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How did you get to where you are today? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path? What inspired you to work on this startup idea?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
That's a good question. So how I got here, I graduated from undergrad Virginia Tech, and it pretty much went into government contracting and management consulting. And no, I was always the guy in the room that carried the most, and that was frustrating, uh, pretty much in government. A lot of measuring consulting. It was figuring out how you could do less and just coast your way into retirement. I've never been that guy. So I was writing software, and, uh, you know, I you know, I actually get the code to meet the tickets, and I was realizing that sometimes we'd finish and it didn't solve the problem. I thought that was crazy. So I ended up getting into user research and figuring out Okay, what, like there's a whole field around this called human computer interaction, found Carnegie Mellon went back to grad school. Um, and I met them some of the most motivated people of my entire life, and it was so inspiring after that ended up coming or going back into management consulting because it was it was through Dell and it was comfortable, but it was the same problem. So at that point, I realized like I don't have kids yet now, Ideo. But then I didn't, um It was time to really try to do something. So I end up meeting a guy named Nick. He had the idea to start this This startup, which really is kind of a world changing, you know, we deliver organs for transplants. Really? Kind of a life saving idea requires very complex software Greenfield opportunity. So I just went for it. And luckily, all the frustrations I had that led me down the path to and I learned so much I could really prepped me for a startup life, which is, uh, it's a boiler room.

What is the elevator pitch of your startup? What problem does it solve? How were your customers solving their pain point before your startup?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
So Airspace Technologies is a time critical freight forwarder. So the elevator pitch for us is We move things generally very far, very fast. So if you need something to go as fast as possible, so someone might be losing money on the other end. So let's say an aircraft can't take off on the runway. You need to get a part there as fast as possible. That part might not be in that city, so use a company like us to get there as fast as possible. So we find the fastest possible path between two arbitrary points on the planet using real world transportation. That's what we do. Eso we dio organ transplants. We do tissue for research. Like I said, parts for downed aircraft. We keep manufacturing lines up and running. Critical shipments is what we specialize, and we write a lot attack around that to make sure that it's gonna get there as fast as possible and is error free. It's possibleit's pretty much on the phone. So there were companies that that we're solving this problem, but it was just a telephone tree. So you're a nurse. You just talked to the family right of someone who passed away. And now you need to solve a very complex logistics problem. And these companies, would you say, Okay, I'll call you back. And then they would call people in in the Origin city. They would call people destination cities, see if they'd be appropriate vehicles available. Drivers did manually walk a list of flights, so it was a very manual game of telephone that took hours. And, you know, we solve the problem in 100 milliseconds.

Can you walk us through your first few weeks when you started working on this project? How did things change over the next few months?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
So I kind of joked that I knew that the fastest way to make this idea not work was to just start coating right away. So instead, we sat with drivers. Nick actually ran a logistics company. So we sat with drivers. We sat with dispatch. We did full on user research, uh, to figure out what the actual problem was, what the pain wins for and what would really change the game s O. That was really the first probably six weeks, maybe two months on. Then we knew exactly we needed to make, um, you know, through low five prototyping, and then we started cranking.things change in the next few months. Um, really. It was about six months to get to the M V p to really, like launch and go live with the product. And then after that, it was rapid learning. You know, we we realized that we offer one thing 1000 times better than everybody else, but we didn't offer some other thing and eso it was feeling feature gaps as fast as we could based on customer information.

What were the challenges in building the initial team and how did you overcome them? How much time and resources did founding team members commit?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
Oh, man. So I think we I kind of cheated when it comes to hiring engineers. I worked at a consulting company, and I realized that could I needed help, Right? So I could go through the process of trying toe hire engineers just to get the M v p out. Or I could work with a contractor contracting firm. So I kind of had the opportunity toe, uh, either go with strangers or go with the guys I knew. So I hired my old company and, like, hand picked my favorite developers. And, uh, that is how we were able to ship so fast on Ben once we had the product. And we knew this was something that we need to sustain. We really started looking for just the best engineers we could possibly find. Um, yeah, that's that's how we did it.

How did your venture get its first professional funding? What were the challenges and how were they overcome? How'd your fundraising efforts change in subsequent rounds?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
That's a really good question. Uh, every round is different from seed all the way to, like, you know, to see, um it's very, very different. Um, how we end up getting our first round. We did some seed through friends and family, just some kind of high net worth people that were in our network. And when it came to our A, it was more or less to speed dating. We're in San Diego. So we went everywhere from Boston and New York to San Francisco, ended up raising out of San Francisco. And we only advice is don't try to talk to everybody. Uh, find people that are very familiar with your space on that are interested in investing in your space and want to write a check size that eyes close to what you're asking or just in that range. And then all of your conversations were really successful, you know? So we're taking able, uh, freight forwarder, right? So if someone is wanting to invest in a company like Evernote who just has recurring SAS revenue and they don't want anything to do with logistics, then don't talk to them, you know? So we ended up finding a really, really great companies to work with. Um and, uh, yeah, and then as it we went through it becomes way, Maura, about your finances, margin and revenue and less about your idea. It's less about already changing the world more about, Are you Do you know how to run a profitable company on? That's just to be expected.

How did you set the scope for your minimal viable product? How did you get to product-market fit? How did your product evolve over time?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
It's a great question. Um, I like to joke that we never had to pivot because we didn't just start coating right out of the gate. We I really respect use a research so much and user centered design so much. And if you do that well and really respect that process and and just lean into it, you won't activity. And the coding will be the easy part at that point. So, um, scooping the product is tough. I think I wanted to build something as's fast as possible that I could get feedback on from shippers. You know, uh, I think like if you could build it in just a few months, that's way better. I think, like the idea of putting a year or multiple years to something before any validation is absolutely insane. So for us, I think six months was about the shortest possible time, uh, to get the minimum number of features that we thought could be captivating and be, you know, actual freight forwarder. So in our case, we needed a way for customers great orders away for, um, our operations team to administrate, administrate orders and then away for our drivers to interact, build the orders. So we, of course, had several key features in there that we thought were gonna be captivating and motivating for customers. So it's really just getting the lowest feature set out and for us at six months. But for some other ideas, maybe a week, maybe you could do it with no code whatsoever. I've talked to a couple companies who, uh they literally got their first sail off of, like, an interactive PowerPoint prototype. And then they said, Well, we want to start working with you And they said, OK, we need eight weeks and they just, you know, blasted out. A solution is fast. They could.

Who were your early users? What marketing channels, approaches, and marketing tools did you use to contact users? What worked and what didn't?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
we almost to this day have not done any marketing on. That's not because we're trying to be like Tesla's. Uh, it's just a re sourcing problem, so we're slowly adding that. But for the most part, we know you could You could pick a list of people that have this time critical problem. And we started which walked in the door and said, Hey, we think we can do this better and ah, lot of them agree. So I think it comes to getting those early customers. Um, it's just like the book crossing the chasm. You know, you're gonna find some early adopters and they are gonna help change your product for the better. So look for those people. It's gonna take meeting. A lot of people find those, but we found some customers that said, Hey, we've always wanted something like that. You guys have Can you also do this? This and this Recent? Yeah, and now those are some of my favorite features in the product

What changes would you attempt in customer targeting, acquisition process, and marketing tools in the later growth phase? Why?

Summarized By: Ryan Rusnak on Mon Oct 12 2020
we? You know, we know who is shipping organs. You know, we know who is shipping. Um, you know, parts for down aircraft. So we really haven't been. We're not like a SaaS company that's selling like a, you know, a new database or something where it could be. Our customer profiles kind of amorphous. We have a very targeted customer profile. So for us, it's been, you know, pretty easy to, identify who we want to sell to, then go self there.

Who were your competitors when you started and how did the competition evolve? How did you create a competitive advantage and a unique selling proposition?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
So our competitors there are few, and for the most part, they're all private equity backed and they don't know, maybe even still think we're just kind of the little guy. Uh, that's trying to change the game. But the old way still works, and I think they're getting nervous and they should, because the new way our way is the way that is literally going to save lives and lots of and save a lot of money for our customers. So I don't think our competitors have evolved. And that's why um, that's why they're in this situation there in today. Um, and you know, what is our competitive advantage? Like, how do we create it? I think Nick, who's the CEO? He really he looked at other things that were that people loved and we're just changing the world. You know? I think machine learning, um, uber like all these different things that, like you put them together could really change logistics. And, you know, I didn't know if it was possible, but thought, Hey, it's probably six months of effort. We didn't put our heads together and, um, and we started, you know, adapting similar tech and writing a check from scratch that that could really make the dream come true. So he really knew the value prop, you know, going in because what the current customers were currently dealing with.

What were the major exciting and memorable moments? Were there also any moments that almost got you to quit? How did you get past them?

Summarized By: Ryan Rusnak on Mon Oct 12 2020
Oh, that's funny. Yeah, There was a memorable moments, a lot of memorable moments. One thing we offer is called this its automated routing. So, like I said, we take two arbitrary points on the globe. Let's say my house to yours, and we calculate the fastest, safest riel world path to get there. Right? So first, I'm gonna, you know, pick up a package on the driving the car. Then I'm gonna wait. I'm gonna at the airline. You know, we're gonna check cargo hours, make sure that it works. That's gonna go on the plane standing. Thing happened on the other end, and the supply chains are very, very complicated. And the previous thought was that it had to be done by human. And we're saying that no. Ah, computer, We'll do this better and faster. And the first one we wrote, it took over 45 seconds to run. I mean, you know, maybe between me and you, depending where you are, if you're international, there's like a could really in different possibilities. It could really, in different ways to get their domestically between, you know, San Francisco. In Boston, there's 180 million paths. So it's computational difficult. Eso The first one took 45 seconds and, uh, I would sit in front of these freight forwarders and tell them that our platform can do it much faster because it takes someone, maybe 30 minutes to an hour, and for 45 seconds we would wait and watch a Web page spin, you know? And the first time we walked in, I had no idea if they would laugh or think this was awesome. And 45 seconds later, which I can't imagine, I can't remember Last time I waited 45 seconds for something online, but 45 seconds later, they looked up and said, This is going to change the game. This is gonna absolutely change the game. And I was just so stoked that all that effort that we put towards this, um you know, uh, it impressed them and bloom away. And like I said, it went from 45 seconds now to 100 milliseconds. So even now you know it's or now it's still changing, getting better and better and better. But just the M v p just M v P. That took quarters of magnitude longer still changed the game and got customers excited. That that's something I'll never forget, I guess. Where were there any moments that may be almost quit? No, they're not. I think in order to if you want to do something like a startup, you have to be a just a pathological optimist. So there was almost nothing that could outside of us, running out of money, you know, there was. There's nothing that was going to stop us. So no, nothing that that where I have been considered quitting.

What responsibilities and decisions did you handle? What were the top three priorities and pain points? What strategies were effective in dealing with challenges?

Based on experience at: Software Engineer, Dell
Summarized By: Ryan Rusnak on Mon Oct 12 2020
s O Dell. I was working at the Office of Management Budget when I was working. Dell and, uh, you know, it's an interesting time, like they didn't invest in any technical debt. So I walked in a situation where they had a lot of technical debt and I couldn't just walk in and say, Hey, we need to not ship features and fix everything, you know? So the best advice that I've ever gotten, which is actually from a director engineering, said when you join the company as a software engineer, just shut up and code for six months because you're gonna learn so much, right? If you come in trying to change everything on day one, you know, everyone's gonna think you're an idiot because they've already thought of all this stuff. And there's lots of business reasons. Maybe they couldn't do those things. So the most part at first had I was heads down. Um, but then I really started to try to inject some, like, user centered design into their culture. How do we know this is gonna work? A supposed to just building whatever. We thought it was a good idea. So it was a pretty full stack opportunity and we ended up building some really cool stuff. But as far as responsibilities, it waas really trying to justify what we should have, what we should build architect ing how are protecting the solution and then actually building? So it was a great opportunity. Um, top of the pain points we had some stakeholders who they thought they were the smartest guy in the room, you know, And, uh, that's always a pain, you know, because the users, the user research will will bear out one piece of information and they'll say, No, I think we should do this instead. And then you just it's just a recipe for shipping stuff that your your customers or users won't want. So I tried to really work with him to do some more like user testing and validation before we build stuff, and I think it kind of worked. But ultimately, that guy pretty much probably seems to retire

What college programs did you attend and what were their best parts? How did each of your college programs prepare you for your career?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
um, I'll talk to you about specifically grad school undergrad. I was e don't know. I think it was the best place to ever grow up. That was an undergrad, you know. And then I understood. And then I got out through a world understood what the real world needed. And then I went to grad school to really focus on the best way to build those things and that the best things I got from college was just like I said, working with people that were just so passionate about solving problems. And, um, that was just so inspiring. So I can't say that it was like a specific class that I took because there were specific class that I took, but it was working with people that knew they wanted to do something. Um, not knowing how to do that, researching how to do that, staying up all night or whatever. Thio get it done and then working with others to help them and then accomplishing the goal and then doing that over and over and overwas taking taking on a project that I was just absolutely not qualified to Dio like, I mean taking on something. I was way too hard for me at that time and then asking people for help and then them helping me and then me helping them and just just everyone in that program at CMU was just taking on projects that were just way over their head and then just working with each other toe help each other through it, and it was just awesome.

What three life lessons have you learned over your career? If any, please also discuss your experiences facing adversity, or trying something unusual.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
one, Um, one really smart engineers that over to the long time ago, he said you need you need six really complicated ways to say no in your back pocket at all times. Because at some point, someone some business stakeholders gonna ask you do something that doesn't make any sense, and you're gonna need to find a way to say no, That doesn't hurt their feelings. That's probably not the best advice, but I have found it pretty useful. Um, certainly before airspace, Um, that's the other life lessons. Um, I think you need to find out what the world needs and then find out how that matches your goals and what you want to dio and then run with it. You know, I wouldn't necessarily be angry with the world that it's needs. Don't match your passions. You need Thio. Find out what you can offer and what the world needs and then marry your passions to those needs. And then you're gonna be really, really happy. Um, you know, I kind of joked that as an engineer, we work in text editors. Right? So if we didn't have mission, all right, we would just build a better text editor because that would just make our lives better. Right? But that's not what the world needs, you know. Um, so we have to find out, you know, where our passions can meet those needs and then run as fast weekend towards them. And I've found a lot of joy in that doing that over my career on that.I don't be. That guy was referencing earlier and I got I got you know, you would bring user research Say this We're gonna build. You would say no. And, you know, he would just say we should do it this way And you knew that wouldn't work. Based on these research, there is a problem. So I would call that adversity and, you know, he was certainly the the stakeholder. Here's the only guy that approved what got built. So ah, designer was so frustrated by they were quitting like the day I got there. And he, on his day out on his last day and on his way out, said, When you're trying to get something through that you know needs to be done, leave off something very important and obvious on. Then you'll think of it as his. Then you'll think of it. You'll at it. And then we'll think it's his idea. And then you get to build it. So, for instance, like if there is ah, form or something, just leave off the submit button. And when he's a review in the design, he'll go. How are users gonna submit this? You'll say, Oh, you're so smart you You're right. Like I need to add a Smith button. He's like, Oh, yeah, of course you dio. And then he feels good that he got to participate in, added to the design. And you got to build exactly what you know the users want. So I think leaving intentionally leaving off key elements of design. Pretty unusual. Maybe not the best advice, but in this case, it really worked.

What starting job (after internship) would you recommend to students who hope to grow professionally like you? What other parting advice, dos, and don'ts would you give?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Oct 12 2020
you know, I started in consulting and I truly hated it. Eso I don't think I can recommend it. What's good is you get exposure to a lot of business problems, and you really do start to understand what companies need. What's hard for companies? Um, there's value there. Right? But I hated it. There was so much red tape. Uh, I would say join the smallest possible company. You can, um you know, startups ideal because they have so many problems to solve and not enough resources to do it. So the best thing a smart, motivated person can dio is join a tiny company that has tons of problems because they will get to solve a million different problems that it was there in a big company wouldn't be in their scope of their position. So, I think joined the smallest possible of company. You can, um, and work your butt off for the first. I don't know, 5, 10 years of your career, you know, because that's when you're gonna be really capturing skills and figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your career. Um, so, yeah, join a small company, work super super super hard. Uh, do everything you can possibly get your hands on. Uh, say yes. When your boss asks you, Can you do this or can you help with this? Andi, you'll be really happy where you end up. And then once you kind of come up for air from that you have all these skills and all his experience, and then you can do your own thing. Join a different company. Um, that'll really set you up for success.