I wrote this piece a few months ago after listening to a fascinating and inspiring interview of Elon Musk by Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy -https://www.khanacademy.org/. I am not an expert on Elon Musk. in fact I only know what I gleaned from my internet research and listening to the hour long interview. But, I confess, I am now a little bit in love with him and a lot in awe!
But back to Elon Musk (founder of PayPal, Tesla and most recently, CEO of SpaceX). He has a remarkable vision for our future; a future that he believes will be better than the past. Not exactly revolutionary thinking but his methodology for achieving his vision indicate that he is every bit “r-evolutionary”.
In business, he believes that you should have audacious goals that focus on developing businesses that generate income to support new companies. The process of creating new companies is “pernicious and painful – like staring into the abyss and eating glass”. Staring into an abyss because the probability of failure is far more likely than the probability of success; eating glass because you have to solve all of the problems instead of just focusing on the problems that you like to work on.
Musk started PayPal because he decided that there needed to be a safe and reliable system to satisfy the economic aspects of the internet that were not being addressed by the fledgling web in its infancy (1995). It started with a few thousand subscribers that were incentivized by being paid to use PayPal…novel concept, and has now grown to over 173 million users. Of course, Musk has since sold the company for a few billion and used that as seed money for Tesla.
Asked why he has invested so much in a company producing electric cars… his response: he wanted Tesla to be a catalyst for other larger automobile manufacturers to be incentivized (that word again) to produce a higher percentage of electric cars that would have a positive effect on reducing emissions, cleaning up the environment, and maintaining our freedom of mobility without adding more CO2, etc. Profit was not the main motivation, although a welcome by-product. Tesla now expects to deliver 500,000 vehicles by 2018, two years earlier than the previous goal. Audacious!
How did he come up with this idea? He decided that there must be a more cost effective and efficient way to produce the component pieces for electric cars thereby giving the “big boys” the means to follow suit. He said that he’s not in the automobile business to compete with them but to encourage responsible technological innovation.
And then there is SpaceX, his most audacious vision – to be able to produce reusable rockets that can go into space and return to Earth! Novel concept – comic book stuff we grew up on… Buzz Lightyear, “To infinity and beyond!”. But, again, his motivation is to find a more efficient and cost effective way to improve space travel. And he has! His rockets take off and land back on Earth after delivering a payload to the space station!!
Elon believes that all of the peripheral industries will reboot our global economy, incentivize business to make positive environmental and social technological advancements, and eventually lead to our becoming a multi-planetary species.
And oh, by the way, a share of Tesla, Inc., is now selling for $208 and some change…