Back in August, we had author, Ashlee Vance, come to the Autodesk Gallery and talk about his book, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. The place was packed. Ashlee shared his thoughts about Elon Musk as well as about writing the book itself.
Now having read the book, Ashlee's presentation at Autodesk makes perfect sense. His book is a historical account of billionaire Elon Musk as well as commentary on the motivations behind his actions. The book is a perfect blend of the two. I recommend it for anyone who finds technology and/or CEOs fascinating. What I found enlightening is the synergy that Musk can create among his 3 ventures.
I also appreciated the role that the kind of software that Autodesk provides played in the stories:
"Thousands of other [roadster] tests were done by a third party that specialized in computer simulations and saved Tesla from building a fleet of crash vehicles." Pages 163-164
"'Software is in many ways the heart of the new vehicle experience,' he [Ford lab head, T.J. Guili] said. 'From the powertrain to the warning chimes in a car, you're using software to create an expressive and pleasing environment.' The level of integration that the software has into the rest of the [Tesla] Model S is really impressive." Page 311
Tesla's improvement approach employs the same delivery process as Autodesk's cloud strategy:
"...Tesla does not develop and hold on to a bunch of new features over the course of the year and then unleash them in a new model all at once. It adds features one by one to the manufacturing line when they are ready." Page 313
Whereas we are typically on annual release cycle with our desktop applications, updating a server in the cloud can be done more frequently without the disruption of requiring downloads and installs by the users.
It was also gratifying to see affirmation of Autodesk's Pier 9 strategy:
"'Even if you're someone who writes code for your job, you need to understand how mechanical things work,' said Dolly Singh, who spent five years as the head of talent acquisition at SpaceX." Page 220
Our Pier 9 location allows employees to use our software from imagination, to design, and all the way through creation.
It was interesting to see that our CEO, Carl Bass, and Musk exhibit some of the same behaviors.
"He would trap an engineer in the SpaceX factory and set to work grilling him about a type of valve or specialized material. 'I thought at first he was challenging me to see if I knew my stuff,' said Kevin Brogan, one of the early engineers. 'Then I realized he was trying to learn things. He would quiz you until he learned ninety percent of what you know.'" Page 230
With Autodesk's efforts around 3D printing, it was affirming to see:
"The Dragon 2 [rocket] will run on a SuperDraco engine — a thruster made by SpaceX, and the first engine ever built completely by a 3D printer to go into space." Page 257
"When Musk announced in 2014 that Tesla would open-source all of its patents, analysts tried to decide whether this was a publicity stunt, or if it hid an ulterior motive or a catch. But the decision was a straightforward one for Musk. He wants people to make and buy electric cars. Man's future, as he sees it, depends on this. If open-sourcing Tesla's patents with other companies can build electric cars more easily, then that is good for mankind, and the ideas should be free." Page 345
For Autodesk, Project Spark is our software toolkit to drive a 3D printer that we make available to the 3D printing industry for free. We believe that the way something is made impacts the way it is designed.
Reading about the Hyperloop (capsules that transport people between cities at 800 miles per hour through an above-ground tube) reminded me of when Autodesk's own, Jordan Brandt, Director of our Spark fund, suggested that it could be built out of carbon fiber.
This book was an enjoyable read. The early chapters are a little slow but provide the background needed to understand this complex individual. Once you hit the chapter entitled "PayPal Mafia Boss," the story takes off." I enjoyed it because I could cull the Autodesk similarities. Perhaps you can do the same for your company?
Synergy is alive in the lab.