Kevin Stevens
Kevin Stevens
The Lindy Effect in Energy

The Lindy Effect in Energy

What does a NY deli have to do with energy?

In the 1960s, comedians convened to discuss shows at a deli in New York called Lindy. It was there they discovered that the life expectancy of a television comedian is inversely proportional to their frequency of appearance on the medium.

The Lindy Effect is the idea that the future life expectancy of non-perishable things like books, technologies, and ideas is proportional to their current age implying that for every additional period they survive, their life expectancy increases.

Our job in venture capital is to explore new technologies, and back the founders building them. But equally important, per the Lindy effect, is our understanding of the antifragile. We must understand what is hard to disrupt and becomes more resilient to change with time.

“What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” That is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.-Jeff Bezos

What’s “Lindy” in Electricity

The need for reliability. This one is the most basic Lindy dynamics in energy, once we access reliable power we become accustomed to it, our lives are increasingly dependent on it, and it never goes in reverse. There are approximately 1B people globally who still do not have access to reliable power.

Grid flexibility - even if we get to a centralized baseload of clean power through storage, nuclear, or geothermal power, the power of flexibility will not break once it becomes common practice. Further, that flexibility is more likely to match supply to demand instead of curtailing demand to meet supply.

Specialized knowledge - the power and energy sectors have uniquely complex dynamics. This expresses itself in the vernacular (how many people understand a kWH?), the regulations, the incumbency, or bureaucracy. Technology has and will continue to make this more accessible so that anyone can learn it.

For example, think of Google Translate. You can now go to China and get by without ever learning a single word. Does this mean you learned the language and the rules that dictate it or could get by living in China? The appearance of specialization by tourists to the sector will make the actual knowledge more valuable because fewer people will believe they have to learn it.

Transportation and charging networks - we have an increasing desire to get from point A as cheaply and reliably as possible. Electric vehicles are on the path to becoming that option and once charging networks are in place they will be almost impossible to replace.

Convenience - the easier things become for consumers, the easier they expect them to be. This bar is EXTREMELY high in electricity because “it just works” - in most cases we flip a switch or press a button and we have power.

Heuristic regulations like protecting the consumer, and maybe soon, the environment. Regulations are inherently difficult to get passed and with good reason - we are incredibly poor at subtracting them post-implementation. Additionally, the politicians and regulators responsible for them have careers to protect and do not want to be seen as anti-consumer or environment.

Third-party data access is a great example, it took hold as a result of previous telecom regulations and has yet to be changed in order to meet the demands of today’s technology-driven grid.We may not have a NY deli, but we have Twitter and Linkedin to discuss these trends. We know energy, like entertainment, is a dynamic industry. What concepts do you predict will stay the same and get stronger over time as the industry undergoes a once-in-a-lifetime transformation?