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.