“If we don’t deliver these cars, we are f---ed. So I don’t care what job you are doing; your new job is to deliver cars.” –Elon Musk.
We’re always curious about people’s tech heroes. Steve Jobs frequently gets a nod. Sometimes Bill Gates does, too. Elon is our tech hero. Space X is focused on making humans an interplanetary species! And Tesla, Solar City, and the Hyperloop go to the heart of companies that can transform cities by slashing greenhouse gas emissions.
Ashlee Vance’s bio on Elon Musk is a fantastic story, in part because, for the first time, Elon Musk himself collaborated on the story. The most striking thing is how Musk identifies the issues that are most critical for his companies and then very rapidly marshals resources to solve those issues, which often means taking over the work himself. The quote above occurred when Musk realized that people had placed orders (and put down deposits) and that Tesla was deferring those orders as it ramped up production, putting the entire company at risk.
Elon Musk’s entrepreneurial story is an important reminder of the danger of the common management wisdom for startups. It builds on one of our favorite ideas, “Do things that don’t scale.” Reassigning huge parts of the company to sales seems insane, but a motivated team today is better than a perfect team tomorrow. Taking over work as a CEO is an almost unimaginable idea, and yet it happens over and over again in Musk land. Finally, it’s amazing how close every one of Musk’s companies came to failure.
We highly recommend that you add the story of Elon Musk to your summer reading list.
[Startup Candidate] Sunday Assembly is a new way to drive community engagement and individual well being. It’s a religious community center that doesn’t require participants to believe in anything except the desire to help others while you help yourself.
[Startup Candidate] Tumalow aims to transform commercial buildings into profitable and clean power plants by coordinating solar power, storage, and demand within the building to minimize expensive demand requests from the grid. We explore the opportunity here.
Google is going to have a profound impact on re-imagining cities - In our last update, we discussed how Google I/O shows why Google was best positioned to have a huge impact on cities. We were wrong. Sidewalk Inc will have a much bigger impact.
Sidewalk is an “urban innovation company that will pursue technologies to cut pollution, curb energy use, streamline transportation, and reduce the cost of city living,” according to the founders. The new venture, which is funded by Google, will use a mix of build, buy, and partner strategies to make cities better. The complete NYTimes piece is here.
New seed definitions - Seed now includes pre-seed, seed, and post-seed. These are small changes to a name, but the implications are big for both founders and investors. Manu Kumar explains why and what it all means.
Seed funding analytics - How many investors should you talk with? What is a reasonable amount of time to take to close a round? What are the most important pages in a deck? Docsend has used analytics to answer these questions; the resulting presentation is another must read for early stage founders and the folks who want to help them.
Personal Democracy Forum - This forum was an inspiring event that left us with a few thoughts about themes that we want to dig into, one of which is reconciling profit and impact as well as public and private. These post PDF questions on Civisist capture those thoughts well. Also, we were happy to meet Sanderson Jones! He is the founder and CEO of one of this week’s startup introductions.
Traditional startup advising model is broken - We love this piece from Firstround because it’s exactly what we’ve been testing at Urban.Us since we started. We’d love to hear what you think—who else is experimenting with different advisor structures?
Fast Company on unsexy problems of city government - Dustin from e.Republic (the publishers of Govtech Magazine) and Ben from Fastco discussed this piece at Smart City Startups, so we’re happy to see it happen. Seamlessdocs is featured, as are many of our favorite Urbantech firms. You can read the Fastco piece here.
Dash 2.0 featured in the Play Store - Dash 2.0 is moving Dash even further ahead in the connected car space. They are currently featured in the Google Play store.
[Event] Washington Post’s America Answers - On June 23rd, Shaun is speaking in D.C. along with Blocpower CEO, Donnel Baird, and some much better known folks in the energy space, including Nancy Pfund of DBL Investors and the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Energy, Ernest Moniz. More on the event.
Finally, as your vacation takes you onto the highway systems at home or abroad, take another look at all those trucks, campers, minivans, and cars. What will change when these vehicles can pilot themselves on highways?
Shaun, Stonly, and Anthony
P.S. Over much of the summer, Stonly is in San Francisco and Shaun is in NYC and D.C, so please let us know if you are available to meet up.