Why the Tesla Semi is more than half right

The Tesla Semi

Wish your product could have the same kudos as a Tesla?

I'm sure we all do. It's easy enough to discount Tesla as being in another league from startups, playing by different rules.

And yet, I think Elon's reveal speech for the new Tesla semi (what we in the UK more verbosely call an articulated truck) has lessons that every startup can learn. I recommend you take 9 minutes of your time to watch it here. Watch and learn. Not from the oratory (Elon's no Steve Jobs) but from the attention to detail.

Of course, it's easy to focus on the electric motor marvel: the speed, pulling power, range etc. That's what you expect from Tesla and it's all very impressive in its own right. But what caught my attention was the features that had nothing to do with the motors.

For example, Tesla had taken time to observe that most semis get a broken windscreen on average once per year. Apparently, being big pieces of glass, they're more prone to breaking and that takes them off the road, costing a haulage company lost revenue until the windscreen is fixed. Tesla's answer is to fit "bomb proof" glass.

Wait a minute? This isn't just a case of Tesla being the only one capable of creating a feature. Surely any number of companies could have installed stronger windscreens. What is impressive to me is that they took the time to identify this need within their target market and set out to deliver a solution, even though it had nothing to do with their particular area of expertise. Similarly, there are other features in Elon's reveal that probably didn't need to be there but reinforced the idea that the semi isn't just a viable electric truck, it's a reinvention of the haulage stalwart from first principles.

There's a guarantee of 1,000,000 miles before breakdown.

There's talk about monitoring the driver and automatically alerting emergency services if they seems to be in distress, whilst simultaneously of course leveraging Tesla's technology to bring the semi to a safe stop without crossing over lanes.

They've considered jackknifing and designed it so it's impossible. They've built in predictive maintenance. The list goes on.

The lesson is pretty compelling. Take time to really understand your market's need. Don't just build what you know, find a way to build what they need, even if they never thought to ask for it.

More power to Tesla!


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