When I first got my Tesla, I did like most people do when they get a new car, I looked around for accessories. I think all of us want to personalize our cars, especially when we first get it. Those who design and create accessories play an important role in the relationship we have with our cars.
A name that kept popping up is a company with a crazy name for a Tesla accessory company, Abstract Ocean. This was the first company I ordered from, and from the beginning I’ve continued to experience excellent communication and amazing customer service. This company is still a home-based business which supports the mission of Tesla and are a strong part of the Tesla community.
Interview with Pete from Abstract Ocean
[TS] Do you remember when you first heard about Tesla?
[Pete] It was from a guy I worked with who had just bought a Volt. This was in 2011, and he mentioned I should watch Revenge of the Electric Car, and from there I was completely hooked on both Tesla and the EV Revolution; not to mention Elon. I’m a self-confessed gadget freak, and I can’t think of a better gadget than a Tesla! I totally bought into the mission, and even bought some Tesla shares (at $23!). My only regret is just buying 100 of them!
see the trailer for Revenge of the Electric Car here:
[TS] Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
[Pete] The first time we test-drove a Model S. We had to fly to Miami as Texas was (and is) a bit hostile to Tesla, and today I couldn’t even tell you the color of the car. I think anyone’s first 10 minutes in a Tesla is a complete blur, as everything about the car is so different to the norm.
[TS] What were your thoughts then?
[Pete] So many thoughts. Validation that we’d made the right decision, but mostly just sheer excitement. I mean, how many people take a flight to test drive a car?! This was also a big financial commitment for us, so seeing, and feeling, the car in real life was absolute proof that we’d made the right decision. At the same time, it made the wait seem like forever, every day you’re scouring the forums for any grains of news.
[TS] How long did you have to wait before you could get a Tesla?
[Pete] We were about 18 months from reservation to delivery in early 2013. I still vividly remember driving it home for the first time, from the (then) tiny Tesla service center in Dallas. Even then, with less than 5000 on the road (and virtually none in Dallas), I was getting thumbs ups from other drivers. People assume Dallas is all trucks and oil, but there’s a huge amount of Tesla fans.
[TS] What model of Tesla(s) do you have?
[Pete] We started with a Model S 85 and traded-up to a P90D in June 2016. We reserved our LR Model 3 at the launch event and got that in February 2018 – which also seemed like a long wait. The day we got our VIN number I think we celebrated.
[TS] How long did you have your car before you knew you wanted to create Tesla accessories?
[Pete] It was never meant to be more than a hobby, the goal was to make enough in sales to cover the purchase of a set of 21” wheels for my S! Our first product, the FobPocket, was developed in plain sight, as the entire thing is documented on the Tesla Motors Club forum here. That was in May 2013, so a few months after taking delivery. It was obvious that the Model S key was cool, but hopelessly impractical, as you couldn’t get a keyring on it, and it’s easily lost. So, the FobPocket was born. Since then the range has expanded to silicone and leather options, and at last count we have about 60,000 of them in the wild.
[TS] What was the biggest challenge you had going from concept to reality?
[Pete] Just learning the ropes of manufacturing, eCommerce and fulfillment. Our ‘thing’ has always been that we develop products that we want to use, so that means we take it personally, and spend a long time on design. Getting used to the design cycles, which can take months, and even years to get through, is a real learning cycle, especially when something just doesn’t work out – and we’ve had those. It takes us longer from concept to delivery because of our strong desire to get it right. If we can’t use it and install it easily, then it’s not worth the time to ask others to try. That is our main criteria for a product – that it’s reasonably easy for the average owner to handle themselves.
[TS] How long have you been doing this?
[Pete] Since mid-2013. Looking back on things, the first couple of years were easy compared to now, but at the time it sometimes felt overwhelming. I still remember basically packing up the entire business in a shoe-box sized tote when we took a trip to visit family for Thanksgiving in 2013, so we could still ship and keep things ticking. Needless to say, we’d need a few more shoe-boxes now!
[TS] How long before you started designing and introducing new products?
[Pete] The next major product was a screen protector for the Model S, followed by our ultra-bright lights. The lights were a big commitment for us, as the R&D costs were very significant, and again, the number of iterations before we got it right just soaked up so much time. Luckily, we found an amazing supplier in Taiwan with a lot of experience in supplying some of the most prestigious car manufacturers in the world.
[TS] How many products do you currently have available?
[Pete] Our catalog is a little over 100 products now, with all the variations adding up to nearly 700.
[TS] What kind of reaction have you had from the Tesla community?
[Pete] It’s cliched to say we’re only here because of the community, but it’s 100% true. Our first few products were developed entirely in collaboration with other owners on the forums. Many of the products we sell today, if not the majority, are as a direct result of suggestions from the community. Every brand has its own community, and I’ve been part of a couple, but the energy and support from the Tesla community is like no other.
[TS] Any specific stories or experiences you would like to share about what you are doing or about any individual experiences since creating Abstract Ocean?
[Pete] There’s so many, but just the learning experience of developing a business from the ground-up, not knowing much about anything, has been literally life-changing.
[TS] Of course I have to ask, why that name?
[Pete] I need to make up a cooler answer for this. The truth is that back then, we had no idea where things would go; Christal was freelancing for marketing and we were doing this. Frankly, finding any generic domain consisting of actual, real words isn’t as easy as it sounds, so we figured AbstractOcean is suitably ambiguous that if we just end up using it for IT and marketing consulting, then it still works!
[TS] How has doing this changed you, either this product or just being a part of the Tesla community, how do you see this whole experience has changed you?
[Pete] Well, we’re really bloody busy. Netflix and chill is just a dream these days! It’s been a great creative outlet for me personally, and for Christal (AO’s Chief Girl) it’s her full-time job now. While we have thus far resisted getting an actual shop, the business has taken over the entire house and it’s definitely become our pillow talk. And, as you know, the Tesla community is incredibly welcoming and diverse, and we’ve made friends all over the world.
[TS] If you could meet with Elon Musk for lunch, what would you want to talk about?
[Pete] Drive and motivation and how to open up your mind to new ideas and push through limitations. How to jump head first into something with blind faith; I want to take a peek into his brain and understand how it works, but don’t we all?!
[TS] What about you, what inspires you?
[Pete] In this context, the Elon story is completely inspirational. He’s a perfect example of the American Dream; an immigrant and a hugely successful businessman. For most people, running a rocket company would be more than enough, but that’s just a fraction of what he does. There are few that truly have the potential to be world-changing in a positive way, but Elon is, without doubt, one of those people.
[TS] Do you have any advice for any other budding entrepreneurs wanting to do their own thing?
[Pete] What are you waiting for? Just start! Talk to people, find out if your idea has legs and get moving. The clock doesn’t stop and if you wait until you’re ready, someone else will already have done it. You don’t have to set out to change the world, but you just might. Oh, and pick a good name that makes sense to people. 🙂
[TS] Is there anything else you would like to share so people know a bit about the human behind Abstract Ocean?
[Pete] There’s two humans, Christal, who takes care of marketing, customer service and fulfilment, and me. I cover strategy, R&D, and a lot of the production which is now in-house. It’s a team effort, and believe me when I say we take everything we do very personally. We’re lucky that it’s evolved into a viable business, but (and again, this sounds cliché, but it couldn’t be more true) we’re only happy when all of our customers are happy.
[TS] What is the best way for people to find you and about Abstract Ocean? Websites, social media accounts etc…
@teslaccessories on Instagram
@abstract_ocean on Twitter.
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Wade Anderson is a Model 3 performance owner, he runs the Tesla Social website and YouTube channel.