Brad Hunstable is the founder and CEO of Linear Labs. Linear Labs is a smart electric motor company, created an entirely new family of electric motor systems designed for the next generation of mobility (i.e. electric vehicles), HVAC systems and robotics welcoming in a new era of smarter energy utilization. The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center took a moment to catch up with Brad on his journey thus far.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
BH: Being an entrepreneur is without a doubt a lifestyle, and it’s not enough to be halfway in the game. You will miss many shots, but if you keep shooting, you will eventually make a basket.
How did your company come to be?
BH: There was not (and usually isn’t) an “a-ha” moment. Rather, the process of developing our technology was years of painstaking trial and error. Linear Labs began as a simple father-son bonding project. Our vision was to bring clean water and electricity to underdeveloped nations with one device. This led to an important discovery on how to build the world’s most efficient, highest torque motors and generators.
What is the biggest experience or lesson gained on your journey so far?
BH: As Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” It’s not that planning ends you up where you set out to go, it’s more about the momentum you can build from a clear roadmap, and then you can always harness that momentum in another direction.
How is your company changing the landscape?
BH: The world has a bottomless appetite for electricity. We will change industries including EV, HVAC, robotics and wind turbines. Approximately 45% of the world’s electricity passes an electric motor. This is equivalent to almost one out of every two power plants solely dedicated to electric motors. And yet, electric motor designs remain essentially unchanged over the last 100 years. Linear Labs has created an entirely new family of electric motor systems designed for the next generation of mobility (e.g. electric vehicles), HVAC systems, robotics and wind turbines, welcoming in a new era of smarter energy utilization. Our “smart” motors have intelligent software, the world’s first electric transmission, and can morph their physical design shape in real time to adjust for changing conditions. The result is ultra-high efficiency, with more than 2x improvements in torque, further range and significantly lower power-consumption.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
BH: I wish I knew the toll that starting and scaling a company takes on your personal life. You are not the only one who struggles with the challenges. Your spouse, kids, and family all are on this journey with you. Unfortunately, balance is always a struggle.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
BH: I am a strong believer in servant leadership. Servant leadership means you always put the mission first. A company must have an important, powerful mission. This must come first. Second is your team’s well-being. Finally, you, as the leader, must be a distant third.
This is how to create a high performing culture — whether a business team, the Dallas Cowboys or an elite military unit.
While in the Army, I was once told a powerful leadership acronym that I try to use with the servant leadership model: TIPS. (T) Talk to your people, engage them face-to-face. (I) Keep your people informed. Over-communicate and have a bias to transparency. (P) Be predictable. Whatever your leadership style, be consistent. (S) Be Sincere. Your team is smart and can read insincerity and selfishness.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
BH: One of the most rewarding aspects of being a founder is building and leading teams. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for all the company’s successes and failures. I believe trust is one of the most important, core traits of a high-performing team. Trust you will do your job. Trust you will keep your commitments. Trust you will put the vision/mission before your personal interest. Trust you will speak up when you disagree.
Trust is critical to team building.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
BH: My father. I’ve always benefited from his love, kindness and his ability to listen. He may not have always agreed with me, but he was — and is — a tremendous source of inspiration for me.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
BH: Success for me is seeing our motors and generators in applications all around the world, supporting global efforts of cleaner, smarter energy utilization.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
BH: My highest moment was exiting my last company Ustream to IBM in 2016. It was a great win for my team, our investors, and my family.
My lowest was in 2011, having to pivot our company from a consumer video platform to enterprise. It was an immense leadership challenge, but one I learned a great deal from.
What lesson did 2018 have for you? What do you look forward to in 2019?
BH: We significantly grew Linear Labs in 2018 and secured our first seed round investments, which was a lesson in getting the smartest minds in the technology industry to support our goal of creating a new landscape of clean energy. So far, 2019 has already proven to be full of momentum, with announcement of a partnership with Sweden’s Abtery Advanced Drive Systems to license our HET motor. Additional partnership announcements are forthcoming before year’s end, and we will be building our staff to 40 team members by the end of the year.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day?
BH: The most important part of my morning is physical fitness. With long hours, stress, jet lag and the like, my workouts have been key to keeping my sanity intact. The benefits are obvious, but you have to mentally commit to it. I literally schedule it into my calendar like a meeting, forcing myself and rarely missing a workout. I personally believe exercise is a form of meditation.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
BH: I hope when we look back in 50 years, Linear Labs will have been an important part of the path the world took to smarter energy utilization. While petrochemical products are critical to our economy now and can’t be immediately phased out, I don’t believe fossil fuels are an ultimate long-term energy source.