbo Podcast.

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