My first two tech startups were AMA (finance) and Ridacto (legal). I'm proud of and have learned a ton of lessons working on those.
This month I began embarking on my third startup adventure: Epirus. I've joined as Co-Founder and COO.
Epirus is a venture-backed startup specializing in agile development of advanced defense systems. The team combines decades of aerospace & defense experience with Silicon Valley innovation in order to address 21st century threats, such as drones and other asymmetric technologies. The company name is inspired by the story of the mythical king Theseus who defended Athens with a bow that had an infinite cache of arrows called the Epirus bow.
I wasn't really looking to work on anything new when I got a call somewhat out of the blue from a close college friend who had worked for over a decade at traditional defense contractors. He wanted to start a new type of defense company to protect against drones, and he wanted help on software, operations, and building a culture of innovation. That's where he thought I could help.
I had always been interested in drones and working on software applied to challenges in the physical world. I knew absolutely zero about the defense space and was somewhat weary about that. Getting to know the rest of the team sold me on the opportunity because I was blown away by the technical rigor and awesomeness of my teammates (100+ patents, awards, etc.). And the excitement and support by 8VC was very encouraging.
This is somewhat different from my other startups in a number of ways: traditional venture backing, my role as COO and sidekick to other amazing co-founders (as opposed to CEO or the first founder/co-founder), bigger team, and totally new industry/market for me. For me, this is an opportunity to learn a ton about a brand new space and build something awesome from the ground up, which I love doing. Go Epirus!
P.S. Epirus is hiring!
A good friend recently recommended to me the book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance. As a fan of Tesla, SpaceX, and all the things I had heard about Elon as an entrepreneur, I was always interested in his life and learning more about his methods. This book turned out to be an awesome glimpse into all those things.
I really enjoyed the detailed stories and the insider quotes from Elon and many of the people who worked closely with him. It reminded me of my tour of the SpaceX office with my UCLA Anderson Vistage group and the amazing opportunity we had to do a short Q&A with Elon when we were there. I could tell even then that he works extremely hard and thinks everything through "from first principles." His speaking wasn't polished or showy -- he just focused on facts and showed 200% commitment to his wild goals.
Below are my notes on the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot from someone so passionate and working on things that actually matter in the long run and are changing the world.
1 elon's world
Meaningful world view
Saving the human race
Wrote his own computer game
Photographic visual processing in brain
Read 10 hours per day as a child
Went through all books in library and 2 encyclopedias
Doesn't take no for answer
Wanted to work on biggest impact areas: renewable energy, Internet, space
4 elon's first startup
Living at office
Zip2 bringing businesses online
Do or die but don't give up
5 PayPal mafia boss
Reinvested almost all money into X online bank
Coups and issues with leadership and being kicked out
6 space x
Moved to LA for aerospace and to escape valley
Sending mice to Mars
Tried to buy rockets from Russians but was too expensive
Read rocket textbooks and Made spreadsheet that showed could do it a lot cheaper
Making as much as practical at spacex
Engineers sitting next to factory workers and welders
Son died; didn't believe in open grieving and wallowing in sadness
When things go wrong must have all the info and a plan
Work computers to play quake
Lots of failed launches
7 all electric
Straubel believed in Power of lithium ion batteries for solar car at Stanford
Used Silicon Valley tactics instead of Detroit bureaucracy
Sent engineers into field to be able to iterate faster
Fired ppl due to typos
Required extremely hard work
Lots of delivery delays and issues with contractors
8 pain suffering and survival
Team of nannies
7 days of work per week
Worsening financial situation
Day away from bankruptcy for both companies
Huge successes and contracts
Need to understand how mechanical things work
In house manufacturing
Factory inside office with engineers
10 revenge of electric car
Model s success
Prototyped batteries for other car companies and beat their deadline expectations
Faster more iterative testing
Always come to meetings with alternative plan if have difficulties
If something could not be done: only response is to take it down to the physics
Wrote his own public relations responses
Controlling whole product allows creation of lifestyle brand
Not a new idea. All about execution.
11 unified field theory
Solar energy market
Lack of empathy
Obsessing over typos in emails
Intuition on things u don't know isn't very good
Close to Larry page
Good ideas always sound crazy until they're not
Wonders how to raise kids without adversity
Requires more reading time than video game time
No stupid video games allowed. Only those that have physics.
Smart people need to have more kids
Frivolous lawsuits against him
Smartest programmers were in gaming industry and used Microsoft c++ libraries
Thoughts on going public vs selling private stock options
Based on Noah Kagan's recommendation on his interview with Tim Ferriss, I just finished reading Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow.
The book was a fun, quick tour of various techniques used by unconventional "hackers" who achieved success much more quickly than traditionally thought possible.
I liked the beginning of the book more than the end, which seemed too light on new ideas and content. My favorite part of the book was the story of the perseverance of Jimmy Fallon.
Smart shortcuts to doing stuff way faster
Not following rules
Smartcuts not just shortcuts which can be amoral
Smartcuts are shortcuts with integrity
Part 1 short
1 hacking the ladder
Presidents younger than senators
BYU scavenger hunt game bigger or better
Psychology of small wins
Just keep the game going
Pivoting accelerates growth
Ladder switching in career
Use credibility to switch ladders to bypass dues
2 training with masters
Justin bieber had the best mentors who brought him up
Doctors learning patient handover from racing pit crews
Formal mentorship bad idea; informal personal relationships better
Learn and copy from masters yourself from books and videos of masters
Learn attention to detail
Study videos of masters obsessively and memorize facts and details of them
3 rapid feedback
Startup funeral: Funerals for startups to share what learned when failed
Past failure does not help with future ones according to studies
But succeeding makes you more likely to succeed
Failures caused more of own failures
Seeing others fail makes u do better
Doing well makes u do better
Failure paradox, attribution theory of failures to external things but success to internal things
When others fail we attribute failure to others but when others succeed we attribute success to luck
Separate ego when you get feedback
Rapid scientific experiments
Part 2 leverage
4 platforms: the laziest programmer
Ruby on Rails
Teaching kids how to learn instead of what to learn and memorize
Waiting for the right wave
Part 3 soar
Progress makes u happy
Big success needs u to continue progress even after big winning
Just keep moving
Build up potential energy so can leverage it when u get big break
Innovation is about doing something different or simpler not just bigger
Simplify decisions to avoid unnecessary ones
9 10X thinking