In recent days I’ve become more and more impressed by Elon Musk.
Here’s a TED interview:
In a nutshell, the guy co-founded Paypal, then went on to found/co-found/take on three companies which literally have the potential to change the world.
First is Tesla, the first electric car company to create an economically viable car that matches the speed and comfort of regular cars (I know it’s currently around $70,000, but a model at half that price is due to arrive in a couple of years). It also has charging stations, some of which are solar powered, across the US that allow you to drive from coast to coast. Yes, the sun can now power your car across America. Although still in its early stages as a company, Tesla has just made its patents available to anyone who wants to use them ‘in good faith’, a brave move that will open up the possibilities of other manufacturers making their own electric cars and improving the costs and supply processes. If, finally, the tipping point version of the electric car is here, we have this man to thank for it.
Second is Solar City, a company that leases solar panelling to you so that your overall energy costs are lower, and that energy doesn’t come from fossil fuels. Again, if this is what brings mass solar energy to the world then that is an incredible game changer. (To be honest I haven’t been able to find a huge amount about the success or otherwise of Solar City. It doesn’t appear to be moving ahead with quite the blaze of publicity that follows Tesla, but it’s surely a large step in a very good direction.)
Then there’s SpaceX (aren’t his websites lovely?). In June 2002, Musk founded, and invested $100m in, a company that intends to make space travel economically viable, so that ultimately we can go and live on other planets. I think that’s a pretty big (some would say foolhardy) ambition, but he’s actually making it work. The principle is to reduce the costs of sending rockets into space by taking the parts that are usually jettisoned and guiding them back down to where they launched from, to be reused hours later. Fuel is 0.3% of the cost of space travel; the rest is wasted rockets and he’s actually sorted that problem out. Take a look at the proof:
You know when people say ‘it’s not rocket science’? Rocket science is hard, fucking hard, and this guy has revolutionised the entire discipline.
So he may be experiencing varying degrees of success with those three ventures, but I’d like to take my hat off to him for even attempting what he’s done. It takes massive amounts vision, balls, intelligence and money to do those three things simultaneously, and they’re going to make the planet a whole lot better.
I think that’s what you call a win win win win win win win.