Google Duplex

If you haven’t seen this demo from last week’s Google I/O

Sundar says,

Our vision for our assistant is to help you get things done….A common theme across all this is we are working hard to give users back time. We’ve always been obsessed about that at Google. Search is obsessed about getting users to answers quickly and giving them what they want.

Google really wants to start doing things for you and Duplex was super impressive. It is, literally, a computer talking on the phone for you.

Check it out.

Elon Musk Email

In an email to employees last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained that the reason for the Model 3 production shutdown in Fremont and Gigafactory 1 is to prepare to increase production. Substantially

 
Musk explained that Tesla is now shooting to more than double production of 6,000 units per week across all production processes and suppliers in order to achieve 5,000 units per week in June.

The move seems to be in response to the recent miss in Model 3 production targets and is very bold in a Musk sort of way.

It’s a great email and I love how he evens gets low-level enough to tell people to walk out of meetings or phone calls if they aren’t well structured.  So good.

 

Here’s the email:

Progress, Precision and Profit

Elon Musk

Everybody

Progress

First, congratulations are in order! We have now completed our third full week of producing over 2000 Model 3 vehicles. The first week was 2020, the second was 2070 and we just completed 2250 last week, along with 2000 Model S/X vehicles.

This is more than double Tesla’s weekly production rate last year and an amazing feat in the face of many challenges! It is extremely rare for an automotive company to grow the production rate by over 100% from one year to the next. Moreover, there has simultaneously been a significant improvement in quality and build accuracy, which is reflected in positive owner feedback.

Starting today at Giga and tomorrow at Fremont, we will be stopping for three to five days to do a comprehensive set of upgrades. This should set us up for Model 3 production of 3000 to 4000 per week next month.

Another set of upgrades starting in late May should be enough to unlock production capacity of 6000 Model 3 vehicles per week by the end of June. Please note that all areas of Tesla and our suppliers will be required to demonstrate a Model 3 capacity of ~6000/week by building 850 sets of car parts in 24 hours no later than June 30th.

Any Tesla department or supplier that is unable to do this will need to have a very good explanation why not, along with a plan for fixing the problem and present that to me directly. If anyone needs help achieving this, please let me know as soon as possible. We are going to find a way or make a way to get there.

The reason that the burst-build target rate is 6000 and not 5000 per week in June is that we cannot have a number with no margin for error across thousands of internally and externally produced parts and processes, amplified by a complex global logistics chain. Actual production will move as fast as the least lucky and least well-executed part of the entire Tesla production/supply chain system.

By having a Model 3 subsystem burst-build requirement of 6k by the end of June, we will lay the groundwork for achieving a steady 6k/week across the whole Model 3 system a few months later.

As part of the drive towards 6k, all Model 3 production at Fremont will move to 24/7operations. This means that we will be adding another shift to general assembly, body and paint. Please refer anyone you know who you think meets the Tesla bar for talent, drive and trust. Between Fremont and Giga, Tesla will be adding about 400 people per week for several weeks.

Precision

Most of the design tolerances of the Model 3 are already better than any other car in the world. Soon, they will all be better. This is not enough. We will keep going until the Model 3 build precision is a factor of ten better than any other car in the world. I am not kidding.

Our car needs to be designed and built with such accuracy and precision that, if an owner measures dimensions, panel gaps and flushness, and their measurements don’t match the Model 3 specs, it just means that their measuring tape is wrong.

Some parts suppliers will be unwilling or unable to achieve this level of precision. I understand that this will be considered an unreasonable request by some. That’s ok, there are lots of other car companies with much lower standards. They just can’t work with Tesla.

Profit

A fair criticism leveled at Tesla by outside critics is that you’re not a real company unless you generate a profit, meaning simply that revenue exceeds costs. It didn’t make sense to do that until reaching economies of scale, but now we are there.

Going forward, we will be far more rigorous about expenditures. I have asked the Tesla finance team to comb through every expense worldwide, no matter how small, and cut everything that doesn’t have a strong value justification.

All capital or other expenditures above a million dollars, or where a set of related expenses may accumulate to a million dollars over the next 12 months, should be considered on hold until explicitly approved by me. If you are the manager responsible, please make sure you have a detailed, first principles understanding of the supplier quote, including every line item of parts & labor, before we meet.

I have been disappointed to discover how many contractor companies are interwoven throughout Tesla. Often, it is like a Russian nesting doll of contractor, subcontractor, sub-subcontractor, etc. before you finally find someone doing actual work. This means a lot of middle-managers adding cost but not doing anything obviously useful. Also, many contracts are essentially open time & materials, not fixed price and duration, which creates an incentive to turn molehills into mountains, as they never want to end the money train.

There is a very wide range of contractor performance, from excellent to worse than a drunken sloth. All contracting companies should consider the coming week to be a final opportunity to demonstrate excellence. Any that fail to meet the Tesla standard of excellence will have their contracts ended on Monday.

Btw, here are a few productivity recommendations:

– Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.

– Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.

– Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.

– Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.

– Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the “chain of command”. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.

– A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.

– In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a “company rule” is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.

If there is something you think should be done to make Tesla execute better or allow you to look forward to coming to work more (same thing in the long term), please send a note to [redacted]

Thanks for being such a kickass team and accomplishing miracles every day. It matters. We are burning the midnight oil to burn the midnight oil.

Elon

Epic Tweet Storm about Apple’s Development Process

This is an epic tweet storm about Apple’s development process by Steven Sinofsky. If you don’t know him, he ran the Microsoft Office business unit for over a decade. This rant touches on how to balance quality, launch dates and features, IBM, iPhone dominance and more…

Favorite Tech Purchases of 2017

I made a few fun purchases in 2017. Here’s two that captured my attention…
AirPods
They look ridiculous but man are they useful.  I love them over all my other headphones because they
  1. They connect to my phone every time, immediately and magically.
  2. The charging mechanism is genius. Having the storage compartment be the charger is so smart.
  3. Siri is nice on it. Every day, as i’m walking out of work, i pop them in my ear, hear a little noise that notifies me that they are on and connected. I then just double-tap the side of the earphone and say “Call Diane” and, having no idea where my phone is, a call is placed to Diane. It’s a big of magic.

Apparently, i’m not alone. The customer satisfaction surveys around these are off the charts – 98% from all customers with NPS of 75 and many people believing that this is the best Apple invention since the original iPhone.

 

Apple Watch
I usually get a new iPhone every year so i can experience the latest and greatest. I spend hours a day on my phone and i justify the cost by this time and usage. However, this year’s lineup of iPhone X and 8 didn’t seem to be the latest and greatest. Sure there’s FaceID but having a new way to unlock my phone isn’t a reason to buy. There’s the big screen of the X, but i already have a 7 Plus which has a big screen.  So, i wasn’t buying.
I WAS impressed with the new Apple Watch. It seemed that they had put the phone into the watch. This seemed like the new phone to experiment with. I also could imagine a future as: Apple Watch + AirPods + AR glasses = iPhone is just a battery pack that I never take out of my pocket. So, if that’s the case, I wanted to see what this future looked like.
I do enjoy it. Some observations
  • I have the LTE option so I don’t need my phone ever to get calls or texts or updates.  While that’s cool and I do leave my phone at my desk at work all of the time now, I am rarely that far away from my phone. So, i never get the chance to really test this feature.
  • The battery life is great. I can go almost 3 days without a charge.
  • I do wish the watch was smaller. It’s too fat. I want a version that’s slimmer and has half the battery life. I’d be okay with that
  • The exercise app is the killer app for me. It keeps me putting it on every day as i want to see my steps, stands, and calories and how it measures up against other days. I’ve always been a sucker for gamification and motivates me.
PS: Shout out to my parents and wife for getting me both of these as birthday presents. You guys rock.

The Lewhouses in 2017

We had a great year. Here are some highlights…

Hunter
He’s really grown a lot of this year. He’s thoughtful and curious. He has a deep love of animals. His favorite animals this year, in order, were his 2016 favorites of the colossal squid, and then spent the bulk of the year idolizing bats (specifically the Somoan Flying Fox bat which has a wingspan of over 7 feet) and recently he’s super into dinosaurs. He continues to be more cerebral than physical. He’s much more content to sit on the couch drawing than kicking a ball or playing on the playground. We did get him riding a bike later this year. This is hard because it’s so hilly where we live that we can’t go out out front door and ride but rather have to drive to a school or area to do it. We had some issues potty-training him this year but he’s now past that and, in almost all ways, a big kid now.

Sasha
Wow, what a year for her. She’s now talking and convening her thoughts and emotions so well. From a personality standpoint, she’s a force. She’s very strong. She wants what she wants and like what she likes. She’s not afraid to speak up and lead. She often loves to step up and start telling Hunter what to do. She’s super active. From the moment she wakes up, she wants to get out the door and go running and play. She likes to try to keep up with Hunter and does so pretty well. She doesn’t like fruit or vegetables at all (sorry about those genes, sasha). She loves the color pink and is very particular of what she wears and picks out her outfit everyday (Hunter, by contrast, does not care at all). She’s still a total daddy’s girl but increasingly is all about mom too.

The Family
With Sasha getting to 3, we are emerging out of infant zone. The four of us can now take a drive and all talk in one conversation. We can sit at a table in a restaurant and get through the meal without disaster striking. Heck, we’re even talking about a road trip and feeling excited about it. We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it looks glorious. I think 2018 will be a great family year.

Diane
She had a huge year. She started a new job at a startup (30 people) called Peerspace. Peerspace is a marketplace similar to Airbnb that offers locations for offsite and events. She’s responsible for host expansion and is loving it. She also crushed being a mom this year. Hunter and Diane have a special bond that is truly great to see and Sasha is typically Daddy’s girl, she currently obsessed with her.

My Job
At Airbnb, there’s a new business unit and I’m running the product group for it. The role was quite a change for me as I am being stretched in new ways. It’s exciting but also exhausting. We have a launch coming up in 2018 so stay tuned.

Diet and Exercise
I ended last year strong and running a lot. That ended almost immediately in 2018. I injured my knee again in January/February and decided to take some time off. I also decide to try a new weight loss tactic. Over the past few years i had been steadily gaining weight and found myself at the beginning of the year at over 195 lbs, the heaviest i’d ever been. I have always relied on running and working out as a way to lose weight and with that being removed due to knee problems, i decided to focus on my eating. I knew I could limit my portions as that’s very hard for me to do. But, i knew that i could limit the number of meals I eat. That seemed doable. So, i started skipping breakfast starting in March. Surprisly, it wasn’t hard to do and it was very effective in cutting calories and thus weight. You can see from the graph below that 2017 was by far my most successful year as i dropped 20 lbs this year and ended at 175.

Turning 40
This was the first year i started to feel old. My knee gave out at the beginning of the year and other aches started to manifest as I went on. There’s more grey hair. Heck, there’s more hair everywhere (hello, ear hair). 40 is an interesting number as I now no longer feel i’m on the upward swing of my life. I’m hitting a middle plateau, at least physically. I’ve peaked. I’m sure i could get back to running 7 min miles, but i’m never going to again run 2 miles under 12 minutes again. I also am getting the least amount of sleep ever. With the kids waking up early and the job going late, i’m burning it at both ends. It’s been an exhausting 6-12 months, and i’m finishing the year feeling old.

That said, we had a fantastic outing to Jackson Hole with the extended family.  Check out that video:

How I Built This Podcast

One of my new favorite podcasts is How I Built This on NPR. It’s a tightly edited 20-30 minutes each week with an entrepreneur about how they built their business.  They done stories with the founders of Patagonia, Zumbra, Crate & Barrel and more.  All of them are great.

The latest one I’ve heard is that of 5-Hour Energy Drink with founder Manoj Bhargava. I’ve never had the product and frankly have always looked down on it, but the story was fascinating and I found a few great nuggets in the episode.  My favorite nuggets are:

The three best characteristics, according to Manoj, for someone wanting to start a business are (a) Common sense. Don’t get caught up in MBA-Speak.  If it makes sense, do it. If not, don’t do it.  (b) Determination.  Don’t confuse passion with determination.  Passion goes away but to be succussful you have to show up every single day. (c) Urgency. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Don’t wait.

I also like the part where he talked about leaving money to his son and why he’s leaving him almost nothing. Manoj a billonaire and he had the great quote of “If you raise your kid to be useless, than leaving him money is pointless.  If you raise your son to be competent, leaving him money is pointless.”
It’s worth a listen. Check it out.

Non-Obvious Fundraising Learnings

I’ve been a co-founder in two VC-backed startups:

  1. Qloud. We raised $3.5 million from Steve Case’s Revolution fund (sold for $8.5 to BuzzMedia)
  2. Kapost. We’ve raised $20m from Salesforce, Floodgate (SF), Cueball (Boston), LeadEdge Capital (NYC), Tango (CO local), Highway 12 (Idaho fund), Fraser/McCombs (CO), and Access (CO).

From these experiences my co-founder, Toby, and I have pitched to hundreds of VC firms and learned some non-obvious lessons. Here we go: Continue reading “Non-Obvious Fundraising Learnings”

The Lewhouses in 2016

Some things I’ll remember about 2016…

Time disappearing
I thought we were time constrained when Hunter came along. Well, with two little ones this year, aged 1 and 3, time really got sucked away from me. Less sleep, fewer workouts, fewer books read. All the things I like to do just for me basically went out the door this year. But, they were replaced with more time with my family, which was just fantastic.

Hunter
He really became a full fledged person this year. He’s now funny and clever. He has a bit of trickery and deviousness in him, but he’s shaping up to be a very kind person. His teachers at school regularly remark about how genuine and kind he is. Also, his super power this year is his drawing. He’s very creative and can draw ridiculously well. Continue reading “The Lewhouses in 2016”

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