Author's note: I have no affiliation with any of the companies or individuals mentioned in this article.
Entrepreneur Brad Hunstable, is accustomed to building successful companies in order to solve problems. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Hunstable was serving overseas when he created the basis for Ustream, his pioneering video streaming service. After building the company to tens of millions of users and $40 million in revenue, Hunstable guided Ustream through a sale to IBM for $150 million. Then, Hunstable moved on to his next project, a family business with the potential to change the global automotive and mobility industry.
Partnering with his engineer dad, Fred Hunstable, the duo discovered a new electric motor technology while designing a device that would bring much-needed power and water to developing countries. Over the span of seven years the Hunstable Electric Turbine (HET), an all-new class of electric motor was born. According to the Hunstables, the HET is more powerful, more efficient, and less costly than any other electric motor technology on the market, including Tesla's.
I had a few questions about Brad Hunstable's fascinating entrepreneurial journey. Here's what he had to say.
You just received seed-round funding of $4.5 million and licensed your technology to Sweden-based Abtery Advanced Drive Systems. How did you decide that Linear Labs was a business that could be marketable?
Nearly fifty percent of the world's electricity passes through an electric motor and the need for energy is growing. Couple that with the fact that electric motor designs haven't drastically changed in 100 years, and it seemed apparent there was room to disrupt and innovate. We knew if we produced a more efficient motor, with more torque and better designs, there would be positive ramifications globally that would have an impact on the world, and we'd be able to market the business as an advocate for change with a superior product.
What did you learn from building Ustream that you're able to apply to Linear Labs?
Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle choice. You operate with limited information, fewer resources, and are always trying to convince your customers, investors, and even potential employees to believe in your vision. You hear the word "no" many times before you hear "yes." One of the most important traits of a strong entrepreneur is to be able to quickly forget the "no's."
While building Ustream I learned that you must develop a core management team built on a foundation of trust. This is the most determinate characteristic of a high-performing team.
I call it TIPS: You build trust (T) by talking to your team regularly face to face, you keep them informed (I), you are predictable (P) as a leader, and most importantly you are sincere (S). Your team will then rally around you and it will be reflective of the spirit of the company.
What are some advantages of working with your father in a family business?
The biggest advantage of working with my father is that he is one of the most inventive people I've ever met. He's unique and an engineer that can invent and build with his hands, coming from a long line of mechanical-thinking heritage. One advantage of working with family is that you (hopefully) have a tremendous amount of trust. Working with family is not always easy and there will be tough conversations. Everyone on the team, be they related or not, must be on the same level of authenticity when it comes to decision making, putting the best interest of the company and mission first, the team second, and your personal interests last.
During your days as CEO of Ustream, you commuted to Silicon Valley from your home in Texas, where you based Linear Labs. Do you recommend that entrepreneurs build their businesses closer to home?
When choosing a location, it really comes down to what puts your company in the best position for success. Can the area support the talent you need? Is there an investor base there? Customers? It was a massive sacrifice to travel from Texas to California during the work week and return on weekends, but it's what needed to be done. With Linear Labs, Dallas is a perfect location. The city has a thriving technology scene now, with startups and established companies like Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter. There's also a highly educated talent pool, making Dallas/Fort Worth an incredible place to build a business.
In addition to electric vehicles, you mention Linear Labs' technology will have use in micro-mobility -- the burgeoning e-Scooter industry everyone is talking about. What are some tips for staying ahead of trends and knowing what the next big industry-vertical might be?
To stay ahead, you must network and speak to smart, connected people in industry. You need to have constant conversations with investors, customers, advisors, and your team. It is critical to have conversations with people outside of your business and your sector. If you don't, the trends will seem to appear out of nowhere when, in fact, they were germinating all along.