Insights from X, the Moonshot factory

Eugenie Rives shares her experience on making big dreams big reality

In 2010, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin opened a new division of Google Alphabet to work on moonshots: sci-fi type, ambitious technologies that could make the world a radically better place.

A moonshot is defined by X as the intersection of a big problem, a radical solution, and breakthrough technology:

"The Moonshot Factory was an experimental project in itself. 10 years later, X has incubated hundreds of different "moonshot projects", many of which have gone on to become independent businesses."

Eugenie Rives, General Manager at X, The Moonshot factory (overseeing all aspects of the product development, business and engineering efforts) shared with attendees of Hello Tomorrow 2020 virtual conference her insights on the key advantages and takeaways in the process of launching radical solution-oriented projects:

Radical improvement mentality

"If some ask you to improve something by 10%, you will think about tweaking the product. If you have to make it 10 X better, you will have to start over."

"You will have to reinvent the existing tools and assumptions, and this is very liberating. There is a huge advantage to starting over. It frees your mind to be fully creative.

However, it is easy to think big when the project is at an early research phase, when the team is small. It is hard to keep the audacity when the team grows, when the reality of the world hits us with partnerships, more voices to take into account, more investors. This is where being relentless in your vision and resisting compromise is essential."

Learning from failures

"The idea of failure as a positive part of success has become misunderstood. As humans, we hate failing. What we love is learning. When you're working on totally new projects, you cannot make a list of everything that needs to be done, you just have get started and not be embarrassed. But let's not fool ourselves, failing can be quite traumatizing.

"In our company, we hold a Dia de los Muertos to grieve those projects that didn't work out. Once you grieve, it is easier to see everything you learnt from that failure."

You need to be willing to walk away when the product is not working out, even if you have a lot of passion for your product.

Addressing first the toughest part of the problem

In the long run, you need the courage to deal with the hardest issues first.

"Imagine you are trying to teach a monkey to recite Baudelaire while standing on a pedestal. It could be tempting to work on the easy part (of it standing on a pedestal), but it doesn't make sense to solve the easy problem is later your project will fail. You need to start with working on teaching poetry to the monkey, the real challenge in the project."

"You might think that because we are part of Alphabet, we throw money at problems. Not at all. We are actually very scrappy. We don't spend a lot of time looking for the product to be polished, we look first at if the product does the job."

Conferences attendees can view the re-run on the Hello Tomorrow virtual conference platform.

Source: Hello Tomorrow 2020 virtual conference