Joe Justice knew from a young age that he wanted to get involved in technology and change the world (he even found a childhood diary entry to prove it!). Now he and his team at Wikispeed are taking on some of the biggest challenges in the automotive industry and playing by their own rules, using open source and lean methodologies to develop a 100 mile-per-gallon car. What ideas get Joe fired up about business and technology? And what was it about a book on animal tracking that taught him so much about decision-making? Find out in the interview below.

When his brother started programming on their family’s computer, Joe joined in and eventually began to develop more and more ideas about how he could apply his skills to make a big difference. He even found a recent diary entry that included the passage: “When I grow up I want to be an inventor. I want to find the secret to all knowledge and share it with the world.” (4:11). Pretty ambitious!

Joe believes in keeping things simple when it comes to business. The most complex business theories don’t hold weigh here; instead Joe says, “Let’s get as much customer feedback as early as possible and iterate on that..make the tiniest thing that customers will love and will value.” (6:36)

Joe learned a valuable life lesson from his father at a young age about how to achieve greatness. He asked his dad why all car bumpers weren’t the same, and wouldn’t it make more sense for them to be interchangeable? His dad replied, “‘A lot of people have really good ideas, not many people actually do them.’” Joe says, “It stuck with me that I need to make something to actually make a difference in the world; I can’t stop at the idea.” (9:20)

Joe advice for startups is equally pragmatic. “Take it to a ridiculous degree of simplicity,” he says. What does this mean? Don’t buy a bank of servers when you can start out on a laptop, and embrace rapid change while being as frugal as you can.

One of the biggest lessons Joe learned about testing a product came in the middle of a stormy night while preparing for the Automotive XPrize. “I was doing an endurance test – driving [the car] until something broke and find out why it broke.” As sleet poured down, a wiring harness broke and Brian found himself working under a tarp, realizing a little bit of testing could have saved him a rough night. (19:10)