Keeping it under your hat

15. April 2016

Date: 14-04-2016
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

An old management idea gets a new lease of life

APPLE and Tesla are two of the world’s most talked-about companies. They are also two of the most vertically integrated. Apple not only writes much of its own software, but designs its own chips and runs its own shops. Tesla makes 80% of its electric cars and sells them directly to its customers. It is also constructing a network of service stations and building the world’s biggest battery factory, in the Nevada desert.

A century ago this sort of vertical integration was the rule: companies integrated “backwards”, by buying sources for raw materials and suppliers, and “forwards”, by buying distributors. Standard Oil owned delivery wagons and refineries in addition to oil wells. Carnegie owned iron-ore deposits and rail carriages as well as blast furnaces. In his 1926 book “Today and Tomorrow” Henry Ford wrote that vertical integration was the key to his success: “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” He claimed he could extract ore in Minnesota from his own mines, ship it to his River Rouge facility in Detroit and have it sitting as a Model T in a Chicago driveway—in no more than 84 hours. Read the rest of this entry »


For Hardware Makers, Sharing Their Secrets Is Now Part of the Business Plan

30. March 2015

Date: 30-03-2015
Source: The New York Times

Facebook has shared designs for data storage, computer servers, and rack designs, among other hardware.

Facebook showed plans last week for drone aircraft that beam lasers conveying high-speed data to remote parts of the world.

As powerful as that sounds, Facebook already has something that could be even more potent: a huge sharing of its once-proprietary information, the kind of thing that would bring a traditional Silicon Valley patent lawyer to tears.

Facebook is not alone. Technology for big computers, electric cars and high-technology microcontrollers to operate things like power tools and engines is now given away.

These ideas used to be valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. To the new generation of technologists, however, moving projects and data fast overrides the value of making everything in secret. Read the rest of this entry »


The shared genius of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs

30. December 2013
Businessperson of the Year 2013

By Chris Anderson  @FortuneMagazine November 27, 2013: 9:28 AM ET

Yes, these two iconoclasts have disrupted multiple industries, but TED curator Chris Anderson goes much deeper and argues that what Musk and Jobs really have in common is a rare form of design thinking powered by unfettered conviction.

Elon Musk CCWhen future historians report human progress during the 21st century, they may conclude that one of the key moments took place a year ago in Elon Musk’s bedroom. His eureka! moments happen every few months. Sometimes during his morning shower, sometimes late at night before sleep, sometimes, as on this occasion, waking at 2 a.m.

This is how he described that moment to me: “I realized that a methane-oxygen rocket engine could achieve a specific impulse greater than 380.”

Okay, it doesn’t sound particularly historic. Until you realize that a rocket of that spec has adequate range to escape Earth’s upper atmosphere and travel to Mars. And that it so happens that Mars has plenty of carbon dioxide (CO2) and permafrost (H2O), which could be neatly converted into the aforementioned methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (O2). Which means you could create the fuel for the journey home right there on Mars itself. And that transforms the long-term economics of space travel between Earth and Mars because it means that you could send manned spacecraft to Mars without having to carry rocket fuel with you.

That’s right. Elon Musk genuinely believes that within the next couple of decades, humans will be colonizing Mars. And thanks to his early morning aha! moment, we will even be able to make the return trip. That would certainly be a useful line in the recruiting ads, unless, like him, you’re comfortable with the prospect of dying on Mars after helping build humanity’s second home.

This is not your typical CEO. Read the rest of this entry »


Tesla vs. the ‘New York Times’: Cars Are Now Gadgets

15. February 2013

Date: 15-02-2013
Source: BusinessWeek

TeslaTesla CEO Elon Musk waves in front of the Model S at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif.

Late Wednesday night, Tesla Motors issued its much-anticipated response to a scathing New York Times review of its all-electric Model S sedan. In a blog post, Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk used data logs gathered from the car to accuse reporter John Broder of outright lies. Broder, for example, complained about freezing inside the car, since he had to turn the heating system off to save electricity and keep driving. Balderdash, says Musk: The data show the cabin had an average temperature of 72F for the majority of the trip.

Broder, in a series of posts, has argued that he followed Tesla’s instructions and that the car simply did not handle the cold weather of the Northeast well. He also claims to have been testing not really the Model S itself, but rather the network of free, superfast charging stations Tesla has started putting up around the country. This is how Broder explains away the baffling circumstances in which he didn’t charge the car while spending the night at a hotel. Read the rest of this entry »