All posts by Don Weidner

Tesla’s Disruptive Model 3 Finally Revealed!

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Model 3 Crop

“You will not be able to buy a better car for $35,000” Elon stated confidently.

Incredibly safe — 5 stars in every category.

0-60 mph in less than 6 seconds*

215 mile range*

*Elon specified that these are minimums that he hopes to exceed by the time of production

Autopilot hardware standard in every car!

Seats 5 adults comfortably, with larger than normal height and legroom in the back.

All are Supercharger-compatible.

Note: NONE of the photos you’ve seen before today are the Model 3.  I’ve seen dozens of guesses and they’re all wrong.  My headline photo is a screenshot taken directly from Elon Musk’s live reveal today.

All Investments Are Down — Except This One

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Have you SEEN the market this year?  Holy cow.

Practically all markets have been plummeting this year.

The S&P.

The NASDAQ.

The Shanghai Composite.

European futures.

Oil.

Gold (it’s up in 2016 but sharply down in recent years).

Real estate even has the bubble warning sounding.

Guess what investment vehicle is up this year, last year, and every year since 1978.

Go on, guess!

You’ll never guess.

Ready?

Star Wars figures.

Ok.  Stop laughing.  Stay with me.

You may think collecting action figures is child’s play.  Think again.

Original Star Wars figures sold for $1.49 in 1978 and, in mint packaging, are valued today in the neighborhood of $2,000.  That’s a 134,200% gain!

Take that, Buffet.

Now, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of money to be made if you missed the last 40 years of Star Wars collecting.

My parents threw my original figures away, so I started all over in 2006.   At that time, I paid prices that I thought were astronomic… from $75  to $300 for the best condition figures I could find.  I was 30 years late to the game, but I’ve still made 1,000-2,000% on everything I’ve bought.

Even the figures from Episode I, a movie that is often scorned by true Star Wars fans, have appreciated 500-1,000% since their release in 1999.  That’s an average of 46.87% per year!  Better than any professionally managed fund you have.

Warp ahead to the present.  With the recent release of Episode VII came a barrage of new figures.  I decided not to buy any.  Two rooms of my house and 1/3 of my garage are full of Star Wars figures already.  I also questioned whether the new figures would have any investment value.  Well, I shouldn’t have doubted The Force.  The figures that sold out are already selling for double on eBay.  After almost 40 years of figure releases, the brand new ones have appreciated by 100% in just 4 months.  Amazing.

I don’t expect that many (any) of you will convert any part of your investment portfolio to Star Wars figures but, quite seriously, maybe you should.  They’re a more dependable investment vehicle than stocks or commodities and they’re a lot more fun to look at.

 

*In the interest of full disclosure, I own a hell of a lot of Star Wars figures.

100 More Miles & New Findings with Tesla Autopilot

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This is a continuation from my first Tesla Autopilot post here.  Part 1 was a brief recap of (essentially) my amazement using Autopilot for the first time.

I intentionally put the car through increasingly difficult scenarios here to see how it fared.  You never know the limitations of something until you find them, right?

I experienced flawless self-driving when on bright sunny highways as well as in long, dark tunnels and at speeds from 15 MPH to 85 MPH.

Several readers have asked me how it performs in heavy traffic and I can proudly say “amazingly”.  Let me backup and clarify terminology.  Autopilot is a combination of two systems — Traffic Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer.  Autosteer won’t engage below 18 MPH unless you’re following a vehicle, but TACC can be used any time.  And I mean ANY time.  It’s beautiful.  I’ve had Range Rovers with a single front sensor to slow cruise control if the car in front of you slowed, but Tesla’s is an entirely new level.  I can pull out of my driveway, get onto my 30 MPH arterial, jump on a freeway onramp, grind through stop-and-go traffic, and get to my destination ALL without touching the accelerator or brake!

Autosteer, by contrast, is designed for freeway use at this point, but I engage it everywhere I possibly can — to learn the limits (and because it’s fun).

The lanes on the center readout glow blue when the vehicle is confidently tracking them.  They turn grey when it’s finding enough contrast to discern a lane but your alertness should be higher because it might ask you to take over at any time.

After at least 170 miles of testing now, I have only had to manually take control a handful of times, again because I’m pushing beyond what it’s designed to do.  For example, there is a crazy, windy, hairpin-wrought road near me called East Mercer Way (see photo).

It is a challenging road any way you look at it, and Autosteer doesn’t like it.  I don’t think it’s the curves and banks as much as it’s the poor lane markings.  Hmmm… I just had a thought.  Maybe I’ll sneak out in the middle of the night and re-stripe the road so I can give it another shot!

Here’s a scenario that Autosteer didn’t like that I wouldn’t have expected:

The shiny new tar sealant reflecting in bright sun threw off the Autosteer.  Unexpected but noted.

Here’s an interesting photo of Autopilot performing extremely well in a difficult environment — a slow moving onramp merging onto a fast moving freeway with big trucks all around.

Not only that, but look at what came next.  I-5 North merging onto I-90 East with major, sweeping turns at freeway speeds.  Autopilot was perfect.

In summary, when using Autopilot as directed (freeway use, hands on the wheel for safety) it’s rock solid and downright fun.  When pushing it (freeways and onramps with significant twists and turns) it’s even more fun.  When pushing it all the way (the Nürburgring style hairpins) I discovered its limits.

Remember, though, Autosteer is still officially an optional feature in BETA.  It’s so good already, I can’t wait to see what comes with full Gen I and Gen II.

My Tesla Drove Me 70 Miles Today on Autopilot!

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Every news station is covering this — Tesla sent a free download today that gave autopilot capabilities to their cars.  I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time and wanted to share my wonderful experience.

After my morning meetings, I got on the freeway, pointed my car toward the mountains, and engaged Autopilot.  My car took over with its barrage of sensors (sonar, cameras, radar, and GPS).

  • It reads the roadway ahead.
  • It follows the car in front of you and paces its speed.
  • It reads and understands speed limit signs.
  • It changes lanes for you when you touch the turn signal.

Other authors have described it as “scary” and “creepy”.  I couldn’t disagree more.  It’s thrilling yet calming.

I went 70 miles and gained 3,000 feet of elevation up sweeping mountain roads.  The only surprise was when I was in the right lane on the freeway, the car took the next exit by itself, following the righthand line!

Today was busier than I’d like, so I can’t wait to spend more time in the car.  Ask questions and I will experiment more tomorrow and answer your questions!

I Thought I Knew Tesla… Tonight’s Model X Reveal Blew Me Away

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I study technology companies and Tesla is among my favorites, but I wasn’t prepared for how spectacular the Model X is.

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First of all, all of the regular analysts and publications got it wrong.  Even Bloomberg, tonight, after the reveal, published an article with an old concept photo.

The Model X is an SUV with record-setting safety, more than twice the performance of the former record holder.  Wow.

The Model X is an SUV with record-setting speed.  The P90D SUV accelerates 0-60 in 3.2 seconds — faster than a Ferrari Scuderia 16M!  Wow.

The Falcon Wing doors, though revealed in concept photos 2 years ago, are better than I imagined.  They offer better child seat access and better third row access than any other SUV or minivan made.  Further, they have sonar sensors built-in to alter their opening arc based on the height of your garage ceiling.  Wow.

The Model X has a biohazard button.  The air-filtered interior has air quality equivalent to a surgical operating room.  If there’s an anthrax attack, you want to be in this vehicle.

The windshield is a single piece of glass flowing far into the roof.  It’s like the wrap-around glass in a helicopter and makes every day driving more beautiful.

Capacity-wise, it can tow 5,000 pounds while hauling 7 passengers and all of their luggage in its two (front and back) trunks.

Accessory racks for SUVs are heavy and awkward.  I bought the highest rated one for my Range Rover, but needed help putting it on and taking it off, and if I wanted to get into the back, I had to remove a pin and unlock several levers.  Tesla is too good for this nonsense and designed their own.  Elon had a 10-year-old come up on stage and install their rack in 5 seconds!  Wow!

The Tesla Model X is a vehicle that has been thought through piece-by-piece and blows away anything out there.  My wife ordered one more than 2 years ago, so we’ll get one very soon.  The concept pictures had me thinking I might prefer a Range Rover for myself (they’re great, I’ve owned three) but the X just kicked its ass.

Watch a reply of Elon’s reveal at teslamotors.com.

The ONLY Way To Save On A New Tesla

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Tesla does not negotiate on price, they do not offer discounts, and their cars never go on sale.

Tesla does not advertise or pay for endorsements or product placement.

Their cars are sold in two ways — in stores and by word of mouth.  They have calculated that it costs an average of $2,000 to sell a car through their stores, so they are rewarding those who generate and make word of mouth sales.

If you use my link http://ts.la/don2529 to purchase a Model S you will get $1,000 off the purchase price and I will get a $1,000 credit toward my next purchase.

I have owned my Model S since 2012 (before most people had ever seen one), my second Model S (the “ludicrous” P90D pictured above) is on order, and I pre-ordered the Model X almost 2 years ago.  I’m a believer.

I’m not trying to sell you a car.

I could, however, go on for an hour about how the Tesla is so amazing that I may, truly, never buy another gas-powered vehicle again (this is from a guy with a Ferrari 458 Speciale in his garage).

If you’re going to buy a Tesla between now and October 31, do yourself (and me) a favor and save $1,000 by using my link.  There is simply no other way to save money on a Tesla purchase.

*Please forward this to anyone you know who is considering buying the car so that they may benefit.  You (or they) may comment below or e-mail me if you’ve considered purchasing one but you’re on the fence.  I’ve owned a Model S since the very beginning and can offer insight.

This Isn’t Tech Bubble 2.0

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The NASDAQ is flirting with a 15-year high again and people are screaming “overvalued!”, “tech bubble 2.0!”, and “irrational exuberance!”

The biggest difference in technology between 1999 and 2015 is the internet — vastly greater connectivity, speed, and adoption.

Just 36% were online in the US in 1999 (primarily dial-up) while 87% are online today (nearly all broadband).  Globally, only 4% had an internet connection in 1999 while 42% have it today.

Here’s a personal example of mine regarding internet speed:

In 1999, I was a huge fan of KOZMO.com.  KOZMO regularly delivered dinner to me in my exhausted state after work.  They would send a guy on a bicycle to bring me a meatloaf sandwich and a movie.  It was wonderful.

The company was gone two years later, but the problem wasn’t KOZMO as much as it was the internet.  Even though I worked for the world’s leading silicon manufacturer, I had dial-up internet!  I had to go home, boot up my computer, wait for a dial tone, dial into the internet, wait for the “welcome” screen, wait while the website came up, then wait for the pictures to load…

Remember?

It probably took 10-12 minutes each time I placed an order.  It made much more sense to run to the convenience store where they had 100x the selection.

Imagine what KOZMO could be with today’s internet.  I could submit the same order, from my phone, from anywhere, in about 15 seconds.  THAT is what changes something like KOZMO from a novelty to a game changer.

Companies that are killing it right now, like Uber and AirBnB, would never have survived the non-mobile, dial-up years.

Timing is everything.

It’s a different tech landscape now.  We have solid internet penetration, near-instant speeds, and widespread mobile internet.

Stop comparing 2015 to 1999.  Maybe valuations are climbing for real this time.

The internet that the original dot-coms needed to succeed is here.  Now.

International Business Times Interviews Me

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The International Business Times traveled from New York to Seattle to interview me and my colleagues about the private space industry.  With a focus on the booming Seattle area, the detailed article covers many different businesses, CEOs and CFOs of those businesses, and myself as an “aggressive” investor.  Please follow this link to read the interview:

http://www.ibtimes.com/space-industry-startups-eye-asteroid-mining-tourism-orbit-construction-future-1949512

Many of my future posts will relate to the theme of the second space age.

Asteroid Mining? Really?

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Yes.  Really.

I am an early investor in Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company.  When I tell people this, I often get one of two responses:

  1. “Wow, that’s incredible!”
  2. “Get the fuck out of here!”

Well, one of the largest hurdles was just overcome today.  The US House of Representatives passed the SPACE Act of 2015, creating new commercial property rights for companies that want to mine asteroids for resources.  Specifically:

“Any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained such resources…”

This is a huge motivator for private companies to invest, innovate, and take risks in this new world out there.

At this point, I anticipate one of three responses:

  1. “Hooray, a win for private enterprise!”
  2. “Why is the government wasting time on crazy things like space when they can’t even fix our roads?”
  3. “Corporations shouldn’t be allowed to own the moon!”

To #1, I reply “amen.”

To #2, a gripe that I’ve heard several times already, I can only say that the government’s inability to fix our roads has nothing to do with space.  Congress reviewed this law, passed it, and can now stand aside.  The roads are a whole different issue.

To #3, I say before griping, read the quote in the Act carefully.  Resources obtained.  That means no one is pointing wildly to the sky calling dibs on all of the near-earth asteroids or laying claim to the moon.  One must hitch a ride on a launch vehicle, navigate somewhere interesting, land on it and mine it, then they own what they mine.

NASA estimates there are 1.1 to 1.9 million asteroids larger than 1 kilometer in diameter, and millions of smaller ones.

Relax.  Plenty for everyone.

My next blog will go into other hurdles (and solutions) for mining in space.  Connect with me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my blog here.

Elon Just Changed The World. Again.

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Elon held a live media event in Hawthorne, CA this evening to announce a major new product — the Tesla Powerwall. It is a surprisingly compact, wall-mounted battery that can go inside or outside your home.

Alone, it takes the place of an automatic backup generator, ensuring you have uninterrupted power during an outage. The real beauty, though, is its integration with solar. With solar panels on your roof, you can effectively run on live solar power during the day and battery-stored solar power all night.  Take that, old school fossil fuel monopolies.

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Since I study Tesla, I knew that an announcement regarding batteries for the home was coming. However, every analyst I read expected the home battery to be a gigantic, unsightly thing that sat in your yard and cost over $10,000. Instead, Elon showed us a gorgeous, svelte, silent battery that can be reserved today for $3,500 at this Tesla Energy link.

This is an incredible product, but did it change the world? Maybe not. But this did:
Commercial grade Tesla Power Packs with open patents! Elon explained that the world requires 90,000gWh of energy and that Tesla Power Packs could effectively provide that. It would take 2 billion of them, but he’s used to doing things in billions. It’s not unachievable, and it is the best way forward, he said. Production this year will occur in their Fremont factory, and next year in the Gigafactory in Nevada. With open patents, Elon is showing that he values humankind’s progress more than profit.

He founded PayPal, the first serious online bank, and sold it for over $1 billion.

His car company makes the safest, quickest sedan in the world.

His space company makes the most accomplished privately funded rockets.

His solar company is the largest installer and most efficient producer in the United States.

Yet, tonight, Elon changed the world.  Again.

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