To say that Tesla is moving fast is an understatement. Operating under Silicon Valley principles, Tesla has exhibited insane growth over the nearly 16 years it has been in business. Today, the electric car maker is a trailblazer in the EV market, and it is poised to grow even more. Veteran tech analyst Gene Munster notes that this is made possible by a strategy that Tesla has adopted, known as “blitzscaling.”
Blitzscaling is a concept that was initially coined by Reid Hoffman of PayPal and LinkedIn fame. Companies that adopt this strategy prioritize high-speed growth over efficiency to become the first to reach a critical scale. With this strategy in place, traditional growth techniques such as careful planning, cautious investment, and a deliberate effort to solve all problems before moving forward get thrown aside.
Illustrating this point, Hoffman stated that starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down. Blitzscaling is jumping off a cliff and assembling the aircraft faster by strapping on and igniting a set of jet engines while still building the wings.
This strategy is incredibly dangerous, as the risks of failure are very high. Nevertheless, blitzscaling is one of the best techniques that a company could adopt if it is pursuing a very valuable prize and if the competition in its niche is intense. This fits perfectly with Tesla, whose goal is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy while surviving in the hyper-competitive auto industry.
Tesla has exhibited the signs oft blitzscaling for years, as seen in Elon Musk’s bet-the-company strategies with the Model 3 ramp. In a previous interview, Musk specifically noted that the Model 3’s “production hell” took him and Tesla to the edge. As Munster recently wrote, Tesla’s difficulties last year, including the company’s alarming financial state then, are classic characteristics of a company that is blitzscaling.
The Loup Ventures managing partner explains that blitzscaling is better suited for privately-owned companies since private investors are usually more open to the idea of investing a lot of money quickly for future growth. This could be seen in the success of companies such as Airbnb and Uber, both of which burned a lot of money to become what they are today. Tesla is in the difficult position of blitzscaling as a public company where all have access to its finances and all are able to speculate its solvency. As Tesla’s history has shown, this high-risk, high growth strategy is also a magnet for short-sellers, who can bet on the company’s failure for financial gain.
Tesla is still a young automaker, and for the most part, it is still operating like a startup. One can only hope that the Model 3 production ramp’s bet-the-company situation will not repeat itself when Tesla brings the Model Y to market. Whether or not blitzscaling is still the right strategy for Tesla at this point is up for debate, but one can only hope that the upcoming ramp for the Model Y, Solar Roof, Pickup Truck, and Tesla Semi will be a lot smoother and less painful than that of the Model 3.
Here’s Hoffman’s teaser of his book on blitzscaling. The parallels to Tesla’s strategy are quite compelling.