Google X’s ‘Captain of Moonshots’ Astro Teller, shares his top five tips for startups…

Last night, NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation the Hon Victor Dominello welcomed a diverse group of entrepreneurs, academics, journalists, government and Googlers to NSW Parliament House for the launch of Startup Spring Festival, an annual initiative that celebrates startups.

Alan Noble, Google Engineering Director and StartupAUS co-founder and director, introduced Astro, who shared his insights on developing a startup ecosystem in Australia.

Google X has three criteria it uses when deciding on a new project:

1 It has to solve a HUGE world problem, like the fact that four billion people in the world still don’t have access to the internet.

2 It has to propose a radical, science fiction-like solution. “Let’s surround the world with stratospheric balloons and fix this internet problem,” says Astro.

3 The solution has to be based on science and technology. It has to have an evidence-based reason as to why the solution is possible.


Here are Astro’s top five tips for ambitious startups:

10X thinking

Only work on things that are huge jumps forward, where you can achieve growth at a rate of 10 times. The outgoings and setup costs for an idea that can make something 10% better are the same as for idea that can make something 10 times better. Often it’s easier to aim for improvement 10X.


Seek out people that know how to do the things you can’t. With Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, they didn’t set out to develop basic mechanics like making batteries or better braking systems. Instead they partnered with established automotive manufacturers to build a smarter car. Find the four things you’re good at and find partners for the other 96 things.

Get out in the world

Don’t be obsessed with perfection before you launch. Build your product so it’s just good enough – not necessarily perfect – and get it out in the world. Once it’s out there, you’ll find out what doesn’t work super fast. Google, for example, has been testing using drones for packaged goods delivery in the Queensland outback in order to find the faults in the project.

Take feedback

To make your organisation great, you have to crave the truth and you have to earn the feedback. Be open with the regulators. Ask for help: how can we solve this problem? You’ll be surprised how eager people are to collaborate when you lay your cards out.


Failing fast is natural. Create a context to expose problems early. Celebrate failure – will help you move on quickly and develop your best ideas.

During the Q & A session, Astro passionately advocated investment in education at four times the current rate. This, he says, is the safest investment any society can make in future-proofing an economy.

– Karen Taylor-Brown, Publisher, Refraction Media