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  • Writer's pictureHarrison Quigley

The Myopia of Silo Investing

Imagine, if you will, a group of investors so siloed in their investment strategies that the societal impact of a revolutionary new system comprised of diverse components alludes them - a case to be filed between the pit of Man’s fears and the limits of his imagination.

Welcome to:

The Myopia Zone.

The Setting:

It’s pitch day in 1899 New York City before a group of wealthy investors each dedicated to different industries. It’s the height of the Industrial Revolution where seeming miracles of invention happen almost daily. These investors are keen to capitalize upon the next revolutionary breakthrough but afraid of losing their money on yet another flop, of which there have been many. And no one wants to be “first in”.

Some of the investors have earned their wealth in the expansion of railroads throughout the 19th century, including backing the first transcontinental railroad as well as intercity passenger service - a large and vital part of the nation's passenger transportation network. They know how lucrative, and expensive, mass transportation can be.

The last to present was a young engineer with a revolutionary new transportation system

that’s decades ahead of anything else on the market. It has the potential to obsolete the horse & buggy and liberate people from the hassles and limited destinations of mass transit. In his presentation, delivered with animated enthusiasm that slightly annoys the cigar smoke-filled room of crusty old cynics, he explains that he has assembled a consortium of makers of multiple disrelated components – some already in use under different applications, some so avant-garde they had not yet acquired backing, and some so one-off handmade that only the very wealthy can afford them. But his comprehensive and vertically integrated system includes a revolutionary new method for manufacturing vehicles in high volume, cheaply, efficiently, and affordably enough for the average consumer, overcoming the bring-to-market problems of his consortium members.

He explains that his consortium consists of joint ventures with:

·         Carl Friedrich Benz, a German engine designer and automotive engineer, who’s Benz Patent Motorcar of 1885 is considered the first practical four-cycle internal combustion commercial production three-wheeled automobile put into series production.[1] Benz is interested in entering the fledgling American automotive market.

·         Fred Fisher (nephew of Albert Fisher of Standard Wagon Works fame) who wants to utilize The Bessemer process (the first inexpensive process for the mass production of steel patented in 1856) to build the first closed-body coupe at the C. R. Wilson Company, a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages.[2] Fred sees that automobiles will soon replace horse-drawn carriages as the primary means of personal transportation.

·         P.W. Litchfield of the Goodyear Tire Company who’s been experimenting with the first tubeless tire for patenting.[3] Litchfield wants to expand his market from bicycles to automobiles.

·         Panhard et Levassor of France – the first manufacturer of automobiles to include many breakthrough innovations. But since each of his models is handmade one-off, the JV is intended to implement mass production of their avant-garde design breakthroughs:

o   A front-mounted engine and radiator.

o   A three-speed manual transmission with rear wheel drive.

o   A clutch pedal to operate a chain-driven gearbox.

o   The first employment of a steering wheel.[4]

·         Waldemar Jungner, for his breakthrough nickel-cadmium battery.[5] He sees that internal combustion vehicles will out-perform and replace the nascent electric vehicles.

·         H. J. Dowsing, electrical engineer in East Peckham, England, who had developed the first electric starter motor in 1896.[6] He knew it would obsolete crack-starters, saving lives and broken bones.

·         Pockley Automobile Electric Lighting Syndicate, a Birmingham, England firm that’s developing the world's first electric car-lights as a complete set consisting of headlamps, sidelamps, and taillights.[7] They feel their automobile lighting system will obsolete the popular headlamps powered by oil or acetylene gas that often require cleaning to prevent the buildup of caustic lime – a highly toxic substance.[8]

·         William W. Humphreys, for his patent pending suspension idea - a 'Pneumatic Spring for Vehicles'.[9] He knows his invention, in combination with Goodyear’s inflatable tires, will provide a smoother ride than would ever be possible in horse-drawn carriages.

·         Architect George Sorocold would redesign and refit a defunct coachworks factory to be acquired. The refit would constitute the first fully mechanized power-driven factory in the world, employing 300 workers.[10] It would include an assembly line developed by Marc Isambard Brunel debuted early-1800s and at the Bridgewater Foundry in Salford, England, but with an upgrade of a moving assembly line. This would considerably speed up the manufacturing process and require fewer workers and less wasted motion than previous stationary lines.[11] Both George and Marc feel that a working fully mechanized, power-drive factory with a moving assembly line would revolutionize mass production and rapidly become the standard.

The young entrepreneur concludes, “Gentlemen, imagine riding comfortably in an enclosed all-steal coupe in any weather at speeds up to 30 MPH in 3rd gear – an automobile you can start by depressing a foot pedal instead of having to risk your life to crank-start, refuel with gasoline at any general store and drive at night with the road ahead well lit by electric headlights. An automobile so advanced and so inexpensive at $400 people will rush to buy one or maybe even two!

“All that is needed, gentlemen, to acquire the defunct coachworks, refit it for automobile mass production, fund the consortium supply chain, hire workers, and ship vehicles to struggling carriage dealerships in major cities is $50,000.” (114 times the average national household income of $438.)

The collective reaction of the hard-bitten audience was one of disdain, as evidenced by their questions. One of the railroad tycoons, seeing a potential competitor for market share, was the first on the attack. “What about safety? People are injured by carriages every day! Imagine the carnage if the masses are out on the roads willy-nilly at breakneck speeds of 30MPH! No, no. They’re much safer on mass transit.”

Another railroad mogul adds, “Gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines! They’re an explosive fire hazard! You want to burn people alive?”

The young entrepreneur responds, “Gentlemen, the gasoline is contained in a closed fuel system separated from any source of ignition except in the engine where the fuel is atomized to a fine mist by the carburetor for the closed piston cylinders which are cooled by the radiator. The risk of a fire or explosion is far less than a steam engine. Moreover, since gasoline is considered a waste product, it can be bought cheaply and sold at a profit.”

A well-known banker asks, “How many people will spend nearly a year’s salary to buy one of these contraptions? Have you sold any yet?”

Young entrepreneur: “No, sir. What I’m proposing is an entirely new personal transportation system consisting of components that have individually proven themselves in their own respective markets. Less innovative automobiles are being sold already. The market for them has already been proven. Capturing and expanding that market is simply a matter of a ‘better mouse trap’ and a far more affordable price. And as a banker, you can appreciate the potential for automobile loans to a mass market. All I need is the capital to pull these proven components together into one advanced system.”

The leader of the investor group delivered his verdict. “I’m sorry, son. Come back once you’ve sold a dozen of these.”

Discouraged and disgusted, the young entrepreneur walks away knowing that inferior problematic automobiles will dominate the market and that the breakthroughs that are on the table right now will likely not see the light of day for decades to come.

Missed Opportunities

Levassor’s 1891 state of the art “Système Panhard” model consisted of four wheels, a front-

mounted engine with rear wheel drive, sold in France for 3500 francs ($735 at the time). This was to become the standard layout for automobiles for most of the next century. Levassor’s 3-speed manual transmission remained the automotive standard until Cadillac introduced synchromesh transmission in 1928. Arthur Krebs succeeded Levassor as General Manager in 1897 and held the job until 1916. He turned the Panhard et Levassor Company into one of the largest and most profitable manufacturers of automobiles before World War I.[12] But, probably the most significant development was the advent of the moving assembly line conceived by Marc Isambard Brunel. But it wasn’t implemented until 1913 by Henry Ford for Model T production in the Highland Park Ford Plant.[13]

Many of the breakthrough automotive advancements mentioned here were either in use or on the drawing board in 1899 but didn’t make it to market or become the standard until decades later due to lack of funding. Bold and forward thinking investors could have in 1899 beat Henry Ford’s 1908 Model T to market with far superior product by 8 years and gotten a jump on a market that was worth $65 million ($Billions today) just 20 years later[14] since all the advancements were already on the table at that time but weren’t brought to market until decades later.

Today’s investors have similar limitations of fears of loss and protectionism, siloed investment strategies, and a general inability to envision diverse breakthrough components coming together in one advanced holistic system. When the problem lies in broken systems, no single parts are adequate in the fix. Until the whole system is addressed and the broken feedback loops are closed, new issues continue to develop. It’s this collective myopic, protectionist and extractionist mindset lacking whole systems thinking that stymies genuine rapid progress, favors problem-causing “solutions” that exploit or stagnate the economy, and keeps humanity shackled to the economic treadmill of lifelong debt-servitude in an increasingly toxic culture.

Our Rainbird Concept has solved multiple societal problems that governments have been trying, and failing, to solve for decades (see Problems Solved by Rainbird Villages) by pulling together currently atomized advancements already on the table into one, best of breed, comprehensive design. Unfortunately, our only barrier to making our Thrivability System™ a reality is as analogized above. (funding)

[1] Carl Friedrich Benz, "Who invented the automobile?". The Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 1 February 2021. Retrieved 3 April 2021.

[2] Fred Fisher, "1905 Cadillac Osceola". Auto Concept Retrieved 6 December 2020.

[3] P.W. Litchfield of the Goodyear Tire Company

[4] Panhard et Levassor,

[5] The first rechargeable battery marketed for commercial use was invented in 1859 by the French physician Gaston Plante. Later advancements would lead to the nickel-cadmium battery being developed in 1898 by Waldemar Jungner. #9 

[6] First starter motor 1896, Georgano, G.N. (1985). Cars 1886–1930. Beekman House. ISBN 9781855019263.

[7] Walker, Richard (1999). The Eventful Century. Reader's Digest. ISBN 978-0-276-42259-1.

[8] 1898 – Headlights Go Electric, 

[10]  George Sorocold designed and build what’s believed the first fully mechanized factory in the world.  #11, 

[11] Assembly Line, #32 ibid. 

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