Liftoff by Eric Berger

I’m late to link to this, but here are my Book Thoughts on Liftoff by Eric Berger, which is about the early years of SpaceX:

I picked up this book to better understand how big leaps forward in hard tech innovation happen, but as I got to the end, including the annecdote above, all I could think about is whether or not history is contingent.

I didn’t put this in the Book Thoughts post because it somehow felt out of place, but here are the factors that seemed most essential to SpaceX’s success (not necessarily in order):

  • Have a big mission. This helps to pull in talent in a way that smaller projects don’t

  • Be as iterative as possible in taking on technical challenges. Your speed of failure is inversely correlated to your speed of learning. In a way, the culture of tight deadlines at SpaceX helped with this because it forced the organization to learn from reality rather than debate.

  • Either buy things off the shelf or make them yourself. If you try and find a middle ground between off the shelf and fully customized, you risk getting neither of the benefits.

  • Early customers are in many ways investors. They need to be treated as such, since they’re likely to not get the full benefit of your company existing.