Evan Thornley, the Australian founder of LookSmart and a former Victorian state politician, has been elevated to the role of global chief of electric vehicle charging network Better Place after founder and previous head Shai Agassi was fired.
According to Israeli press reports, Agassi was fired after the company accumulated losses of nearly $500 million, and Thornley was chosen as his replacement because of his strong performance as head of the Australian offshoot. Agassi will continue as a board member and shareholder.
“Under Shai’s leadership, we’ve successfully achieved our goals in the first chapter of Better Place, and we owe Shai our gratitude for turning his powerful vision into a reality,” Idan Ofer, chairman of Better Place, was quoted as saying.
“It is almost five years to the day since Shai launched Better Place and a natural point in the company’s evolution to realign for its second chapter and for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
“Our board has long prepared to ensure that Better Place has a strong bench of talented executives in place to support the CEO and a clear succession plan to ensure a smooth leadership transition and we are fortunate to have such a strong leadership team within Better Place.
“In his four years as CEO of Better Place in Australia, Evan has built an impressive track record, particularly around establishing a strong set of industry partners there. Evan brings the right combination of entrepreneurship and coalition and team building to take Better Place to the next level.”
The company said Thornley will assume the global CEO role immediately. In a statement reported in Israeli media, he said. “Four years ago, Shai asked me to join the Better Place mission and bring it to Australia. It has been my pleasure to lead that effort along with my colleague CEOs in Israel, Denmark and now the Netherlands. Today, it is an honour for me to step up and lead this fantastic global team on a day-to-day basis.
“We have the only fully integrated charge network platform in the world that’s live and operating and serving satisfied customers. We start the second chapter with a tremendous strength of global investors and management team. Our relentless focus now is to grow and satisfy a global customer base and build powerful industry partnerships.”
Better Place was founded by Agassi in 2007, with the aid of venture capital funding of $200 million. In total, it raised $US750 million since it was founded in 2007, and lifted its valuation to $US2.25 billion under its last fund raising in 2011.
Under the company’s business model, customers lease the batteries in its electric cars, and can swap them at battery changing stations, thus extending the range of the cars between charges. It is building its first networks in Denmark and Israel, and is also soon to announce details of its first network in Australia, to be built in Canberra.
On Tuesday, Better Place Australia announced that IHG (InterContinental Hotel Groups) had installed EV charging spots at eight of its properties, allowing drivers can plug into the charge spots and top-up their battery whilst enjoying hotel facilities and event spaces. The hotels will join the Australian Government’s $100 million Smart Grid, Smart City trial taking place in Sydney, Newcastle and the Upper Hunter.