Not Financial Advice: Why I Sometimes Cover The Longshot Cleantech Companies

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About a month ago, a fellow writer here gave his perspective on which up and coming cleantech companies should be covered and which shouldn’t, along with other thoughts about writing. In the comments, some readers thought Michael was belittling me without naming me, and that may be true. If he was talking about me, I’m not really bothered about it, so people who like me shouldn’t get offended on my behalf.

I’m not bothered largely because people who care mostly about making cleantech investments (and other bean counter types) really shouldn’t take me very seriously. I think I may be a good source of general automotive information and I might be helpful on a few other things, but nobody in their right mind who knows much about me would think I’m a wellspring of financial and investing advice, nor is that something I even aspire to.

In this article, I want to be brutally honest about why I’m a terrible source for financial advice, why I still cover these “dead end” companies, and what other things I’m probably worth listening to about. Finally, I’ll talk a bit about press releases and the idea that ChatGPT is going to eat my lunch (and maybe even my dinner and breakfast).

I Might Be The World’s Worst Source For Financial Advice

First off, let’s be crystal clear that I’m a terrible source of financial advice. I live in a trailer in New Mexico, one of the most poor and unstable states in the union. It’s a nicer double-wide trailer, so I’m not on the bottom of the barrel here, but my house only costs me $800 a month. That’s less than many readers probably spend on a Tesla payment every month. I can’t even afford a Tesla (even if I wanted one), so clearly I’m not a paragon of wealth.

In other words, if you really like money, don’t follow in my footsteps.

I know plenty of people with lower incomes have stock portfolios and other investments because they’re wise and frugal with their money, so I’m going to be brutally honest about myself here and explain why I don’t. When most people were starting careers and focusing on making money in their 20s and early 30s, I was suffering from some health issues that kept me out of the game. It turned out that I’m Darwin’s Grab Bag — a mutated mess that needs a bunch of pills to function half-way properly. Not a good time!

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Unlike, say, the X-Men, I didn’t get any superpowers from my mutations. I only got problems with both physical and mental health that led me to do idiotic things that I’m still struggling to dig myself out from under to this day.

But then again, sometimes not having a sense of smell (thanks, weird gene twists) is a superpower because bad smells don’t bother me at all. I also experience synesthesia, which means my senses get a little mixed up mentally. For example, the number 3 is yellow to me and the number 9 has a metallic taste. Super weird, I know.

My doctors have helped me greatly improve my health over the last few years, but now I have to clean up all of the fallout from bad decisions and low effort from a time when I wasn’t performing like I should. My credit score still starts with a 6, but it’s on the way up and it’s almost in the 700s. I’ve learned a lot, but I’m not going to pretend that I know enough to give people advice even at the household level because I’m still figuring this stuff out for myself.

Truth be told, I’m probably a decade behind my peers on basically everything in life except having kids (which was also challenging due to being a dysfunctional mutant). I DEFINITELY wouldn’t come to me for advice about highly important life decisions, like what companies to invest in unless you’d ask college kids for the same advice. Just sayin’.

I Don’t Think It’s My Job To Pick Winners & Losers Here

Even if I were the paragon of financial stability, career success, and knowledge of high finance, I still don’t think it’s my job to decide which companies are going to make it and which won’t. To be more precise, it’s not my job to tell you what companies are a good investment and which are definitely going to burn up anything you send their way and leave you with nothing to show for it.

Put more simply, you definitely shouldn’t say to yourself, “Hey! The people at CleanTechnica covered this! It must be a great investment!”

You guys are adults, and you have to make those decisions. We’re not here to put horse blinders on you to keep the bad investments totally out of sight and then lead you around to only see the good buys. Maybe Michael is knowledgeable enough to do that, but I’m definitely not and don’t even pretend that I’m even trying to do that for you.

When I write about companies like Aptera, Sion Motors, and Arcimoto, the goal isn’t to paint a good investment with a laser so you can call your broker and order a financial airstrike. The goal is to give you information that you then choose to use as you see fit both now and later.

As Fox News says (and largely doesn’t do), “We report, you decide.”

Why I Cover These Companies Anyway

There are two reasons I continue to cover these longshot companies, even though many of them will probably fail in the long run.

First, I cover them because they’re interesting. They’re doing something that nobody else has tried, or they’re doing something that really pushes the envelope on environmental friendliness. People like to read about interesting technology, and I’m here to give you something interesting to read about.

Or, as Elon Musk said, “If you get up in the morning and think the future is going to be better, it is a bright day. Otherwise, it’s not.” Another time, he went deeper on this thought and said, “There have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What’s the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? If the future does not include being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, I find that incredibly depressing.”

CleanTechnica doesn’t focus on SpaceX stuff, but I think the wider point that applies here is that people need to know that interesting things are happening in the world and that people are trying to make it a better place. If all we did was cover the things happening that made their way past the bean-counting, orthodox, beige-lens-looking gatekeepers in the world of blue chip finance, the world we try to show you would be a depressing place.

In other words, I write about these things because they will make you happy. We all need more happiness.

That being said, I know that these longshot companies shouldn’t dominate our coverage. They probably shouldn’t be more than 10-20% of it at absolute most (in my opinion — others think we should limit it to far less).

The second reason I cover these companies is that they represent the horizon in the industry. By the time our journey gets to where they are, some of them will turn out to be mirages and vaporware, and others just weren’t realistic enough to succeed. I know that. But, being aware of them does give you some insight you might be able to use to understand emerging trends. So, there’s some useful information there, even if you probably shouldn’t be putting money into such companies today (especially if it’s money you can’t stand to lose).

It’s also worth pointing out that Tesla used to be one of these longshot companies. More mainstream automotive blogs ran “Tesla Deathwatch” articles. Nobody worth their salt in finance would have told you that all-in investing in them in 2008 was a fantastic idea. But Tesla survived and defied the odds.

I can’t tell you which of these longshot companies will beat the odds later, and anyone telling you that they know for sure all of these companies are 100% certain to fail overestimates their ability to predict the future. They might be 99% certain to fail, but never 100%.

Even if failure is likely, the technology these startups develop can often end up doing something useful later, perhaps when the price comes down or other technological advances are made. If you’re super savvy, you might identify opportunities that other miss in our coverage of these longshots if you’re imaginative and experienced (both qualities “bean counter” types are short on).

I think I’ve firmly established that I’m not a good source for financial advice, but I don’t want to just trash myself and end the article. In Part 2, I’m going to cover a few things I’m probably worth listening to about and then discuss the role of AI in writing in 2023 (TL;DR: it can’t write articles for us), and the importance of stories that come from press releases.

Featured image: “Robots Counting Beans and Crushing Dreams,” generated by Fotor AI.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1983 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba