Exclusive: Lei Jun meets Elon Musk, 2013 full blog

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Hey, Jaan here.

You’re going to love what I’ve found in one of my journeys through the EV archives.

Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi, is in this picture with Elon Musk in 2013.

Xiaomi's first EV, the SU7 just unveiled, will hit the streets in 2024.

I’ve recovered the full original blog post from Xiaomi’s official site from 2013, speaking of Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi, meeting with Elon Musk. The post was deleted long ago… but I have my ways. 

Note that the original post was of course in Chinese, so there might be a few translation errors. If you prefer the Chinese version, I uploaded it here.

After reading this, check out our deep dive on the SU7 here.

Shall we?

Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi:

“Last month, I went to the United States again for the GMIC conference held in Silicon Valley. GMIC is the Global Mobile Internet Conference. In recent years, mobile Internet has been a hot spot in the global Internet industry.

But when you go to Silicon Valley, you will find that the most popular Silicon Valley star at the moment is not in this circle. He is an electric car maker. His name is Elon Musk, and he is doing extremely cool things.

Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi

I went to the United States twice this year, once in July and the second time in October. I went to meet Elon Musk both times. Unlike other Silicon Valley tycoons who meet to talk about business topics, I went to meet Elon Musk purely out of interest: this guy is so amazing that it’s almost “counterintuitive”.

I'm very interested in Musk's Tesla car, because compared to his other plans, it's something we ordinary people can imagine. The automobile industry is an extremely traditional industry, and the industry has giant companies that are extremely large. How is it that a new company can emerge from this industry?

When Xiaomi was valued at US$4 billion last year, Tesla had a market value of US$3 billion. Today, Tesla's market value exceeds $20 billion. This year, Tesla’s stock price has soared from more than 30 US dollars per share to a maximum of 190 US dollars per share, which is incredible.

I went to visit Elon Musk with great curiosity and took a test drive of Tesla, which is an electric car. Electric vehicles are not new for a long time, and many car companies are developing electric vehicles.

But in my opinion, the most important thing about Tesla is that it uses an intelligent system and the entire vehicle is very intelligent. It is all smart devices inside, using a touch screen equivalent to the size of two large iPads to control the car, including opening the sunroof, air conditioning, multimedia system, navigation, and so on.

All driving path data is fed back to the cloud in real time. The server can help you operate and maintain your car, prompt problems, monitor the entire process in real time, and control it intelligently. Especially with that big screen stacked there, it feels very technological when you turn on navigation. Nowadays, every high-end car may have a so-called smart system, but most of it can only control a sound system and is not of great use.

From the perspective of intelligence, the design thinking and functional service implementation level of Tesla compared with other cars is the difference between mobile Internet applications and stand-alone local computing.

I saw a lot of comments on the Internet saying: "Tesla is nothing. Isn't it just an electric car? Toyota's gasoline-electric hybrid is about to be released in its fourth generation. I can only say that Toyota is not as good at marketing as Musk." In fact, Yes, if you have never seen or driven a Tesla car, it is indeed difficult for you to have an intuitive imagination about how cool this fully intelligent car is.

Elon Musk is different from many American Silicon Valley heroes. He is a good student. He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in economics and physics. Elon Musk is the same as many American Silicon Valley heroes. When he was studying for a Ph.D., he decided to drop out of school.

Well, you see, the United States is very strange. It seems that for many very powerful projects, a college student must finish half of the study and then drop out of school to work on it, in order to be able to do something earth-shattering. Bill Gates did it in the 1970s, Jerry Yang did it in the 1990s, and Zuckerberg did it in the 2000s. Anyway, Elon Musk also dropped out of school. Then, he planned three major things to do: the Internet, clean energy, and space.

Everyone knows what happened next. He co-founded Paypal and then sold it. After making himself a rich man, he founded SpaceX and Tesla Motors almost at the same time. What’s even cooler is that these two companies, which were supposed to exist in imagination, are operating quite successfully to this day.

Out of curiosity about Musk's various miraculous success experiences, I went to meet him and asked him three questions:

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The first question: What should you do if everyone is worried that your car crashes? [looks like it’s meant here in the context of a computer system crashing]

Yes, there is no modern intelligent system that will not crash, it’s just a matter of chance.

Musk said: it doesn't matter if it crashes, just restart it.

He said that the car's direction control system still uses a traditional electrical control system, which is quite reliable. The intelligent system controls more of the entire vehicle's information system, such as maps, navigation, multimedia, door and window control, etc. The driving control itself is not yet handed over to computer control.

The second question is that he has repeatedly thought about his plan to migrate to Mars. I asked him what is the biggest difficulty in migrating to Mars.

Musk said it’s energy recycling. If this energy cannot be recycled, you will not be able to survive on Mars.

The third question is, brother, you have worked on rockets, cars, and solar cities. There is also a "Hyperloop" that sounds very unreliable at first glance. It is said to be from San Francisco to Los Angeles. He can make it super high-speed. The train is made into a pipeline, and the train runs in the pipeline like a capsule, with a speed of up to 1,287 kilometers per hour, which is four times the speed of the current high-speed rail. He announced the entire plan, and he made it open source.

Of course, Musk is not a visionary, and the plan he proposed must have some feasibility. Everyone has already made rockets and made them, right?

So I said, now that you have done this earth-shattering thing, what are you going to do for the next earth-shattering thing?

He said: "I want to focus on doing these three things well."

This concentration... well, it's amazing.

I asked him, after he has done these three things with concentration, what else does he want to do?

Musk said that if he has completed these three things in ten years and still has the energy, he may want to make a plane. He felt airplanes needed to change too.

There is no doubt that Musk is the hottest Silicon Valley hero today. The industry has recognized him as the most popular Silicon Valley hero today.

Not only has Tesla’s valuation improved rapidly, but it has also defeated several giants in the luxury car market, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi. In the North American market, about 4,750 buyers chose Tesla's Model S in the first quarter of this year. During the same period, only 3,077 customers chose the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, 2,338 customers chose the BMW 7 Series, and only 2,338 customers chose the Audi A8.

How can Tesla achieve amazing results in the automotive industry filled with giants? The electric vehicle companies that the U.S. government had previously strongly supported have almost ended their tragic fate. Why did pioneers such as Fisker fall, but only Tesla survived and developed rapidly, and is also known as the Apple of the automotive industry?

As a newcomer in a mature industry, he has no way to make a quality product at the lowest price, nor does he have the capital to make the world's most expensive car to conquer customers. So Musk chose a direction for Tesla: sports cars.

First of all, Tesla’s fastest acceleration from zero to 100 kilometers per hour is only 3.7 seconds. This in itself is the technical advantage of pure electric vehicles. Compared with some predecessors of electric vehicles, Elon Musk is unique in this area. Keen market strategy. For example, an ordinary car in the United States sells for 20,000 US dollars, and 25,000 US dollars is very good.

Most people drive this car. But the battery will cost an additional 20,000 to 30,000 US dollars, and the entire car will cost 40,000 to 50,000 US dollars. Forty to 50,000 US dollars are BMW and Mercedes-Benz level. Who will buy your Tesla? Whether it is new energy or full intelligence, they are all gimmicks before they become truly popular. Consumers can pay some money for gimmicks, but this is limited. The cheapest Tesla costs RMB 60,000 to RMB 70,000, and the better ones cost hundreds of thousands. So he must anchor those sports cars worth hundreds of thousands. Why couldn't other companies sell electric vehicles in the past? Because electric cars are expensive. Everyone compares electric vehicles with those cars that cost 20,000 to 30,000 yuan. No matter how you compare, you can’t compare. The cost of photovoltaic cells is more than 20,000 yuan. Therefore, Musk asked Tesla to directly target the sports car market. This was his first innovation.

Secondly, he has integrated the sense of participation on the Internet and word-of-mouth marketing. It makes you feel that having a Tesla is fashionable and cool. Moreover, Tesla also makes reservations on the Internet, sells directly online, queues up, and removes all intermediate channels. It does not rely on advertising, but relies on the good experience of the earliest users for word-of-mouth marketing. Anyway, its target customers are relatively concentrated in the circle, and this kind of technology-oriented Nouveau riche who are enthusiastic about experimenting always communicate in their own circles. When one person buys a Tesla, it becomes a fashionable topic in the circle; when many people buy a Tesla, it becomes a standard feature in the circle. So in that circle, there will only be two types of cars left in the future: one is Tesla and the other is others. And when this seed becomes popular among the core user circles, it can generate new radiation potential, influencing and attracting more users.

Some people also criticize Tesla, saying that its appearance is not attractive enough, or that the battery technology it uses, uses thousands of 18650 batteries connected in parallel, which is not advanced and does not represent the advanced direction of technology.

Well, the appearance of Tesla may still not be as good as Ferrari. There is still a big gap between it and Ferrari and Porsche. Its industrial shape may not be the coolest, but its fully intelligent control, feel, user experience, and every detail are all very good. As a sports car, its main parameters are very high and it accelerates very quickly. The battery material technology used by Tesla is indeed not that "dream-advanced", but the power management technology of massive series-parallel batteries is indeed a remarkable capability.

The real key is that what users cannot directly perceive is not the technology, but the specific driving and intelligent network experience. Elon Musk has helped Tesla gain a foothold in the automobile market through smarter market positioning, and then through a completely Internet-based smart experience, Tesla users can feel the unique connotation of Tesla. The intelligent system of Tesla cars has powerful software systems and Internet services.

Elon Musk may not be able to design a classic car model like Henrik Fisker, but he can help a company develop with his excellent product thinking and marketing and management experience. Tesla's success relies on accurate positioning, advanced product thinking, and strong system engineering capabilities that use today's cutting-edge mature technologies to realize advanced product ideas in a robust, reliable, and economical way.

His broad perspective on aerospace technology, IT, the Internet, new energy and automotive fields has given him strong integration capabilities to turn technology into reality.

In fact, he also combines software and hardware with the Internet, a triathlon.

Compared with Elon Musk, we seem to be doing things that others can do, but he is doing things that others can’t even imagine.

Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi

Therefore, Elon Musk has become a new generation of Silicon Valley superstar.”

That’s it for the blog post.

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This is it for the blog post — now, head back to the newsletter #126 I published this in. We’ll also go over everything we learned about the XIaomi’s new EV, the SU7, and lots more.

— Jaan

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