Is Tesla one company, or a collection of innovative startups?

Tesla is not a game-changing automotive company, according to Elon Musk, it’s a series of game-changing startups.

On the recent Q3 earnings call from the electric car maker, Musk said, “There’s probably in excess of a dozen startups effectively in Tesla.” The Tesla CEO pointed to the fact that every product line and new factory is essentially a startup in his eyes. Whether it’s the cars for which the company is so well known or the architecture of the computer chip and Supercharger network, they’re separate entities for Musk.

“We’ve maybe been a bit slow with some of the startups, but I don’t think we’ve had any of them fail,” Musk said.

When you think about it, it’s not that far-fetched. Telsa is working on a lower cost auto-insurance product that, while related to cars, is more of a complimentary service that could stand on its own. Musk has also said that designs built could theoretically extend to HVAC for homes while they work on HVAC improvements for their cars.

“I think there’s potential for an integrated home system that kind of does power generation storage, heating, cooling, air filtration, water purification in a really tight package.” Musk said.

For Musk, these aren’t new views either. Musk has said many times that while Tesla’s automotive branch is currently the biggest revenue generator, he expects the company’s energy business to gradually overtake that division in terms of profits. He has also maintained that seeing Tesla in this way has helped the company to rapidly carry out updates to various products.

This will all sound familiar if you’ve ever worked on a large-scale agile project. In those types of projects, work is often done in siloed teams where each team delivers pieces of their overall goal incrementally. This enables work to be performed concurrently and released immediately in various regions, often allowing customers access to the benefits of work done before the overall project is completed.

It is debatable whether or not Tesla is a collection of startups or a single entity with several silos, but its performance is not. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Tesla’s shares have risen a whopping 420 percent, making it a strong winner in a volatile stock market. Based on Musk’s comments, one would presume that Tesla may eventually spin off some of its divisions into separate businesses if revenue continues to increase.

However, as of right now, Musk is not entertaining the idea. “That just sounds like added complexity.”

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