Steve Fambro has started several companies, including relaunching his car startup for a second time.
During our interview on the DealMakers Podcast, Fambro shared some of his adventures traveling the world, setting up a diverse set of companies, and even sitting on the other side of the table as an investor. Plus, how he started one company twice, and his Tesla beating vehicle venture that might have you searching for the pre-order button fast.
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The Unconventional Path To Entrepreneurship
If you thought all of today’s top entrepreneurs came from Ivy League universities, were hardcore coders by 10 years old, and grew up in the Bay Area, then Steve Fambro may bring a refreshing new story of another path into entrepreneurship.
Fambro was born in the Southern state of Georgia. He spent most of his time as a child riding his bike and playing outdoors until the sun went down.
While he had occasional gigs mowing the neighbor’s grass, and at a tire warehouse, he calls his first real job starting work at McDonald’s at 16 years old. It was here he began learning about scale. He says “you don’t know how to make anything until you’ve made thousands or tens of thousands of something.” To produce and sell at this scale you also have to learn to plan and ensure you have the resources in plan and system that can flow.
He wasn’t a big fan of school, but he was passionate about cars and wanted to become an auto mechanic.
Still, the army showed up. With the GI bill he could return to college later on, but see the world and learn more about mechanics and electronics in the meantime, while getting to see the world. The army put him through one of their most lengthy and rigorous training programs, Calibration school.
However, he almost instantly found the equipment he was trained to repair being replaced by small circuit cards. Those skills were obsolete almost before he had a chance to use them.
It was this moment that was the big wake-up call that if he wanted a future, he needed to focus on being on the design side creating what’s next instead of the operator or user side.
He acted on that when he got back by getting back into school and Studying Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Utah.
This parlayed into working at a biotech company in California where was able to apply his toolbox of skills and work on some pretty interesting technology.
“Honey I Quit My Job!”
Pretty soon Steve says he was ready for a challenge. He had been building an idea for a high-range electric vehicle in his garage and decided it was time to do it full-time for himself. So, he went home one day and announced to his pregnant wife that he wanted to start a car company.
He did. He quit his job and sold his company stock to get his new venture started with six months of runway. He wrote the business plan and within 30 days got funded with outside money.
Then Fambro got his first taste of the real Machiavellian underworld that we live and do business in today. Their board thought they should bring in a higher-level automotive team from Detroit that could give them the credibility to get a big government loan.
Bringing in those new executives didn’t work out. Steve’s co-founder went on to launch a battery company that recently went public. Steve found another venture to pursue.
As with most companies that end up with the founders not being involved the car company went into liquidation.
The One Thing We Can All Unite Around
After a stint in investing from the other side of the table, the only thing that Steve realized he may love almost as much as his family and cars is food.
He says no matter where you go in the world from Armenia to Hong Kong, and no matter what people’s politics, finances, or job, food is the one thing everyone can get together around.
He told our audience he has always enjoyed cooking, and growing was only the next logical step. But the bugs would eat up the kale in the garden, and he refused to use pesticides that his daughter might be affected by. That led him into hydroponics, which he again started in his garage.
Again, he wrote a business plan and got Famgro funded with around $9M. It turned out this venture was much better fitted for overseas markets where it was more affordable. That turned into taking it to the Middle East, and Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Is This The Tesla Killing Car Of The Future?
Returning back to California Steve reconnected with his former cofounder over some BBQ. They both had some time on their hands and began thinking about their car ideas again.
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Running the numbers again they realized an electric car venture made even more sense given how the economics had matured.
They reformed Aptera, got back some of their previous IP, brought back team members who had gone to SpaceX and other EV companies, and came up with a concept that would make their vehicles even cheaper, and dramatically extend the driving range. Between the aerodynamics and solar charging technology they’ve deployed, they may just have a serious threat to Tesla.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Stve was able to master from bringing on team members as well as investors. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Aptera’s new vehicle designs
- Aptera’s new crowdfunding campaign
- The one book Steve says you must read
- The role of emotional intelligence in business and negotiating