Reinventing Flight: An Interview with Blake Scholl - The Objective Standard

Blake Scholl is founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic, a company devoted to “making the world smaller” by making air travel faster—a lot faster. The commercial airliner that Boom is developing, called Overture, will be capable of ferrying between fifty-five and seventy-five passengers from one continent to another two times faster than any airliner today. Instead of a six-and-a-half hour flight from New York to London, Overture will do it in three and a half. On October 7, 2020, Boom will unveil its prototype, XB-1, the first privately funded supersonic jet in history (watch the livestream here). Scholl estimates that flights on Overture will be available in 2030. We spoke recently about the state of the aviation industry, how Scholl got started, and the principles that have helped him take off.

Hersey: Fresh out of college, you went to Amazon and built advertising automation software, then went on to found a company that was bought by Groupon. You had no background in the aviation industry, yet you decided to tackle one of its biggest challenges: pioneering commercially viable supersonic flight. How and why did you make the decision to found Boom?

Scholl: I set a goal in my mid-twenties that I wanted to go Mach 2, and I put a Google Alert on “supersonic jet” so I could be first to know when I could buy a ticket. Fast-forward nearly a decade. By this point, I had founded and sold my first company, and I was thinking about what was next. What I realized is that all startups are hard, and no matter what you work on, as a founder, you’re going to be operating at your personal redline. But if you do something you’re passionate about, you’re going to be way more motivated. What I realized was that I wanted to optimize for my own selfish motivation.

So I put all my ideas in descending order of how happy I would be if they worked, disregarding everything else. I figured I’d create that list and then work on the most exciting thing that’s not impossible. And as luck has it, I’m still working on number one. I made this list in 2014, and I thought I would spend two weeks researching supersonic flight to understand why no one else was doing it and why it’s a bad idea. But instead, what I found was that the space was full of stale conventional wisdom.

Hersey: I think a lot of people look at problems such as the one you and Boom are tackling and decide that they don’t have the proper credentials, that they’d need to go back to school or work for years or decades in the field before they could do it. What do you think about credentials and widespread beliefs about them?

Scholl: I think credibility is what matters—not credentials—and credentials are often a bad way to show credibility. Moreover, I think people underestimate what they can learn. If you are passionate and motivated and you have a good sense of what mental clarity is like, you can iterate on something until you really understand it.

For instance, my first year on Boom was just getting educated. I started reading textbooks, and if one textbook didn’t help me understand something, I’d throw it out and get another one and read that until things clicked. I took an airplane design class and built a spreadsheet model of an airplane, which showed how a few variables predict a plane’s capabilities. It was just me by myself in my basement, puttering through these things.

I got a big leg up from Objectivism, because you learn what it means to be clear on something. You can just chew on a topic until it clicks, and you can actually learn a lot quickly, including things that weren’t in your formal training.

Hersey: How else has Objectivism impacted your life and career?

Scholl: I’ve been an Objectivist and a huge fan of Ayn Rand since I was in college. I remember being very excited the first time I read Atlas Shrugged. What an inspiring set of heroes! (And by the way, many of the main characters fly planes.) I just loved this idea that you can go off and accomplish big things. The inspirational value was huge.

Another thing that has influenced me tremendously is Rand’s identification that there’s no divide between the moral and the practical. The opposite view is widely accepted and ingrained. But it’s very powerful to know that whenever you think there’s a conflict between the two, you need to fix your thinking. That puts you in a position where, no matter what you’re doing, you feel like you can take the moral high ground. And you can do it while building an awesome business. That mind-set permeates everything we do. We’re building this massive new industrial product, and we’re really proud of it.

Hersey: As you should be! What you guys are doing is incredible—and long overdue. As a kid, I recall seeing the Concorde supersonic jet on TV. Why haven’t we already had a supersonic travel industry for a few decades?

Concorde jet, on display at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Photo by Senohrabek / Shutterstock.com

Scholl: Let’s look back at what happened in the 1960s. In 1962, Concorde was established by treaty as a joint venture between the French and British governments, and it was the height of the Cold War. It was not done to usher in a new era of supersonic passenger flight but to show that European technology was better than Soviet technology. There was a competing Soviet supersonic program, and there was an American supersonic program that was canceled by Congress before it ever came to fruition.

They never had the goal of building a sustainable economic model. They just wanted to show up the Russians. It’s the same story as Apollo. Why did we go to the moon? It wasn’t because someone thought that tourism on the moon would be great. It was, “Let’s show that we can do it and that our rockets are better than the Soviets’ rockets.” The space race was a race for national prestige.

When that’s your motivation, it turns out you actually can do technically impressive things. Concorde’s first flight and the first moon landing happened in 1969, fifty years ago last year. But half a century later, if you want a supersonic airliner or lunar lander, you go to a museum rather than the airports or the skies. That’s because national prestige is a bad motivation, and it results in things being done in unsustainable ways because there’s no durable economic model. You go plant a flag and have a celebration, and then you don’t know what to do next, because you had no vision beyond that.

Contrast this with the first fifty years of innovation in aerospace, which was driven by entrepreneurs. Everyone knows that the first airplane was built by bicycle entrepreneurs. The first practical airliner, the DC-3, was built by Donald Douglas when he was still running Douglas Aircraft Company. The first jetliner, the de Havilland Comet, was built by Geoffrey de Havilland when he was still chairman of his company. That one wasn’t successful. But in all of these instances you had businessmen building business cases, and they had to create an airplane that they could see a market for, that airlines could operate profitably, that passengers could afford to fly on. You had to have a big enough market to make a return for yourself and your investors.

Vintage Douglas DC-3 airliner operated by Air Nostalgia. Photo by Ryan Fletcher / Shutterstock.com

Enter Concorde and Apollo, and none of that applied. They didn’t have to create lasting value, so they didn’t. And that led to a scorched-earth period—literally half a century of no progress. The memory of Concorde is that it didn’t work. So the industry went back into this optimization loop on subsonic aircraft.

There was also political fallout from Concorde that really hamstrung innovation; the American competitor was canceled, and the question became, “How do we shut down our program and not get shown up by the Europeans?” And so Concorde was blocked from airports, and governments established a speed limit over land. In the United States, regulations say: Thou shalt not go faster than Mach 1. Supposedly, it’s about sonic boom and noise. But I think if it was really about that, they would have set a noise limit, not a speed limit.

The result was that what would have been the normal progression of technology was blocked by regulation. Think about everything from computers to electric cars, to cell phones. These things all started at a high price point for a small market; then the cost came down, and more and more people could get them. Today, the best phone a billionaire can buy is the same one a billion of us carry in our pockets. It would have been the same with airplanes; supersonic would have started with a private jet for people whose time is most valuable and who can pay for something really expensive and new.

But the problem is, for the most part, private jets are flown over land. No one wants to drop one hundred million dollars for a new airplane that, most of the time, travels no faster than the airplanes they already have. So what would have been that first market for supersonic was effectively prohibited. And if it hadn’t been, we’d all be going Mach 3 by now.

Today, we finally have the technology and the market to skip over what would have been the normal first step—the private jet—and do a small airliner instead, focusing on transoceanic routes where the speed limit doesn’t apply.

Hersey: Has the regulatory environment for supersonic travel changed much?

Scholl: The speed limit is still on the books. It will get reversed, but that will take a while. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working on it. Our experience with the regulators has been positive. I have a lot of issues with the system they’re operating within, but the people are good human beings.

Hersey: What do they bring to the table?

Scholl: Well, they’re a group of people who can help us build a safe airplane that will be accepted by the flying public. I might design a very different system if I got to rewrite all the rules, but I don’t get to do that. The people there are generally smart and well-intentioned. We try to make the best of that. And I’ve been really pleasantly surprised so far.

For example, we briefed the entire FAA transport aircraft team in Seattle a couple years ago. We went through the whole airplane tip to tail and said, “Here’s all the technology. Here’s what we imagine will be the certification issues.” We brought our list, and they brought theirs, and ours was actually longer. We said, “OK guys, what are the showstoppers here? What’s going to cause you not to approve this airplane?” And they said, “Well, so long as you don’t have to fly supersonic over land, we don’t see any showstoppers.” It has even become sort of competitive at the FAA regarding who gets to work with us because most of what they get to do is, “Oh, let’s approve this new radio.” Boom is the kind of thing they’ll get to tell their grandkids about.

That’s how we operate with everyone who’s a stakeholder in this, be it our own employees, partners, suppliers, investors, or regulators. We just treat them all like they’re one of us, and say, “Let’s tell you why we think this is important. You’re there as a check or balance on us, but let’s talk about how we can do something great together that we can all be proud of.”

Hersey: You’ve had to deal with a fair amount of controversy. People have pressed you on issues such as the potential for increased danger while flying supersonic, environmental impacts, and increased “inequality.” I’ve been impressed with how you’ve dealt with these types of questions. What’s your general approach to communicating about such controversial issues?

Scholl: I have a fundamental belief that supersonic flight, done right, is good for people. When there’s a criticism, you first have to look in the mirror and ask, “Is there validity to it?” And if there is, shut up and go fix it—then go back and communicate. So, first and foremost, you have to make sure that truth is on your side.

Once you’ve checked that box, then you’ve got a communication challenge. But if you do it right, you can explain why this is really good for people and why a lot of the things that some might think are downsides are not really downsides.

Here, too, I think I owe a debt of gratitude to Objectivism. We’ve gotten really good at explaining why supersonic flight matters to humans. I look at how people were talking about this pre-Boom, and it was along the lines of, “Leaders and CEOs arrive at their destinations faster, and they’ll spend less time on airplanes.” That’s okay, but our take is that this is about human connection. This is about making your world bigger. When flights are shorter, where can you vacation? Where can you do business? Who can you fall in love with? It’s about how a donor heart that goes twice as fast can go twice as far to save someone’s life.

Think about the cultural impacts. We haven’t had a world war since the dawn of the jet age. I don’t think that flight is the whole story, but I also don’t think it’s irrelevant. Also, in-person experiences are so much better. Think about how much better this conversation would be if we were in the same room rather than just being on Zoom. Zoom is great, but it’s not anything like me walking you through the hangar and showing you the airplane. Imagine a world in which every kid not only reads about Johannesburg and Mumbai and Tokyo and Shanghai—they don’t just watch YouTube videos—they’ve actually been there. And they’ve met the people there.

That’s a future I really want to live in. It’s not about Mach numbers or fancy turbo jets and technology; it’s about values. And if you learn to talk about values, you can talk about them in a way that appeals to people from a large variety of political orientations and positions. And you can do it without compromising what you stand for. You just have to explain the value really well. And you have to put it in terms that people understand.

Take, for example, the last FAA reauthorization bill, which I think was in late 2018. We hired a policy team in early 2018, and said, “You probably can’t change the laws around supersonics, but try anyway.” We sent them to D.C., and we worked on getting some stuff into the FAA reauthorization bill.1 Well, stuff that we wrote basically got into the bill and got signed into law. Moreover, it passed the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously. Nothing happens in D.C. unanimously. But we went there, we met with congressmen on both sides of the aisle, and they asked, “What about jobs? What about noise? What about emissions?” And after hearing our answers, they were asking, “OK, why would anybody say no to this?”

Hersey: So focusing on life-serving values and human flourishing has enabled you to build bridges between people.

Scholl: Right. For whatever reason, when people get focused on their own views, it’s really easy to get confrontational. And it has resulted in less agreement than you can get if you just focus on values. Focus on values and do the work to make sure you have good answers to the common objections that you might get from people of different persuasions. For example, Overture is designed from the ground up to run on 100 percent alternative fuels. It doesn’t have to use fossil fuels, and it will be the first airliner with that capability. You can have different views about whether that’s important or not, but we just decided to build it in because it makes it obvious to more people that it’s good. And that keeps us out of a controversy that we don’t need to be in.

Hersey: To be successful, you need to attract a lot of enthusiastic people to your project. What have you learned about doing that effectively?

Scholl: This is a great question, because it’s the key to why the whole thing can work. I think about the team we have today. We’ve got basically the entire leadership team from the Gulfstream G 650, which is the fastest airplane money can buy today. We’ve got the guy from SpaceX who made a couple of key inventions that enabled them to land the rocket. We’ve got Rolls Royce and Japan Airlines as partners. I could keep going. Incredible people have joined our team and invested in Boom.

Gulfstream G650, photo by vaalaa / Shutterstock.com

I tell you, though, if we were building a better turboprop or a better seat, no one would care. We wouldn’t have any of those people or any of those partners. But if you pick something inspiring and, most important, if you pick something that inspires you, then that becomes contagious. When you pick something that people really want to exist, the world almost conspires to pull success out of you.

I’m not the leader today that I was six years ago. When I started Boom, I couldn’t recruit worth a damn. I probably couldn’t sell you a $1 bill for fifty cents. And let’s not talk about public speaking or interviewing, or what I was like the one time I did TV, which was really, really bad. But what I learned to ask was, “What matters more to me, the mission of what we’re building or my own insecurities?”

I imagined what history might be like from right to left. Imagine you’re in the year 2050 and you’re reading the history books on how the world made the leap to supersonic. How do you think that story goes? If you just forget for a second that you’re working on it, you can try to imagine a lot of what must be part of that story. It’s not going to be the case that after 150 years of not doing it, Boeing suddenly did it. It’s going to be someone from outside the industry. They’re going to have to defy a lot of conventional wisdom. They’re going to have to be incredibly perseverant because there will be a lot of challenges and setbacks along the way. They’re going to need to be able to recruit a dream team. They’ll need to be incredibly persuasive because they’ll need buy-in from the lead airlines, suppliers, and investors. You’ve got to have a long-term mindset. You’ve got to really care about the culture that you’re building in your company. Those are all things that you can just imagine as part of the success story.

So, if that’s how it’ll have to go, you can imagine the person who is going to go do this, and go become that person. And it turns out that things I was terrified to do six years ago I now really enjoy. I really enjoy public speaking, recruiting, forming partnerships. You wouldn’t recognize the me of six years ago.

So, if I could make one point that envelops this and a bunch of other things, it’s that your own motivation really matters. And if you can lock onto something that you care about accomplishing, it unlocks these superpowers that you didn’t know you had. There’s a guy who was my boss at Groupon for a while, and when I started Boom and got it to a point where it looked credible, he was like, “I don’t think I understood what you could do.” And I think that’s probably true of a lot of people; if you haven’t locked onto the right target, you haven’t unlocked yourself. So pick something really motivating—more motivating than all of your insecurities. And then you can create new capabilities. You can be magnetic and attract other people to your cause, and you can do some things that will make you pretty darn happy. So focus on your own selfish motivation. It really, really matters. I think it’s underrated, even among Objectivists. Your own motivation is an incredibly powerful force.

“If you haven’t locked onto the right target, you haven’t unlocked yourself. So pick something really motivating—more motivating than all of your insecurities.” —@bscholl
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Hersey: Absolutely. I think a lot of Objectivists misunderstand and demote the role of emotions, which makes it harder to get clear on what motivates them. But also, a lot of people start in jobs that motivate them and then peter out over time. Do you have thoughts on how to handle that?

Scholl: Well, it’s always been easy for me to find things that I love. I think about my time at Groupon, for example, between my first startup and Boom. It was a really important growth time because the pressure of running my own company was off, and I got to say, “What can I accomplish here?” And you can always look at these situations and find things that are dysfunctional. It’s always easy to find reasons to be frustrated or reasons why you can’t accomplish things—that person is difficult to work with, and this part of the business isn’t great. But I think people often underestimate their own power. In that job, I always said, “I’m going to be here for a little while. What new thing can I create? What challenge can I take on? There’s this thing that’s frustrating in the company. Can I overcome it?” That way of challenging yourself keeps it engaging.

And then there’s a day when you just ask, “Is it worth it?” As a result of the acquisition, I was very well paid at Groupon. I told myself that after a certain point, any money I saved was the fun fund, and I could spend it on anything I wanted. That was the “go buy an airplane” fund. And the day when more dollars in the fun fund weren’t worth the day-to-day experience, it was time to leave. And that worked out pretty well. The irony is, I never bought the airplane, but that became the seed money for Boom.

Hersey: Yeah, you’re building the airplane instead!

Scholl: Yeah, the running joke among my friends is that I’m never actually going to have an airplane, but the one I have my eye on keeps getting better.

Hersey: Ha! Seriously, though, that’s a really great observation about people underestimating their own power. It seems like being rationally self-interested and thinking about what’s possible at a very fundamental level have given you a superpower of sorts.

Scholl: Thinking in terms of first principles really matters. That’s probably the most important thing from Objectivism: being principle-oriented and knowing what’s a surface-level thing and what’s fundamental. If you get that distinction loaded in your head, it makes you really powerful, because you can jump into a new field where there’s a morass of stuff. You’re not educated in it, so you can’t deal with ten thousand concretes; you’ve got to go find the fundamentals. And when you do, you can separate rules of thumb from actual truths. Most people in most fields operate on rules of thumb. When you’re not innovating, that might work, because rules of thumb are basically things that are true in a certain context. But if you’re dealing with a new context and you don’t know what the deepest principles are, then you won’t understand what else is possible.

For instance, in the first two weeks I spent working on Boom, I asked, “What was wrong with Concorde? Why didn’t it succeed?” And, in part, the answer was poor fuel economy, which pushed up the ticket prices, which made the fares unaffordable, which made the market too small. So I asked, “By how much do you have to beat Concorde’s fuel economy in order to make prices match modern business class?” And the answer can be calculated in a three-line spreadsheet with numbers that are on Wikipedia. You don’t need to know anything about airplane design to do this. The answer is 30 percent. And given improvements in technology and engine design, it quickly became clear to me that beating Concorde’s fuel efficiency by 30 percent was within the realm of the possible.

Next, I learned that there are four key variables that determine what an airplane can do. They are speed, structural efficiency, aerodynamic efficiency, and propulsive efficiency, and they’re each very easily quantified. If you understand what’s possible for each of those, then you can understand what’s possible for an airplane.

You can go much deeper, of course, but just knowing those few principles and how they relate to each other allows you to see through a lot of stale conventional wisdom.

Hersey: How do you determine when you’ve hit upon a first principle?

Scholl: In one context, if you’re speaking about technical airplane stuff, you just go all the way down to Newtonian physics. I remember the early days of Boom when we were having conversations about what you could and couldn’t make engines do. Someone was like, “Well, you can’t do that. That’ll choke the flow.” I asked, “OK, can you explain that to me in terms of Newtonian mechanics that I can understand with a high school physics background?” And it turns out, that’s a really good test. For any physical phenomenon, if I don’t understand it in terms of Newtonian physics, I just don’t understand it. By no means am I a master of aerodynamics, but I understand the basic principles, and that keeps me honest about what I understand and what I don’t.

At one point, we were recruiting a head of aerodynamics, and my favorite interview question all throughout the early days of the company was, “Teach me something.” If you couldn’t teach me something, you didn’t get hired. This enabled me to find people who really understood things and were also great communicators.

There was one guy who was purported to be an expert aerodynamicist who understood hypersonic engine intakes. I asked him to teach me something, and he asked, “Like what?” I said, “Your résumé says you know about hypersonic intakes. All I know is what hypersonic is. So tell me about hypersonic intakes.” So he goes to the whiteboard and starts drawing stuff and says, “You really want to use a stream-traced inlet design because that optimizes the cowl lip angle.” I said, “Hang on. What’s the cowl? What’s the cowl lip? And why does the angle matter?” And he’s like, “Oh man, you’re making me go back to basics.” And what I soon realized was that he had a great set of rules of thumb but no actual understanding. By the end of the conversation, I think I actually understood some things, but it was clear that he didn’t. And so if you asked him to do something that had already been done, he’d be able to tell you how to do it. But he didn’t have a deep understanding of how things really work.

By contrast, others came in and said, “OK, I’ll teach you how a vertical rate-of-change indicator works in an airplane.” They would draw pictures of the equipment and show me the math that supports it. It’s like that scene from The Matrix where they load stuff into your brain and you’re like, “Now I know Kung fu.”

Hersey: In speaking with you, I’m reminded of Ernest Shackleton, who said that “Difficulties are just things to overcome.” Are there any heroes of history you draw inspiration from?

Scholl: There are a bunch. Shackleton’s great, though I don’t know his story super-well. Steve Jobs is my biggest business hero. The guy revolutionized so many fields and was so good at inspiring people to make really great products. When I was learning to do public speaking, I just watched his keynotes over and over again. I probably watched the iPhone launch keynote one hundred times, and I’m not exaggerating. And every time I watched it, I learned something new.

His marketing was brilliant. In my view, Apple’s “think different” ad was the best ad ever made. Steve did that in 1997 when he returned to Apple and the company was about ninety days from bankruptcy. Apple’s products were uncompetitive junk. So he did this ad campaign that was about honoring people who did great things. My suspicion is that the target audience for that ad was Apple employees. There’s that line: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do,” and I think it was all about inspiring his own team to do incredible things. Before that ad, their default response would have been, “That’s crazy.”

Hersey: Is there any living entrepreneur you take inspiration from?

Scholl: Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are probably the top two for me. Elon—now there’s a guy who defied conventional wisdom in multiple industries. I love my Tesla. And he has Neuralink, SpaceX, and The Boring Company, and so on. The guy is doing so many things that everyone thought were impossible—all at the same time. And I’m like, “Man, what would it be like to have five Booms?” It’s so inspiring.

And then there’s Jeff Bezos. I started my career at Amazon, and I got to work with Jeff a little bit. He’s an incredibly impressive leader. This was about twenty years ago, way before Amazon was what it is today. You can know your own area really well and then present to Jeff, and he will teach you something about the thing you do every day that you didn’t know. And it’s because he’s so good at getting to the fundamental principles and making connections—really impressive.

One of the things that sets Jeff apart from a lot of CEOs is that he’ll make long-range bets that take seven to ten years to pay off. And he’ll be called crazy for doing it, but he’ll do it anyway. For instance, Amazon Web Services is now a multibillion-dollar business. Well, it started off with like a teeny, tiny internal project that everyone, even inside the company, thought was stupid. And the board thought it was stupid. The board barely approved it. But Jeff did it anyway, and now it makes tens of billions of dollars a year. And I think he has two or three more stories like that.

Hersey: How do you view your role as CEO?

Scholl: CEOs have three jobs: set the vision, hire the best, and don’t run out of money. It’s interesting because the way you judge your own success changes as the company grows. In the early days with a five-person company, you’re hands on, and it’s all about how much stuff you can get done. But as the company scales, it’s much more about what the company gets done, and if you continue to judge your work by your own output, you’re actually not helping the company—and you’re frustrating your people who want to do these things for you.

There are some key things you can’t delegate. You can’t delegate culture. You can’t delegate vision. Above a certain level, you can’t delegate recruiting. And CEOs have to raise capital.

But for all of the other stuff, I want to hire great people and inspire them and organize them to do their best work. And I’m there to help with the hardest problems when needed. I think Elon Musk said something like being CEO is like having a sieve whereby all the worst problems come to you, because if it were easy, somebody else would have solved it; it wouldn’t have made it to you. And it’s true.

Hersey: What are the hardest problems you’ve dealt with?

Scholl: There are hard technical problems, but those aren’t the hardest ones. The hardest is probably getting people to believe in something when there is not much there yet, because you set out to do the thing before you’ve proven that you can actually do it.

There are lots of chicken-and-egg problems like this. For example, there were times when we were talking with Rolls Royce about doing an engine for Overture, and we were talking with investors who were considering investing in the company. The investors would ask, “Who’s building your engine? I want to talk to those guys and see what they really think.” And then the engine guys would say, “I want to know who’s funding this thing. Are you guys even viable?” So they wanted to talk to each other, which was somewhat terrifying because they could both conclude that this whole thing wasn’t so far along.

What we learned is, if you’re trying to solve a chicken-and-egg problem, what you do is recruit the chickens and the eggs. For example, in 2016, we had raised funds in the single-digit millions: enough money to do some work, but not enough to build and fly an airplane—not even close. And so we were asking, “How in the world do we get from having a few million dollars to the tens of millions necessary to do something real?” We decided to bet the company on a party. We built a full-size mock-up of the first airplane out of Styrofoam and hard coat, and we threw a massive party and dressed up our hangar as if for a Hollywood premiere, right down to the fancy lighting, the stage, and the carpet.

We invited anyone with any credibility. We got five retired Concorde pilots and engineers to come. We got someone who worked in hypersonics to come. We got an astronaut to come. We invited all of the prospective investors and partners, and we made it tangible. We made it possible for the chickens and the eggs to see that they were both there. And we said to the engine people, “Would you be willing to do us a solid and meet with the investors and tell them why you came over from the UK to look at this?” And we said to the investors, “You say you’ll help us develop partnerships. Could you tell the engine guys why you think this is a really interesting investment?” And we just sat there and watched as they closed the deal with one another on our behalf. That’s the pattern of it. I think the core job of the entrepreneur is to solve chicken-and-egg problems, and the core tactic is to recruit the chickens and the eggs.

“I think the core job of the entrepreneur is to solve chicken-and-egg problems, and the core tactic is to recruit the chickens and the eggs.” —@bscholl
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There are other moments where you hit a setback, and you don’t know how you’re going to get through it. And you just have to assume that you will and then find out how. That intervening period can be a little scary, but you just go through it. I’m reminded of one of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Hersey: Where is the first place you’d like to fly supersonic?

Scholl: There are plenty of places I’d like to visit that I don’t have the time to today: Sydney, Shanghai, Mumbai, Tahiti. I’m most excited about being able to go wherever I want to without today’s time barriers.

Hersey: My wife and I are planning a trip to Australia right now. That’s a haul from Massachusetts. I can’t wait to someday do it supersonic! Any parting thoughts?

Scholl: The world is more malleable than people think. I know that sometimes there’s real pessimism in the Objectivist movement and so much talk about what we can’t do. There’s this regulatory impediment or that cultural impediment. But my own experience has been that those things can all be overcome. Who would have thought that I could have started from nowhere and then changed the law of the land on supersonics? And yet we did.

And there’s more of that to come. Who would have thought that an environmental impact office [Emerson Collective] would have led the Series B financing for a supersonic jet company? Such things are possible. If you have truth on your side and you can explain your story in an empathetic, compelling way, you can change things. Change is easier than people think. You can accomplish more than people think if you go about it in the right way. And I would love to see more people solving big problems and improving the culture by building amazing things.

Hersey: Well, this conversation has been incredibly inspiring. Thank you so much for all of the work you and Boom are doing and for taking the time to tell me about it.

Scholl: Happy to do it!

Editor’s note: Watch the rollout of XB-1 here at 11 am MT, October 7, 2020.

“It’s always easy to find reasons to be frustrated or reasons why you can’t accomplish things. But I think people often underestimate their own power.” —@bscholl
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Endnotes

1. Lee-Gardner amendment three: “This amendment would require the FAA to issue rulemaking related to the testing and operation of supersonic aircraft. Next-generation supersonic technology being developed in Colorado could fundamentally change the way we travel through the air by reducing travel times significantly. Companies pursuing supersonic technology need long-term regulatory certainty from the FAA that will allow their designs to move forward so long as they are safe and meet existing standards for noise.” See “FAA Bill Approved by Senate Commerce Committee,” Senator Cory Gardner, June 29, 2017, https://www.gardner.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/faa-bill-approved-by-senate-commerce-committee (accessed October 5, 2020).

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