Elon Musk could be celebrated as the greatest inventor of this century. At 43 years old, he’s done more than most of us can hope to do in a lifetime. He’s a self-taught computer programmer turned business magnate and thought leader. His hands seem to be in everything from payment systems to space rockets, to solar cells and electric vehicles.
Here at DT, we have a not-so-secret mancrush on Elon Musk, so we all swooned when he announced that Tesla Motors had open-sourced their patents for electric vehicle technology. Kick fucking ass, Elon! Digital Telepathy wholeheartedly supports this decision and we believe this will be recorded as a pivotal moment in the history of the auto industry.
A Patent Alone Doesn’t Create A Business
Intellectual property is an essential part of many businesses. But owning a patent is no different than having a great meatloaf recipe. Just knowing how to make something doesn’t mean you can succeed in manufacturing, marketing, and shipping products. A patent can provide protection against copycats, but it doesn’t mean you can build a successful business.
It’s awesome that Elon had the guts to admit that even though Tesla employs some of the world’s most talented engineers, they aren’t guaranteed to succeed in their goal “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport.” Tesla wants to do more than simply “prove that electric vehicles can have a range of 300+ miles” for those that can afford $60k for a car. Open-sourcing their designs allows anyone with enough capital to manufacture high-quality electric vehicles and charging stations, ultimately driving costs down for the consumer.
When people openly share what they know, it empowers others to build off of game-changing ideas. It not only encourages innovation but propels it forward in a collaborative way to create products with unlimited growth potential.
Betterment Over Profit – A Truly Noble Cause
Elon and the folks at Tesla realized that despite their patents, there’s no way their limited manufacturing capacity could make a dent in the global fleet. Opening up their patent library forces the hands of other auto manufacturers to build a better product; perhaps even one with an infinite mile warranty. If electric cars are to become a viable alternative (or perhaps even a primary choice) for car buyers, there must be a wider selection of models, colors, and price points. Not to mention the requisite charging stations that enable summer road trips across the country.
This isn’t the only time that Elon has made a bold move to push forward the state of an industry. Solar City realized that the idea of their technology did them no good. So they bought Silevo, a manufacturing company, in order to leverage massive economies of scale to force down the prices of super green photovoltaic technology. This move may seem counterintuitive, but it’s about taking decisive action for the sake of future development.
Similarly, when Volvo invented the 3-point seat belt in 1959, they refused to patent the technology because they knew it was going to be a huge advancement in automobile safety. It’s a prime example of recognizing the deeper intention behind products and how they can have a positive ripple effect through open circulation.
Another example? Couture fashion is appropriate for the runway but is certainly not the mainstream. When styles go mainstream, they’re adopted by the masses. More and more companies who have a passion for accessible design are entering into collaborations that let people rock amazing frocks without the hefty pricetag: Isaac Mizrahi for Target, Karl Lagerfeld for H&M, and Stella McCartney for Gap Kids, to name a few.
Perhaps the mother of all accessibility came in the form of Shopify in 2004. They made it so normal folk could set up an online store to sell their products and take ecommerce to the next level. It’s companies like that who level the playing field and give everyone a chance to succeed. AKA, democratization at its finest.
Putting It All on the Line
Vision-driven companies are known for making big bets. Investing in the future is one thing that separates good companies from great companies. Another indicator of greatness is willingness to give back.
Tesla is taking a huge step toward making electric vehicles the new standard. We commend those efforts and are inspired by Elon’s passion and commitment to betterment.
Digital Telepathy believes that design should be accessible to all. While not everyone can afford our Objective-Based Design services, we are striving to make great design more accessible with Filament.io, our app store for your website.
What other companies are putting it all on the line? Leave a comment with the names of thought leaders or companies who you think are demonstrating a grand vision for the future.