There is no shortage of sensationalized media coverage when it comes to Tesla and its intrepid leader, Elon Musk. In recent news, Tesla has delivered yet another record quarter, continuing its meteoric rise as the fastest growing complex manufacturer in history. I also think I heard something about Elon buying Twitter or whatever; but I don’t think that’s getting much media coverage or causing a stir … ahem. … As I reflect on what a wild ride this Tesla journey has been (in so many ways), I’m still processing my latest personal galavant in Teslaland — what I saw and experienced at the Cyber Rodeo.
The “Cyber Rodeo” was the huge party celebrating the opening of Tesla’s giant new Gigafactory/HQ in Austin, Texas. On April 6th, 2022, the day before the event, I had still not received an invitation. There was a bit of melancholy in the pit of my chest. I had wanted so much to attend, but it was so late in the game that I had given up any hope of going. It was a bit like what young Charlie Bucket must have felt, not yet receiving the coveted golden ticket to tour Willy Wonka’s fantastical Chocolate Factory.
Then, on the day before the event, when all hope of going was lost, my Golden Ticket came in the form of a +1 guest invite from my dear buddy and fellow Tesla alumni legend, Kevin Melnuk.
WRITER’S NOTE: Upon writing this article and telling people that I was making it a sort of Willy Wonka themed meme journal, a friend of mine brought it to my attention that since I was the “+1,” I wouldn’t actually be Charlie in this analogy, but rather Charlie’s Grandpa Joe, whom he asked to go with him. Good point. So, Kevin is Charlie and I’m Grandpa Joe.
Last-minute flight and hotel room booked. Let’s go!!
What do you do when you can’t decide which pair of kitschy Tesla themed socks to wear to the biggest Tesla party yet? Answer: wear both! Also, note the lovely view we had of downtown Austin from our room at the Fairmont Hotel.
Me and Kevin in an Uber on our way to the Cyber Rodeo. There were no two happier Tesla fanboys in the world than us in that moment.
“🎶 Come with me and you’ll be
In a world of pure imagination
Take a look and you’ll see
Into your imagination 🎶”
We arrived at the back entrance of the Gigafactory at approximately 4:00 pm, which was the slated time for the event to begin. Elon wasn’t scheduled to take the stage and give his keynote speech until 9:00 pm that night. Before arriving at the event, Kevin and I both wondered what we were going to do to pass the time for the five hours between when we got there and when Elon gave his keynote. It turned out that we would need every minute of those five hours to take in everything that the Cyber Rodeo had to offer.
I would’ve had to take hundreds, if not thousands, of photos/videos to capture all there was to see (and hear) at the Cyber Rodeo. Luckily, Tesla put together this cool video montage of the event (above). Check it out!
“🎶 We’ll begin with a spin
Traveling in the world of my creation
What we’ll see will defy
The scale of the event was enormous. The Texas Gigafactory is the size of three Pentagons(!!!). Yes, Giga Texas is three times bigger than what was once the biggest building in America. Not to mention the vast acreage that Tesla owns that surrounds the factory. It’s a declaration that everything is indeed bigger in Texas. Tesla’s event planning team managed to incorporate expansive arteries within the factory (and the grounds in front of it) to both educate and entertain their guests. It wasn’t just like a quaint little county fair. It was like a county fair, Burning Man, the Henry Ford Museum, a modern art museum, and EPCOT combined.
“🎶 If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world?
There’s nothing to it 🎶”
What really struck me was how thought out everything was. So many thoughtful details. Multiple DJ stages, synchronized choreographed factory robots, informative displays, and gratuitous Doge references were sprinkled throughout. Having the production robots in a constant demo mode (and yes, some were actually set to “dance” to the electronic trance music being pumped throughout the factory) was an epic mechanical ballet; making the whole building feel like the innards of one large robotic organism. It was like “It’s a Small World” at Disney World, but with huge industrial robots. Very surreal. Very cool.
Here is one of the few Doge easter eggs seen during the walking tour of Giga Texas. I guess the Doge Dog cameos would be the Oompa Loompas in this Willy Wonka metaphor. Both are adorable, pop up randomly to offer their own cautionary tales, and make for great memes.
Kevin was the second person I hired to my team upon being transferred down to Florida to help build Tesla’s sales presence in the state’s Suncoast region in 2013. I groomed him to become an Asset-Lite like me, and he went on to single-handedly start the Orlando sales presence for Tesla. He was one of Tesla’s legendary field operatives whose vital contributions helped make Tesla what it is today. He is a close confidant and dear friend. We are now both “retired” Tesla alumni. It meant so much to me to be the Grandpa Joe to Kevin’s Charlie Bucket for this amazing event.
We spent the first three hours at the Cyber Rodeo frolicking through the self-guided tour of the factory, sampling from the various (delicious) Texas-style barbecue food trucks (that would make Violet Beauregarde drool), playing the myriad of fun classic carnival games, going to the petting zoo, cheering on the various performance artists, and taking in the many art installations. Three hours later and we still hadn’t seen/done everything! At around 7:00 pm, we made our way up to the 2nd floor. While up there, we happened to be talking to YouTuber Ryan Shaw and he asked us if we had seen the “Cyber Space” yet, and we were like, “Wait … there’s more??”
The 1st floor of the factory tour displayed Tesla’s present (namely the production of the Texas-built Model Y and the 4680 cells). The 2nd floor “Cyber Space” area presented Tesla’s future — Cybertruck, Semi, Roadster, and Tesla Bot. It was also the location of the main stage where Elon would give his remarks.
“We are the music makers, and we are dreamers of dreams.”
Then the moment finally came for Elon Musk, Tesla’s very own Willy Wonka, to address the Cyber Rodeo revelers. A spectacular choreographed drone pre-show unfolded in the night sky right before our eyes out the towering glass windows of the 2nd floor before Elon took to the stage. The crowd went wild. It was awesome.
You can check it out here:
Kevin and I had a great spot for watching Elon’s keynote — front row stage left corner. We were right by the vehicle ramp that went up the side of the stage. If you look closely on the livestream during the moment when Franz is driving the Cybertruck up onto the stage, you can catch a glimpse of me (well, half of me anyway) in frame for a split second.
Kevin was convinced that Elon was going to drop some juicy new details. Top of the wish list was an update on when Tesla vehicle variants with 500+ miles of range would come to market, which has been referenced a number of times in the past. A little part of me was hoping he would announce the resurrection of the 520 mile range “Plaid+” that was once pre-orderable (I had one on order) before Tesla decided to not bring it into production (yet?). We also wanted to hear more specifics about 4680 cell integration into existing vehicle variants and how that integration would enhance the specs of each given variant (i.e., range, power, charging speed, etc.). I myself had very tempered expectations of Elon’s presentation, and it turns out my expectations were correct. Elon primarily used his time onstage to reflect on how far Tesla has come and hint on how far Tesla will go from here. There wasn’t really any new information that someone who really follows the company didn’t already know.
I thought we might get a “one more thing” moment when Franz drove the Cybertruck up on stage at the end, perhaps to divulge more details and specs of the upcoming truck, but alas, no. And that’s okay. The time will come for product unveils/updates, and according to Elon, that time is 2023. Although, I think there will still be some exciting news coming from Tesla this year too. Stay tuned…
The Cyber Rodeo was a cocktail of revelry, confirmation, and revelation. The underlying impression I was left with from the event was that Tesla has entered a massive new chapter in growth and scale. I worked at Tesla from 2012 to 2019. When I started, there were about 3,000 employees globally; when I left seven years later, there were about 70,000 employees. There are now over 100,000. I’ve seen Tesla’s multiple stages of hypergrowth firsthand, but even to me, a seasoned Tesla insider, the step change in hypergrowth that Giga Austin (and the underlying philosophy behind it) represents is staggering to consider. What an amazing time we live in.
In the end, like the Wankavator soared over the quaint English village, Kevin and I soared in Southwest Airlines high over Austin on our way back to Florida. Out my window was Giga Texas, so big that even at such an altitude it barely fit within the frame of the window.
Step into the Wonkavator, Charlie. We’re going to the moon. And it’s going to be one doozy of a ride.
OBLIGATORY STOCK DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER THAT CLEANTECHNICA MAKES ME DO (BUT I ALSO SECRETLY ENJOY BRAGGING ABOUT ANYWAY):
During my employment at Tesla from 2012 to 2019 I was granted and optioned thousands of shares of $TSLA stock at ~$5/share (post 2020 split). I am LONG $TSLA with a multimillion-dollar stake in the company, and do not intend to sell any part of my stake for several years. Any content I create is not intended to be investment advice. Always do your own research before investing.
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