Don’t Stack Moonshots

Richard W. DeVaul
2 min readApr 2, 2021

When doing innovation, don’t stack moonshots. It’s hard enough to get a single-stage rocket off the ground.

SpaceX Jason 3, CC license, SpaceX Photos

Time and again, I’ve worked with brilliant people who have lots of great, innovative ideas. Great ideas that are synergistic, that could work beautifully together. And they want to stack them all in one project, like the stages of a rocket. This is bad.

Like when the pioneers of Google Glass weren’t content to create a radical new consumer electronics product category and reinvent human-machine interaction in the mobile space. They also wanted to reinvent manufacturing and product retail at the same time. Needless to say, this didn’t go so well.

Google Glass, my favorite wearable of the last 10 years. CC license, Mikepanhu

All of the ideas were good, but the risk of doing any one was substantial. The chances of pulling them all off at once? It’s like rolling the dice four times instead of once and taking the worst result. It would have been much better to make each a separate, independent project.

The lesson: pick one really disruptive, transformational thing per project or venture. Concentrate your firepower on de-risking that one thing. Make everything else as bog standard as possible. If the third stage of your rocket blows up, nobody will remember how cool the first two were.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this piece, you might be interested in my “Managing Innovation” essay series which begins with Innovation isn’t what you think it is, and other essays on You can also follow me on twitter @rdevaul and on linkedin as rdevaul

Richard W. DeVaul

Founder, mad scientist, moonshot launcher. Writes on innovation, entrepreneurship, and social/queer issues. ex-CTO of Google X. @rdevaul on twitter