This is the first in what I hope will become a regular series of posts on new kinds of companies the NewCo team has discovered in our travels to NewCo cities around the world. First up is Tesloop, which I noticed while perusing the schedule for NewCo LA last month. I was already planning on seeing Hyperloop Technologies, another Elon Musk-inspired transportation company, but until NewCo LA’s lineup came out, I had no idea Tesloop even existed.
Perhaps the reason lay – quite literally – in the company’s youth. Tesloop was the brainchild of a 15-year old high schooler named Haydn Sonnad, who came up with the idea while contemplating his summer job options earlier this year. He wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of working at a fast food joint, and was fascinated by his father’s new Tesla. Inspired by Musk’s vision of autonomous driving (and the economic value of Tesla’s free supercharging network), Sonnad came up with the idea of running Tesla cars between LA and Vegas – a Tesloop, if you will. It’s a clever hack on Tesla’s core platform: The fuel is free, the cars are sexy and roomy, and when Sonnad (and his dad) ran the numbers, the cost to consumers was compelling – $85 for a one way ride.
As you might imagine, the media loved the story. Tesloop’s been written up in Vice and featured in the local news. Tesloop has raised a little money (using another LA NewCo, CrowdFunder), and is busy figuring out how to expand to other high-traffic destinations such as San Diego and San Francisco.
What I love about this NewCo is how it leverages Tesla as a platform. If you take fuel costs out of the equation, all of a sudden it becomes economically viable to compete with traditional transportation options of buses, trains, and even airplanes. Plus, the experience itself is arguably far better: you’re riding in a cool new “car of the future,” you have WiFi and your own music the entire way, and you don’t have the hassle of airport security to deal with.
And of course, in a world of driverless cars, upon which Musk (among many others) are certainly betting, even the fixed costs of paying a driver will fade, adding more inventory (the driver’s seat!), lower prices, and higher margins to the business. Such visions have led some enthusiasts to label Tesloop the “railroad of the future.”
Time will tell if Sonnad’s company will scale (and if the novelty of a teenage founder/CEO will be embraced by big name capitalists), but the idea is solid. I missed this year’s Tesloop session, which was held in Sonnad’s family home in Marina Del Ray (the pictures are from my colleague Tim Nordvedt, who did attend). But I’ll be sure to stop by next year. By then, perhaps Sonnad will have gotten his driver’s license, Tesloop will have raised a Series A, and the business might even have a proper office. Then again, it’d be very NewCo to list home cooking (and a swimming pool) as a workplace perk.