Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk announced that Tesla will be utilizing an ‘open source’ philosophy to their large patent portfolio (pictured above, now taken down) and that they wouldn’t pursue any legal action against anyone using them in good faith.
It’s a gesture that shows promise and proof of the fact that visionaries walk our Earth. People who exist purely to help solve the world’s greatest problems. Led by Musk, Tesla’s mission is simple – to accelerate the shift of humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels towards sustainable, renewably powered transportation. They clearly understand that if they tried to hold on tightly to the knowledge and protection of ideas and intellectual property that is enabling this race to gain momentum, they would just be holding the world back from getting to where we all want it to be.
“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal.” — Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Architect of Tesla Motors
This gesture is inspiring – especially in the current world of investors searching for high returns on protected technologies with an “unfair advantage” while entrepreneurs bootstrap and work diligently on building the next breakthrough technology.
And when these same hardworking entrepreneurs have an amazing product, are looking to raise some capital, and are pitching to investors, they get bombarded with questions like “what’s going to protect you, what’s your unfair advantage, what patents do you have, etc.” Although these may be valid points, the answers to these questions boil down to just a few things. What’s going to protect your product or technology in the long run isn’t some patent you own, but rather the combination of factors that helped you build the product in the first place. If you look back in the history of tech from Apple to GoPro, Samsung, and IBM, the “Secret Sauce” or the “unfair advantage” was and always has been their brilliant people and their passion. Each one of these companies had their fair share of copycats. Yet, that never stopped them from getting to where they are now. It’s the people who can perceive competition, and make adjustments to design, price, strategy, or tech specs. It’s the people of an organization who can navigate the often torrential waters of startup competition, nimbly and dynamically adjust to different market changes, and capture new growth opportunities as they come.
Here’s the reality – competition will always exist. And whether you like it or not, it’s coming. And we’ve seen time and time again the examples of how IP alone can never save you from getting eaten in the market (think Apple and Samsung). But if your people, can react, be creative and strategic, just like any other battlefield, your technology and your startup will always remain victorious.
The problem is investors find it really hard to quantify these traits and therefore often dismiss amazing technologies or opportunities because of it. As he says in his statement, Elon’s belief in Tesla’s people and engineers is what gives him the brazen confidence to make a move like this, which again puts them head and shoulders above the fray of ‘business as usual’ leaders running most companies.
It’s not only becoming increasingly clear that Elon Musk is our generation’s most vibrant business leader, but also that he is becoming an emerging icon for business’ role as a driver for the wellbeing of people and our beloved planet.
In twenty years nobody is going to remember anything that any of the major automotive manufacturers or CEOs did to get 7 billion people off fossil fuels that pollute the world, hurt our planet, and spark the cause of the natural resources war which will cost billions . They will, however, remember Tesla, Elon Musk, his unique voice and perspective, and his unwavering commitment he has shown in the face of all odds to introduce a new age of accountability and world conscious purpose to the business world.
I don’t know about you, but this is the world I want to be a part of.