May 14, 2014

An interview with Jackson Palmer

Jackson Palmer (his Twitter) is working at Adobe and has created the new crypto-currency Dogecoin - a currency very similar to Bitcoin. The interviewer Kevin Rose argued in another interview that Dogecoin might become bigger than Bitcoin because of the fast growth.

Lessons learned
  • Dogecoin began as a joke on Twitter. The founders made a simple website, took someone else's code, and thought it would fail within days. But people began to use it as the idea spread through the Internet.   

More articles in the same series: Lessons learned from the Foundation interviews

March 28, 2014

Mind-blowing facts about Africa


As the title says, this article will cover mind-blowing facts about Africa. If you are interested in learning about mind-blowing facts about China, click here.

  • Over 1000 languages are spoken in Africa (40 of which have more than one million speakers)
  • Africa's collective GDP is $1.6 trillion, roughly equal to that of Brazil or Russia. South Africa and Nigeria are largest and contribute with 50% of Africa's total GDP
  • Seven of the world's ten fastest growing economies are projected to be in Africa between 2011 and 2015
  • Excluding the bottom 20% of Africa countries, Africa's average level of corruption is approximately equal to the average level of corruption in the BRIC countries
  • Africa has 10% of the world's oil reserves, 40% of its gold, 80-90% of its chromium and platinum group metals, 60% of the world's uncultivated arable land. But commodities is just 16% of GDP
  • 42 African countries have qualified for the debt relief plans initiated by the World Bank and IMF in 1999
  • Unemployed workers in Portugal have begun to move to the former Portuguese colonies Angola and Mozambique
  • High optimism about the future. 2/3 believes their life will improve in the coming five years
  • Number of African children who go to school grew with 50% between 2000 and 2008. 80 percent in Tanzania can read and write. 75% of those who finished elementary school also get a higher education
  • 25 of 53 countries are considered to be democracies and 22 have held recognized elections
  • Number of coups have decreased by 50%. If a coup occurs, it will be solved faster than ever before due to EU and the African Union
  • 19 countries south of Sahara have their own stock market
  • 300 million Africans are considered to be part of the global middle class (can spend $10-$100 per day)
  • Several Africans have 2-3 mobile phones because it's cheaper to call to the same operator
  • 20% have a bank account, but 70% have a mobile phone, so Africans have no need for a bank account. 70% of the people in Kenya are using mobile bank services (such as M-Pesa) - the same number in China is 3% and 5% in India. If you need cash, there are trucks that drive around to the villages with cash machines on their back. It was estimated that in 2015, 350 million will have access to mobile bank services - the same number in 2007 was almost 0%
  • The reason why mobile phones are more popular that computers is because of the low reliability of electricity. Before an election in Nigeria, the number one request was more reliable electricity
  • If you pay $2 per year, you will get a health insurance in Rwanda. The goal in Rwanda is that at least 50% will give birth in a health clinic. Birth control bills are included in this health insurance, so the number of children have decreased
  • Poverty in Africa decreases by 1% per year
  • Joyce Banda, the President of Malawi since 2012, realized that her predecessor had 45 limousines, 7 bikes, and several private jets. She sold everything except 4 cars and 1 private jet, and she reduced her salary by 30 percent
  • A refugee, who had fled from Liberia when she was young and now returned, explained how Liberia now was like a white canvas. Of the 1.1 million who between 2000 and 2007 emigrated from Ghana, only 153,000 didn't move back to the country
  • 85% of all Africans have never flown in an airplane and 60% work within the agricultural sector
  • 12% of all trades is between countries in Africa
  • China has invested $2 billion to establish an industrial zone outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Hualian Group, a Chinese retailer, will recruit 100,000 Ethiopians within the coming 10 years. They chose Ethiopia because of the low costs and supply of cattle for production of leather
  • Nigerians have begun to recruit craftsmen from Poland and Baltics to help them build buildings
  • It's common among Africans to argue that 50 years of aid from western countries has been a waste of money
  • African politicians and businessmen prefer to work with Chinese - not Europeans - because the Chinese begin immediately while Europeans "discuss for two years" before they begin. More than 1 million Chinese live in Africa. But China are not in Africa to just "steal" commodities - they have built roads, schools, railways, hospitals, and sun-powered traffic lights. China has more peacekeepers in Africa than any other country 
  • Members of the parliament in Nigeria have a higher salary than Barack Obama
  • Have begun to question female circumcision

March 23, 2014

An interview with Jerry Colonna

Jerry Colonna (his Twitter) was a venture capitalist in New York City and played a prominent part in the early development of Silicon Alley. He's now a life and business coach where he helps clients design a more conscious life and make needed changes to their career to improve their performance and satisfaction.

Lessons learned
  • One of the the reasons Jerry Colonna became a life and business coach was because of a depression after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. He was actually close to committing suicide. This was common, the host of this show, Jason Calacanis, who also lived in New York, had a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Another reason was that  Jerry Colonna grew up poor, and now he had everything he thought he wanted - but he felt empty inside. He also felt he didn't deserve his success.
  • No matter how much you work, you can never forget that you also have to be lucky. The problem with luck is that it's random. A lot of people were lucky during the buildup of the tech-bubble in 2000, but they didn't understand it since they thought they had skills and "knew" something no-one else knew. When the bubble crashed, they realized that what they knew didn't work anymore and they had just been lucky.  
  • Many entrepreneurs tend to dream about how they will get rich, how they will be in a newspaper, and how they will be famous. But there's probably an underlying reason to why they want these things. They might feel powerless, poor, disliked. Maybe you don't want to build a great product - maybe you want to become powerful because you feel powerless. Jerry Colonna's blog is called "Chase your daemons" so you have to figure out why you really want to build a company.  
  • The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is that they don't tell their investors the truth. It's easy to blame metrics - but harder to blame people. Is it a cash-flow problem - or a management problem? It's harder for an investor to blame the management because then the investor has to admit he/she made a bad decision.
  • Most entrepreneurs fail. Because successful entrepreneurs were stubborn doesn't mean you should be stubborn. You might have to admit that what you are doing is stupid and is a waste of time. There are probably better ideas out there.   
  • Why is it that stupid people become rich and smart people don't? The answer is randomness. The only thing you can control is that you have to keep improving what you do and try multiple times. 
  • Calm down! Humans don't have adrenaline because they needed it to create companies - humans have adrenaline because they had to escape from wild animals.  
  • "Swim in your own lane." Elon Musk might be one of the richest people in the world and have founded 5 successful companies, but you shouldn't live his life. 

In this video, Jerry Colonna came up with the 6 biggest mistakes founders make. They are:
  1. Diluting yourself and your team. Fear will prevent you from facing the reality, but facing the reality is important. Always tell the truth.   
  2. Merging yourself with your business or product. If the product/business fails, it doesn't mean that you are a failure.
  3. Understanding the role of the CEO. The CEO's job is not to do everyone else's job better than everyone else. The CEO's job is to hire people that are better than the CEO at doing their job.
  4. Being unclear. Lack of clarity is probably the single biggest problem. Make sure everyone have understood each other. 
  5. Avoiding difficult, fearful, or challenging situations, people, or conversations. It took a company 2 years to fire one of the co-founders. 
  6. Externalizing responsibility for everything.    

More articles in the same series: Lessons learned from the Foundation interviews

An interview with David Byttow

Before David Byttow (his Twitter) co-founded the company Secret (and became the CEO of the company), he was an engineer at Google, Medium, and Square.

Lessons learned
  • He got the job at Google despite the fact that he didn't have a college degree - but he had been coding since he was very young. He thought he got the job at Google because the company missed that he didn't have a degree. So one important lesson is that you should always try even if the odds are against you. People tend to say, "Hey, I will not get a job at Google because I don't have a college degree, so there's no point to apply for a job."
  • He was inspired by Jack Dorsey, who had founded both Twitter and Square, and the idea of building his own company, and that's why he decided to co-found a company. He found some co-worker who wanted to do the same, but they didn't have an idea and no money. So David Byttow sold everything he could, including his car and bike.   

More articles in the same series: Lessons learned from the Foundation interviews

March 22, 2014

Tesla Motors History Timeline

If you've found this page you probably already know what Tesla Motors is, and if you don't know you will in a near future understand why you should keep an eye on the company. Tesla Motor's history can be described as a roller coaster as there have been many ups and downs, including a near death experience in late 2008. This timeline will be updated until Tesla Motors has achieved its vision (or gone bankrupt) to
"Create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world's transition to electric vehicles."

But we begin from the beginning
  • 1900. 38 percent of US automobiles are powered by electricity, but as Henry Ford designed the much cheaper T-Ford, the electric cars began to disappear.
  • 1970s. The price of gasoline hits record because of a series of energy crises, so the interest in electric cars increased again.
  • June 1971. Elon Musk was born.
  • 1996-1999. General Motors produced an electric car called EV1 and leased it to customers.
  • 1999. Elon Musk sold his company Zip2 and made $22 million. He founded that would become PayPal.
  • October 2002. eBay acquired PayPal and Elon Musk made $165 million.
  • General Motors cancelled the lease program and removed the last EV1 from the streets. They said they couldn't sell enough of the cars to make the EV1 profitable.
  • July. Martin Heberhard and Marc Tarpenning incorporated Tesla Motors. They had earlier made a feasibility study to see if they could make an electric car. They now made a feasibility study together with AC Propulsion to see if the batteries would work. 
  • November. The 2 employees searched for a partner to build the rest of the car. Lotus became their choice.
  • February. Ian Wright, who had met Martin Eberhard while on a plane, joined the company. They finished business plan 1.0.
  • March. Starting a car company is expensive, so they began to look for outside investors. 
  • April. Series A funding where Elon Musk was the main investor. Elon Musk had earlier met JB Straubel who had friends at AC Propulsion, and the company told Elon Musk to contact Tesla. Other investors included SDL Ventures and Compass Technology Partners. JB Straubel joined the company as employee number 5. 
  • May. An early styling study began. 
  • June. A technology implementation study began.
  • July. Tesla had 9 employees and moved to an office in San Carlos, California. They also made a "mule" which is a car that doesn't reproduce but you can see if the concept works. To design Mule  1 they bought an old Lotus Elise. 
  • October. The 15 employees began to design the drivetrain component.
  • November. They installed the drivetrain in the Mule 1. 
  • December. Tesla couldn't use the same design as the Lotus Elise, so they had a contest where Barney Hatt made the best design.
  • January. They made a 1/4 scale model in clay of the design Barney Hatt had made. Tesla had now 18 employees and they also took out Mule 1 for a test drive. 
  • February. The now 23 employee strong company needed more money, so they made a series B funding. Not only Elon Musk invested more money, but also Valor Equity Partners. Tesla also opened an office in UK close to the Lotus office. 
  • April-June. Tesla made a full-scale model in clay of the Tesla Roadster.
  • July. With 38 employees, they now tested a plastic model of the Roadster in a wind tunnel.
  • August. Some of the 41 employees began developing a motor.
  • December. 63 employees and they began to build the Mule 2 in fiberglass.
  • January. A drivable Mule 2 was finished.
  • April. The engineers thought the Roadster was finished so they made 10 engineering prototypes (EP), which compared to a Mule can (in theory) be produced.
  • May. 92 employees and they finished the first EP, called EP 1. Tesla raised a series C round led by Vantage Point Partners and Elon Musk. 
  • July. Almost no-one knew that Tesla existed, until now when Tesla showed EP 1 and EP 2 in Santa Monica, California. 
  • August. 100 employees. Why did they make 10 EPs? So they could test-crash a few of them. Tesla had earlier crashed a few virtual cars, but they needed to know if the computers models were accurate. They also began to show the Roadster at events to market it. 
  • September. 120 employees. They made more tests, including radiated emissions and susceptibility testing.
  • October. They made a durability test, which consists of driving the Roadster on a cobblestone racetrack. The idea is to simulate 100,000 miles in 6 months. It would have taken much longer time to drive the same distance on a smooth road. Tesla realized that their computer models were inaccurate - the Roadster's transmission didn't survive the durability test. 
  • November 2004. 144 employees, and more tests, including driving through a saltwater bath. 
  • December. They showed the EP 2 at the Los Angeles Auto Show. 
  • January. Tesla brought the Roadster to Arvidsjaur, Sweden, to see if it could survive winter conditions. 
  • February. 205 employees. Tesla began to build a validation prototype (VP), where they took everything they learned from the engineering prototype. Tesla says it will build a $35 million plant in Albuquerque, to produce the Model S.
  • March. 230 employees and they finished the VP 1. 
  • April. Raised more money - a series D round led by Elon Musk, Technology Partners, and Vantage Point. 
  • June. Tesla's motor factory in Taiwan was finished and it began producing parts. 
  • July. A new transmission was finished.
  • August. Tesla finished the VP 10. CEO Martin Eberhard was replaced by Tesla investor Michael Marks, who would wok as an interim-CEO until Tesla found a long-term CEO.
  • September. Tesla delayed the launch of the Roadster because they needed more time to test its durability.
  • October. It turned out that also the new transmission failed in the durability test. Tesla needed yet another transmission. 
  • November. Martin Eberhard had to leave the company. 
  • December. Interim CEO Michael Marks was replaced by interim CEO Ze'ev Drori. 
  • January. 260 employees. The VPs survived the new tests, so the Roadster was finished - except for the transmission.
  • March. Tesla began production of the Roadster.  
  • April. More money - a bridge financing led by Elon Musk and Valor Equity Partners.
  • May. Opened a retail store in Los Angeles, and they also finished a new transmission.
  • June. Opened a second retail store in Menlo Park, California, and they also delivered the first Roadster to the customers. Marc Tarpenning decided to leave Tesla. The Model S was announced in a press release.  
  • August. Franz von Holzhausen joined Tesla Motors as Chief Designer. 
  • October. Elon Musk became the CEO after interviewing more than 20 prospective CEOs.
  • November. Tesla revealed it had requested about $400 million in loans for the Model S and powertrain manufacturing, under the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program.
  • March. Tesla unveiled two Model S prototypes at the Los Angeles headquarters of Tesla CEO Elon Musk's other startup, SpaceX. Tesla had decided to build a design studio at the factory. Tesla began taking reservations for the Model S. More than 500 people reserved a car in the first week.
  • June. Tesla got approval for $465 million in low-interest loans from the Department of Energy. 
  • January. Tesla registered for an initial public offering of stock.
  • May. Tesla bought NUMMI - a former Toyota and General Motors factory in Fremont, California, for $42 million. Toyota Motor and Tesla announced they will cooperate on electric vehicle development. Toyota purchased Tesla shares.
  • June. 800 employees. Tesla shares began trading on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. They gained 40.5 percent.

  • January. Tesla ended production of the Roadster to focus on the Model S.
  • February. Tesla revealed the Model X - a small SUV and says it will go on sale in early 2014.
  • June. 2000 employees. The Model S was officially launched at the Fremont factory. Retail deliveries of the Model S started in the United States.
  • September. Unveiled the Supercharger network. 
  • May. 4000 employees.    
  • August. First Model S in Europe.    
Future events
  • Model E revealed (2015?)
  • New battery factory opened
  • Self-driving car

Source: Electric Cars and History, Elon Musk, Amplify Mentor Event: Marc Tarpenning (Tesla), Key events in the history of Tesla MotorsTesla's Long Road to a Home for the Model S, The Engineer

Learn more

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk's other companies such as SolarCity, and the founder himself, you should read my new biography book on Elon Musk (413 pages).

"I doubt anyone, even Musk's employees, will get through it without some big insights about Elon and his companies."
- z940912

"I actually learned quite a bit."
- Chad Kohalyk

"The Engineer is loaded with clues as to what comprises such a hard driven visionary. The research Erik Nordeus did to write this book is remarkable."
- Heavy Duty Insight

You should click here to visit the book's website or click here to read more reviews
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