Search “Tes­la” online and you’ll most like­ly find, first, the amaz­ing elec­tric car com­pa­ny by that name [link]. Makes sense. On a recent trip to Chica­go, I saw the car first-hand and kept say­ing to myself, “Fan­tas­tic! Fan­tas­tic!” Now, giv­en that I am by nature a car guy, that may not be all that sur­pris­ing. But the more one digs into Tes­la Motors, the more impressed one becomes. In Chica­go, I hap­pi­ly not­ed that the infra­struc­ture for recharg­ing these vehi­cles seems to be on the rise. The key num­bers for the com­pa­ny are on the rise too.

Ear­li­er this month, Daniel Sparks (@danielsparks) gave a glow­ing update on Tes­la Motors (@teslamotors) on the pages of The Mot­ley Fool, a site for investors [link]. Acknowl­edged to be an investor in Tes­la, Sparks reported:

Tes­la’s first-quar­ter non-GAAP rev­enue and EPS were $1.1 bil­lion and a $0.36 loss, ahead of a con­sen­sus ana­lyst esti­mate for $1.04 bil­lion and a $0.50 loss, respectively. …

The elec­tric-car­mak­er had already announced quar­ter­ly deliv­er­ies of about 10,000, up 56 per cent from the year-ago quar­ter and eas­i­ly exceed­ing its guid­ance for 9,500 deliveries. …

One of the key take­aways from the results was the lev­el of sales growth Tes­la is report­ing. The com­pa­ny’s rev­enue and deliv­ery growth rates are actu­al­ly accelerating. …

This accel­er­at­ing growth is espe­cial­ly clear when exam­in­ing the com­pa­ny’s year-over-year growth rates in vehi­cle deliv­er­ies. The com­pa­ny’s 56 per cent year-over-year growth in Mod­el S deliv­er­ies is the high­est rate achieved since quar­ters in 2013, the first full year of Mod­el S sales.

Tesla CarYet, if you go to the Tes­la web­site and read a recent press release [link], it is inter­est­ing that this is how the page con­cludes: “Tes­la is not just an automak­er, but also a tech­nol­o­gy and design com­pa­ny with a focus on ener­gy innovation.”

And that is why, in your online search for Tes­la, you will also find links to sto­ries report­ing that Tes­la is mov­ing rapid­ly into becom­ing a bat­tery com­pa­ny, but not for cars; they’re build­ing bat­ter­ies for homes [link]! Robert Mon­tene­gro (@Monteneggroll) on the “big­think” web­site has one of the best reports on this new aspect of Tes­la: “Tes­la’s Worst-Kept Secret Has Become Pow­er Com­pa­nies’ Worst Night­mare” [link]. You can also find a video here that shows Tes­la founder and CEO Elon Musk talk­ing about Pow­er­wall, the jum­bo bat­ter­ies that could tru­ly be a com­pet­i­tive prob­lems for com­pa­nies that sell electricity.

Elon Musk (@elonmusk) is one inter­est­ing fel­low [link], and research­ing him will also lead you to his ven­ture in launch­ing rock­ets via the com­pa­ny SpaceX [link]. (But that’s a whole oth­er blog post — but, if you’re inter­est­ed, start here with Ash­lee Vance’s in-depth look at how SpaceX almost brought down Tes­la Motors [link].)

What I find in my con­ver­sa­tions with oth­ers about either Musk or Tes­la is the repeat­ed ques­tion, “Is Tes­la a car com­pa­ny or a bat­tery company?”

Wrong ques­tion. The real ques­tion is how Musk is both mak­ing repeat­ed head­lines and grow­ing mul­ti­ple businesses.


Musk excels at fram­ing “big prob­lems” and then get­ting a lot of smart peo­ple enger­gised (pun intent­ed) around solv­ing them. The work on a sus­tain­able elec­tric car busi­ness has elud­ed many of the big glob­al automak­ers who, until quite recent­ly, real­ly did not seem to be tak­ing the ulti­mate demise of oil-based ground trans­porta­tion seri­ous­ly. Then, too, the monop­oly of pow­er util­i­ties and the prob­lems around nuclear ener­gy seemed to eclipse the gen­er­al prob­lem of deliv­er­ing and stor­ing ener­gy glob­al­ly, with­out the embed­ded base of end­less elec­tric cables run­ning through cities and neigh­bor­hoods. Musk chal­lenged two dif­fer­ent sets of engi­neers to tack­le those two problems.

And what’s even more inter­est­ing is that — for cars and for elec­tric­i­ty — one only had to ask “what’s next?” to get mov­ing in new direc­tions. To be sure, the work on “the future of ener­gy dis­tri­b­u­tion” com­bines both diver­gent think­ing and con­ver­gent think­ing — the lat­ter allow­ing for the fram­ing and deliv­ery of a prod­uct that solves a real prob­lem, a step that not all dream­ers are able to make but which is cru­cial for inno­va­tion and progress. And Musk (who start­ed Tes­la Motors a dozen years ago) did not allow him­self to become trapped by unrea­son­able expec­ta­tions and by undoable deadlines.

Musk’s focus seems to be more about a com­pet­i­tive prod­uct that would hap­pen in the long run (elec­tric car, pow­er stor­age unit), and he was will­ing to be patient as his com­pa­nies slow­ly but sure­ly changed the rules of the game. Reject­ing the per­ma­nence of inter­nal-com­bus­tion, gas-hog­ging cars and aspir­ing to get nor­mal house­holds off the elec­tric util­i­ty grid are trans­for­ma­tion­al inno­va­tions that will shape the the plan­et, not just Tesla.

Elon Musk has a lot of admir­ers right now, and to be fair, a few crit­ics, too. Yet, those of us who admire Musk can­not sit back and wait for a few ambi­tious thinkers to reshape our own world. We must do it every day and in every way with­in our own enter­pris­es. Nextsens­ing is everyone´s job in one way or anoth­er, and lead­ers must frame and shape how it is going to work in their organ­i­sa­tions soon­er rather than later.

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