the Tale of Two Electric Car Companies

I’d like to look at a lesson learned from the comparision of two electric car companies.


One is Tesla, the other is Better Place.

I’m not sure if you remeber Better Place… it flopped, after burning 1,000,000,000$ investment. (tha one billion dollars); whereas Tesla seems to be doing great, (especially here in Vancouver I see more and more on the roads).

If we lookat the founders… they are both freaking smart:

Shai Agassi

Better Place was founded by Shai Agassi. The guy finished university by the age of 18. Most people don’t even go to university… and those who do start at 18, he finished it by then.

We cannot complain about motivation either, since he gave up his CEO “job” at SAP to do this.

Elon Musk

Tesla is of course Elon Musk’s company. He’s rocket engineer smart.

So it’s not about brain power, or motivation.

It’s not about money either. Both of these people had made their money beforehand and didn’t start empty handed.

In comparision actually Tesla was struggling with money and becoming sustainable as a business in the early days which would suggest it should be the one that flopped…

Better Place was able to raise tons of money.

I think Tesla’s success and Better Place’s failure may be explained with their different veiws on technology. Listen carefully to what Shai Agassi is saying on the TED stage:

pay attention at 1:45
…within the boundary of the science we know today. No time for a science fair. No time for playing around with things, or waiting for the magic battery to show up…
…We are bound at today’s technology at batteries…

Shai is 100 times smarter than me… so I may be wrong on this… but I think he made a mistake at underestimating the rate at which technology keeps getting better.

In contrast, compare this with Kurzweil’s product launches which are barely feasable in their early days but are built on exponentially advancing technolgoies which just makes them better and better.

It also just might be bad karma taking investment from oil money to build an electric car company :-)

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