Why Silicon Valley Is All Wrong About the Cybertruck

Elon Musk’s future Tesla is a truck like the iPhone is a phone

Chris Messina
Published in
9 min readNov 27, 2019


Tesla Cybertruck
Credit: Tesla

Silicon Valley is all wrong about the Cybertruck, but not like it was wrong about Apple’s AirPods or Amazon’s Echo Show.

The Cybertruck reimagines what a truck is, constitutionally. It’s such a savage departure from our expectations that define a “truck” that we need a new word. It’s in a class of its own.

The Cybertruck may be hired for similar jobs as the Ford F-150 (as Musk asserted), but it consequates much more.

Personally, I see parallels to Steve Jobs’ 2007 launch of the iPhone — a generation-defining moment that birthed a new category: “an iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator.” It may have been unknown that day, but it didn’t take long to feel the enormity of the iPhone’s importance as a modifier of human experience. I have a similar sense about the Cybertruck, at least in terms of the symbolism it offers and what its design portends.

Tesla’s Cybertruck is a truck like the iPhone is a phone. Though the word “phone” is embedded in the name iPhone, it primarily serves as an homage to the category it redefined; as an anchor to the familiar, rather than as a predictor of its potential.

Similarly, Cybertruck necessarily encodes the word “truck” in its name to throw people off. By aligning with today’s popular conception of “truckness” (big, heavy towing capacity, acceleration, roominess), Tesla can buy time to fulfill its grander ambitions.

In the same way the “i” in iPhone concealed the ultimate arc of the device, the “cyber” in Cybertruck holds the secret for what comes next and points to why Silicon Valley (with the exception of Marques Brownlee) has got it all wrong.


A detour through the Mojave Desert

The last time my words failed me, I was in Pittsburgh in the early 2000s. Before I could even see it, I heard the low rumble of a military battlecraft masquerading as an SUV swerving down a city street.

At its consumer debut, the Hummer was controversial and brash, having exited the theater of war with modest modifications to make it more…



Chris Messina

Inventor of the hashtag. Product therapist. Investor. Previously: Google, Republic, Uber, On Deck, YC W’18.