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Cool Idea?  What ELSE Can You Do With It?

By Shlomo Maital

Elon Musk Tesla battery factory

  In my previous blog, I wrote about how entrepreneur John Osher invented a lollipop that spins in your mouth, created a huge hit, and then, tireless, asked, what else can I do with a cheap tiny electric motor that spins things?  His answer was: an inexpensive electric toothbrush.  Result: a half billion dollar (acquisition by P&G).

  Here is another example.  Elon Musk succeeded against all odds in building and selling Tesla electric cars.  His cars are cool, beautiful, fast, expensive, green and in demand.  They are not hybrids.  They run solely on electric power.  The core technology is the rechargeable electric car battery. 

  Like Osher, Musk asked, what else can I do with what I know about batteries that store electricity?  Answer – build batteries that can store solar power, so that at night, when the sun doesn’t shine,  you can still have power.  Storage is a crucial element to the success of solar power, because people consume electricity not only in daylight but also at night.  And so far, the storage element is missing. 

   According to Diane Cardwell, (New York Times, Sunday May 2-3), Tesla Motors is initiating a “fleet of battery systems aimed at homeowners, businesses and utilities”.  One of the products will be a lithium ion rechargeable battery pack, four feet by three feet,  that can be mounted on a home garage wall.  The battery will be called the Powerwall, and will sell for $3,500.  It was derived from the car batteries that power the Model S vehicles.

   The proposed batteries will be connected to the Internet and can be managed by Tesla from afar. 

    The key to this idea?  Tesla is building a $5 billion battery production plant, called the Gigafactory, in Reno, Nevada. (See photo). 

     This story reminds me of the 9-word capsule description of successful entrepreneurship.   First to imagine.  (Musk did).  First to move. (Musk did).  And first to scale. (Musk is).    And, add to that – first to platform (take one good product and transform it into another). 

Patents are Like Love: The More You Give, the More You Get

By Shlomo Maital

 Elon Musk

Elon Musk

   Some innovations change the way people think about doing business.  Elon Musk, a great innovator (co-founder of Paypal, founder of Tessla,  Space-X….etc.) has just announced that he is “opening the books” for all the patents related to Tessla and his electric car technology.  Meaning?   Anyone who wishes can use the technology he and his company created, free of charge.

   What in the world? What happened to the assumption that if you create IP, intellectual property, then you have the right, nay the duty, to make huge profits from it? 

    And is this philanthropy?  Or shrewd business strategy?

    It is the latter.   Musk wants to build Tessla.  To do so, he wants the established big car companies, the ones who proved unable to develop truly great electric cars,  to adopt his technology.

   If they do, then Tessla becomes the first, the authentic, the real thing.   And the way to make that happen is to offer the technology free of charge, and – reap the benefits indirectly.   And I am convinced, the indirect benefits to Musk and Tessla will be enormous, far bigger than any royalties.

     We learn from Elon Musk that innovation is breaking the rules intelligently. Find a rule, e.g. patent everything that breathes,  and see if you can break it, for your own advantage and the advantage of the world. 

    Are patents indeed like love – the more you give it away, the more you have?   

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital