Tesla is unique because they are both a hardware company and a software company. The main brain of the Tesla car is it’s MCU or media control unit. Up until 2018, the MCU of the Teslas was an NVidea Tegra 3 chipset. In that year Tesla moved to an Intel Chipset and when it did that the new Tesla Model 3 software got a lot faster.
Unfortunately for people who had the older computer the software started to fall behind. Unlike an iPhone that perhaps is easy to upgrade every 2-5 years, it’s much more expensive and complex to upgrade a car. Luckily Tesla recently released a hardware upgrade that essentially replaces the main computer of the Tesla.
Take a look as we upgrade the main brain of a Model S with a new MCU and the Full-Self-Driving computer, the FSD.
Starting a business without initial capital is a process of building a stable foundation while minimizing risk.
There are three things needed to start a company:
Since we’re doing this without money, we’re left with just Customers and Products. The easiest way to get this started is with a side-hustle. The main idea is that you keep a stable job to provide you regular schedule and the financial stability and work on your business during nights and weekends.
Your side-hustle doesn’t have to be the exact business that you will start but it should move you in the general direction of your interests. If you think your business will be in the food or restaurant space consider delivering grub-hub as a side-hustle. Want to get into real estate? Look into being an AirBnB host. If you’re starting a beverage company, consider working at a bar or restaurant at night.
Think of your side hustle as both some financial capital but also as market research. There are a lot of examples of entrepreneurs getting started this way. Michael Dell started his computer business being a student and having a side-hustle of putting together computers for your friends.
Daymond John, the founder of clothing company FUBU, was working in Red Lobster while he was getting his business off the ground selling hats on New York street corners.
The founder of Mattel sold picture frames as his main thing and used the scraps of the picture frames to start building and selling dollhouses.
Lara Merriken, was working in Whole Foods stocking shelves working on her product the Lärabar, which gave her insight into how Whole Foods works and it also gave her access to store buyers willing to try her product. This access ultimately led to her big break.
Starting your business as a side-hustle gives you the advantage of financial stability but it also gives you a unique view of business problems. It may also give you access to customers.
If you’re trying to start a company with little or no money one thing you try to do to get initial cash flow is to get a customer to pay upfront. How do we do that? You build a prototype or sample.
Prototypes don’t have to be expensive, they can be drawn on a piece of paper, cut out of cardboard, hand made models or recipes baked in your oven. Certain businesses are harder to start without funding but most business ideas can be prototyped.
If you’ve built a prototype or sample of your product then services like Kickstarter, Fiverr or Etsy can give you a platform to sell products your product directly to consumers. These types of services require very little or no up-front capital. You can get customers before committing to a lot of financial up-front risk.
If you have a service business you may also be able to charge an upfront-deposit or down-payment giving you initial cash-flow. This is common in many consulting, construction, and subscription businesses.
Your early samples and prototypes can also give you customer feedback on what people like or dislike about your product.
Initial sales are unlikely to have a significant initial financial impact but they will help you continue to improve your product and they will get the initial flow started. Initial sales are sold one-by-one, so expect to get personal when you start the business. As your product or service gets out into the real world, you’ll start to develop word of mouth about your business or product.
For companies that have Money – they can spend money to get customers. But starting a company with little or no money, you need to make your products really great to get the word-of-mouth and attract more customers.
As the business grows, the revenue flow starts to increase and you’ll be able to spend more on growth, hiring, and talent. Ultimately every small business can be the catalyst for a larger one and the hardest part of starting a business is actually starting.
Good luck on your journey!
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Musk is one of the most prolific entrepreneurs of our generation has started, led, inspired or invested in not just one business that grew to over a billion dollars in value but at least four (Paypal, SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity). In addition, he’s also currently incubating ideas with, Hyperloop, Boring co, Starlink, and Neuralink (each having similar scale potential).
There are four key aspects that make him very different from a typical leader:
Clarity in vision
How he solves problems
How he leads
How he engages both with customers
Elon’s not perfect and there are certainly lessons to be learned from some of his missteps but I’m going to focus on four key areas that every entrepreneur should study:
Clarity in vision
Many companies lack a basic vision and mission statement and many that do have a vision statement don’t use it to run the company. Let’s look at the clarity of the mission for Tesla and SpaceX’s:
Accelerate the world toward sustainable energy
Tesla Mission Statement
Note that it says nothing about electric vehicles, batteries, solar, cars or trucks. Its clarity in purpose gives the company long-term direction on the purpose of their products and services.
This is true not only of Tesla but also of Space X…
Make life multiplanetary.
SpaceX Mission Statement
It doesn’t talk about rockets, mars, astronauts or satellites. It’s focused on the long-term goal of where the company is going, in this case to Mars.
The clarity in vision helps as an internal north star but it can also help the business grow, attract talent and position itself among a crowded field of competitors.
Elon went further than just the mission statement and also publicly outlined what he described as the “Master Plan,” explaining in public how he would go step-by-step to move closer to his vision.
Build sports car Use that money to build an affordable car Use that money to build an even more affordable car While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Don’t tell anyone.
Elon Musk – 2006 in Tesla blog post
I can’t find a single other public company that has so clearly outlined its vision and how it’ll get there. The clarity in vision and mission give Tesla and SpaceX an edge because it both attracts the right talent and it gives all employees more clear direction in terms of “what’s right,” for the business. This allows the business to move faster at scale in the right direction.
Solving problems on first principals
The notion of first principals is breaking down a problem to it’s most basic elements. Musk’s background in physics helps him in this respect but it’s applied to multiple aspects of his businesses.
Musk explains that assumptions about the costs of batteries could be broken down into the chemicals that compose a battery and the raw costs of those chemicals.
Rather than asking what is possible from a business standpoint, he asks what is possible from a physics, chemistry, mechanical perspective. This gives him theoretical maximums and minimums and allows him to challenge his respective teams with the bounds rather than the market competition. This has allowed him to push the state-of-the-art on solar, battery production, rocketry and other technologies.
He sets aggressive deadlines for his teams ensuring that his companies are always working on the tasks that most directly lead to results associated with those deadlines. Tight deadlines take advantage of Parkinson’s Law. The idea behind the law is that: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for completion.” Even though these deadlines are often missed the deadline itself forces focus and prioritization and critical decisions that are often lacking in companies that set far out deadlines.
Musk welcomes competitors and competition. He’s expressed the willingness to go head-to-head with Ford, VW, Porsche, and Boeing. While some leaders shy away from competition Musk leans into these scenarios as it challenges him to produce the best products and technologies.
Working with Customers
Musk interacts directly with customers on twitter often engaging and inviting critics to complain directly. While he’s been criticized for this, it does give him a direct view into how customers view his products and where the business needs more attention.
Many CEO’s and leaders don’t provide visibility or direct engagement leaving such tasks to customer support or marketing departments. Direct engagement requires vulnerability on the part of the CEO (you need a thick skin) but the positive aspect of this engagement is that he’s able to keep multiple divisions and departments accountable for the quality that he’s looking for.
Lastly, Elon Musk likes to have fun. He injects fun and fun features, jokes, easter eggs and space balls references into his daily interactions, he doesn’t take himself too seriously even though he works incredibly hard. This sets a tone for both employees and customers in terms of what to expect from the products and the company in terms of fun.
Apple has struggled on the UX design front over the last few years. You can see some of the problems in both the hardware and the software across a number of products but I’m going to go deep on just one feature that you use every day the lock screen…
The iPhone lock screen and it’s overall design was part of the original launch of the iPhone, but the simplicity of the original design has eroded over the years.
The original design was:
Hard to trigger by accident
Simple and intuitive (even for a baby)
Could be done with one hand and taking the phone out your pocket couldn’t cause an accidental gesture
There was nothing to confuse you
As the iPhone grew in popularity there was a lot of interest in having more functionality quickly available. The iPhone was the most popular camera and quick access to the camera was added to the lock screen in iOS 6.
All the way through iOS 8, there were two primary gestures… Swipe across to unlock and a new gesture to swipe up to get the camera. The camera was hard to trigger by accident and gave a hint if you tapped it.
In iOS 10 things started to get more complicated.
The home button had become a fingerprint reader
The home screen was now the primary way to view notifications and act on them.
Apple was also experimenting with HandOff allowing you to launch or hand off applications from your computer to your phone.
That brings us to iOS 12 & 13. With the elimination of the home button, FaceID, 3D Touch, Control Center, Widgets and Notification Management… the functionality of the home screen got confusing and the original simplicity and vision were lost.
Apple introduced gestures from every edge of the screen and even used 3D-Touch to overload additional actions. The obvious on-screen gestures were gone and in it’s place were a large collection of ways to access secondary functionality.
The time is harder to read – thinner font
No on-screen instruction or obvious visual area to drag to unlock.
Camera no-longer bounces to show the direction of camera bounce/hint.
If you drag up to show notifications, you can’t drag down to hide them.
If you drag right you end up in widgets (unused by most people)
If you drag to the left you get locked in the camera area with no obvious way to get out
None of these things is a show-stopper but combined they clutter the simplicity of the original design. While the new design has more features it’s not necessarily better for the majority of people. While it adds features that 5-10% of folks may care about it complicates the experience for the other 90%.
When Apple originally released the iPhone they also released the Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). Over the years the HIG has gotten diluted and much of the advice on simplicity, legibility, texture, and usability has been diluted or removed.
As Apple continues to grow and evolve, I’m hoping they re-focus on the simplicity and elegance of the user experience. While there’s no doubt that Apple has been successful from a financial perspective the quality of their products have been declining. I’m hoping Apple’s able to re-focus on the core experiences and bring back the simplicity and delight that made the first generations of the device so magical.