It’s time we talk about Elon Musk. I am a huge fan of Musk, and after reading Vance´s version, I’m an even bigger fan.
For those who are unaware of Musk, he is the man who replaced Steve Jobs in this planet. That´s a personal opinion, but it can very well be true.
Ashlee Vance is a journalist who got extremely lucky to have Musk´s help to write his biography. Everyone has access to Elon´s public companies´ numbers and products, but very people have access to Elon himself, his life and his way of thinking. Vance masterfully exploits this unique opportunity he was given, and creates a great story, starting from Elon´s childhood, up to his latest successes.
I will, however, skip Elon´s childhood, for I find his adulthood much more interesting. Elon started his career as an entrepreneur when the internet was still a baby. So he´s been around for the whole ups and downs of the dot coms; since C+ and MS DOS. His first business was to put the yellow pages on the internet. Nobody thought of it at those times, and it was a stroke of genius. Elon thought that contacts, names, addresses, services, restaurants, and all businesses should be made available through the internet. Today it´s easy to think about it, that´s just how it works. But it wasn´t easy to have that vision when Windows 95 wasn´t even mainstream.
Elon went next to create X.com, which later merged with PayPal, which was sold to Ebay, which made Elon a real Silicon Valley millionaire. Everybody knows PayPal, what people don´t know, is that Elon was the first to envision and act on the potential of internet banking, and online transfers or payments.
And today Elon has three companies, let´s go quickly one by one:
- Tesla: all cars should be electric, no more fossil fuels, and no compromise regarding the horsepower or the aesthetics of the product.
- SolarCity: residences and businesses should be energy self sustainable, that is possible with solar energy.
- SpaceX: one day the Earth will not be anymore, and we will have to inhabit other planets, such as Mars. The main obstacle today is that transportation to get there sucks. SpaceX is here to solve that.
What sets Musk apart from every other entrepreneur? Well, several things, which are all described in the book, that’s why you gotta read it. But I will give you an overview: Musk is a visionary first of all, he thinks big and he thinks different. While people are scrutinizing themselves to think of a way to improve text messages and photo sharing, Musk is thinking how we get to Mars, quickly and efficiently, and then back. Musk is also resilient and persistent. His current competitors in SpaceX, for instance, are the government of Russia and China, and the USA military. Barriers to entry in his businesses are enormous, injection of human and financial capital is absurd, and failures happen much more often than successes. There is never, however, any reason or time to whine about it. Another point, Musk is a risk taker. He always has equity in the business and puts his own time and mind on them. If the business fails, he´s bankrupt. That’s a beautiful trait in every true at heart entrepreneur. Just to be clear, Musk is not only a scientist or a visionary, he is a brilliant executioner and businessman. He knows how to put a deal together and get it out of paper. He knows how to talk to investors, clients or shareholders. He knows how to launch a product. He knows how to motivate people, and how run a company. He´s the founder and CEO.
In simple words, Musk gets amazing shit done. And once it is done, he invents new shit to get done again. Vance´s book just made me admire the guy more than I already did.
Musk is young, he is now 44 years old, so I am beyond excited and curious to know what he is cooking for the decades to come, and how he will make those ideas a reality.