The Hustle
Monday, April 11, 2016

The eagle has landed

Last Friday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral with a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station. It arrived on Sunday armed with food, supplies, and an inflatable habitat. Yes, they delivered a bouncy castle to space.

But that wasn’t the best part…

Eight minutes and 35 seconds after the rocket launched, it’s main part (the first stage booster) came back to earth and successfully landed vertically on a barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean.

If you haven’t seen the booster landing, head to Elon Musk’s Twitter page for tons of footage. Or just watch this video, which is set to the true American classic, “I’m On a Boat.”

Wait, what’s so cool/important about landing a rocket (at sea)?

Building rockets is really expensive, but if you’re able to reuse them, instead of simply discarding them into the sea like we’ve done for decades, the economics completely change.

Right now, a Falcon 9 rocket with a reusable booster costs $60m to make and $200k to fuel. And they hope to get that initial startup cost down to $40m while reusing the rockets up to a hundred times. That’s a BIG difference compared to the $450m to $1.5B it took to launch the space shuttle. Every. Single. Time.

If Musk is able to make these launches and landings routine, then the idea of spaceflight becoming available to the masses becomes that much more realistic.

“Rapid and complete reusability is really important to make a rocket cost effective, like an airplane,” Musk said.

I could've sworn SpaceX already did this…

You’re right, they did. Back in December, SpaceX landed the booster for the first time...but that was on land.

Since SpaceX estimates that only half of its launches will have enough fuel to fly back to the coast for landing, the fact that this landing was at sea on a drone-controlled barge is a big deal.

BlackBerry still thinks people want their phones

BlackBerry just announced that they’re releasing two new phones this year: one with a physical keyboard and another with a full touchscreen. In other words, BlackBerry thinks we still want their phones...but it’s pretty obvious we don’t.

Last quarter, they sold 600,000 of them...slightly less than the 48 million iPhones Apple handed out during that same time. Guys, maybe it’s time to stop pretending BlackBerry is still a hardware company.

If this fails, they might have to...

CEO John Chen readily admits that this is probably the company’s last chance to make phones that, y’know, actually turn a profit. But with Chen targeting sales of 5 million phones per year in order to keep the unit profitable, it doesn’t seem likely.

BlackBerry reminds me of a washed up, former world champion boxer. At this point, they’re just scheduling fights and hanging on for dear life in hopes that people will say to themselves…"Hey, ya know what, BlackBerry’s still got it!

Except they don’t. At all. They’re probably better off just retiring.

We read Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letter so you don’t have’s what to know:

The letter began with a reminder of just how successful Amazon has been:

“This year, Amazon became the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion in annual sales. Also this year, Amazon Web Services is reaching $10 billion in annual sales … doing so at a pace even faster than Amazon achieved that milestone.”

Then Bezos talked about Amazon’s corporate culture, clearly addressing (though not directly) the unflattering New York Times article published last summer. He acknowledged Amazon isn’t for everyone, but it can “fit certain people like a custom-made glove.”

“We never claim that our approach is the right one - just that it’s ours - and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people: folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful.”

Speaking of Amazon’s approach…

Bezos highlighted the role that failure plays in Amazon’s overall success.

“I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.”

He cited three experiments, or “bold bets,” that have worked: Amazon Web Services (the company’s cloud computing business), Marketplace (it’s business for third-party sellers), and Prime. In the beginning, people questioned all three. Now they’re main pillars of the company.

Speaking of Prime…

“We want Prime to be such a good value, you’d be irresponsible not to be a member,” Bezos said. And at $99, it’s hard to argue with him.

There are now 30 million Prime-eligible items on Amazon, one-hour delivery (Prime Now) is available in 30 cities, and Prime Video, the company’s Netflix competitor, has both Emmy and Golden Globe wins under its belt.

“Prime has become an all-you-can-eat, physical-digital hybrid that members love. Membership grew 51% last year and there are now tens of millions of members worldwide.”

Amazon’s biggest challenge moving forward

Bezos wants Amazon to remain an “invention machine” but understands how difficult it is for large companies to do that. As he puts it, “one common pitfall for large organizations - one that hurts speed and inventiveness - is ‘one-size-fits-all’ decision making.”

“[Type 1 decisions] are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible… But most decisions aren’t like that, they’re two-way doors. If you made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long, You can reopen the door and go back through.”

According to Bezos, the problem with big companies is that they apply the methodical process (Type 1) far too often. “The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention. We’ll have to figure out how to fight that tendency.”

And there you have it.

Hustle Con tickets...they bout to go up

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that early bird tickets to Hustle Con end tomorrow.

Hustle Con is our annual conference where we bring the founders of America’s best startups to teach how they started and grew their company. Think of them like TED talks but focused on entrepreneurship and mixed with a rock n’ roll vibe.

There's gonna be world class talks, bad to the bone networking, and plenty of booze. Over 1,000 of our readers have already signed up. Wanna come with?

Click here to see who’s speaking and get your ticket right meow.

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