The following conversation is with Mike “Mouse” McCoy, CEO and Co-Founder of Hackrod Inc., Founder and former CEO of Bandito Brothers, an award-winning entertainment studio that architected a #1 box office feature film, Act of Valor, which McCoy produced and directed. In this post you’ll learn how speed and creativity can propel innovation to the next level, from the future of electric vehicles (EV) to design manufacturing. So buckle your seatbelt and prepare to find out how constant evaluation and redirection can shape the future of technology.
Jack: Are you currently focused on developing action movies?
Mouse: No, that was just one project but action has been a big part of my life. In fact, it was my trajectory into the movie business. I started racing motorcycles when I was four years old, was little and pretty quick and got the nickname Mouse. The name stuck and I went on to have a really good career as a professional motorcycle racer, including winning the Baja 1000 and 500 a number of times, as well as other records.
Jack: What was conditioning like for that career?
Mouse: I’d be on the bike for hours in the mountains and it was training my brain to get really mentally comfortable with going fast alone and taking risks alone. If you crash in the desert, you’re a long way away from any help. Motorcycles are physically demanding; you’re dealing with rough terrain, your body gets destroyed, so keeping a sharp mind when you get physically whooped is important. You need to adapt and optimize for your specific discipline. There’s no one right way to train.
Jack: Right, exactly. It’s just like if you’re a runner you’re not going to be in the pool, you’re going to be running. How did you go from motorcycle racing to the movie business?
Mouse: Since I had been a stunt man, a lot of my life was spent in production and I wanted to make a movie about it so that people could visualize how wild and crazy it is. People thought it was impossible; to run cameras spread out across the desert was a tough order. It came to life starting out as a documentary and then became this really cinematic, deeply narrative movie that I starred in and produced, Dust of Glory.
Jack: You’ve since moved on to a new realm. I’ve been to your studio which is very impressive. Your industrial warehouse is in a funky beach town and inside the building are vehicles, memorabilia from your career, and a torn-apart Prius car as you’re working on an autonomous vehicle. Tell us more about that.
Mouse: Coming off of Dust of Glory, I said, why don’t we keep doing this? I got injured at 35 in a stunt job in Canada. I flipped an ATV off the mountain, destroyed myself and was in the hospital for five months. When I got out, I redirected myself. I went on to direct commercials and founded the movie studio, Bandito Brothers. We partnered with Navy SEALs to tell their stories and it developed into a top Hollywood movie, Act of Valor. Next came a call from Hot Wheels (famous makers of toy cars), who wanted to invigorate the brand visually. We then helped bring “Hot Wheels for Real” to fruition: real car-sized Hot Wheels with huge ramps were built and they made three auto world records within 18 months. Along the way, we started to recognize our process, which was wildly successful and won awards.
While we went out to create entertainment, it turned into rapid prototyping, and opened our eyes. Our tech was old school so we launched a research project. Kids were in their bedrooms dreaming their dreams, which would include building a custom car or motorcycle. We looked at the hot rod movement as inspiration, and created a new company, Hackrod Inc. We focused on where advanced manufacturing was going; the tech that would drive a new industrial revolution. It’s interesting because in entertainment we work in 3D design all the time, and it is fast. We started Hackrod to blend 3D design entertainment and industrial 3D design and chased that dream.
Jack: What do you think of the current state of electric vehicles? And do you see EV demand in the hot rod market?
Mouse: I think it’s an unstoppable movement overall. I credit Tesla for proving the market for it. Now market data is unequivocal and we need to address the carbon situation. I’m excited about the next revolution of battery tech and moving the chains for it. The genie is out of the bottle. Most of the major players are not tooled up for the production need, so that will be interesting to see how they handle it.
Jack: How about the future? For example, do you think people will be putting EV powertrains into hot rods instead of the traditional muscle car powertrains? (Spoiler alert: I’m looking forward to working with Mouse on this.)
Mouse: I look at it as being more than just a car. The hot rod is state of mind and the hot rod guy or gal is always looking for what’s new and fresh. I see hot rod EVs taking off wildly as the ability to rebuild and recycle is hot. The question is, what will be the new design and will be cool from a design perspective?
Jack: The speed and performance and amount of torque from an EV is astounding. There is the economic argument with climate change factor and the big cost advantage too. It only costs $6 to go 200 miles or so – amazing.
Mouse: I agree! There’s the old school gear and combustion engine that’s getting smoked now. The pursuit of speed is the style – what hot rod is all about, and we’re going to see new styles emerge.
Jack: I have a car shop like yours. I’m building an EV at a quarter scale and then will go full scale. We’re about 10% into it, mostly in CAD and will turn it into a teaching tool. I don’t need to build a full size car to do that, due to the traction control and such. You have some renders of cars; what inspires you to do the art portion of it?
Mouse: Yes – I’m a creative director too, but first you’re one of godfathers of VR, one of most powerful tools! Thanks Jack for helping lead the way. It is revolutionizing! Unreal and Unity were being used in video games and now are being used in architecture and designing cars. For instance, Autonomo™ – the design is constrained by tooling and there are no barriers to entry. I want great design to be as easy to achieve as bad design. The world needs great design. Goal: to work without constraints, it’s an exciting time!
Jack: You brought up the need for lightweight batteries. Tesla and Samsung are working on it and UC Berkeley’s Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation is impacting this area as we’re able to get more students in there to do things without even touching a 3D printer.
Mouse: Gamification of complex tasks where you, Jack are influential in, used to be hard and now we have digitized everything. It opens up innovation potential.
Jack: Where do you see your current venture going in the next few years?
Mouse: I think we’ll have a big impact in the design manufacturing world. For instance, I’d love to help kids with their product dreams so they can be turned into reality, fast. The new industrial revolution is here and we’re excited to be innovating!
Jack: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Mouse! I’m looking forward to seeing how you’ll continue to shape the design manufacturing industry!