Elon Musk is an entrepreneur who is changing the rules of the game. Widely regarded as the biggest industrialist of the moment, at 44 years old, in just a few years, he has set up a company, Tesla, which is revolutionizing the automotive industry. another, SpaceX that competes with Arianespace. He has previously upset the payment market with Paypal. Its ultimate goal: colonize Mars. Ashlee Vance, a Silicon Valley journalist and technology specialist, is fascinated by the career and genius, recognized or not, of the businessman whose astonishing rise.
When Ashlee Vance meets Elon Musk for the first time, he clearly expresses his wish not to collaborate on a biographical work. “He was ready to cooperate as long as he read the book before publication and could add annotations. He would not touch my text but wanted to assert his position immediately if anything seemed inaccurate to him. I understood where it came from. Musk demanded a right to look at the story of his life.
But any investigation into Elon Musk had to start at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Two giant photos of Mars decorate a rather narrow office: one represents the red planet as it is today, the other the dreamed version of Elon Musk, a warming planet, covered with a thick green carpet, oceans, a reminder “to escape the worst-case scenario and the extinction of human consciousness” confesses the entrepreneur.
The first Elon startup
During a road trip through the United States with his brother Kimbal, Elon Musk has an idea: an online medical network. “His ambition did not go to the electronic files, it would rather serve the collaboration and exchange of information between doctors.”
The medical sector seemed to be one where a breakthrough innovation was possible, “but it did not work,” Kimbal regrets. The brothers would start their startup, Global Link Information Network, renamed Zip2: “to explain the concept, Musk often said that everyone has the right to know where the nearest pizzeria is and how to get there. This may seem obvious nowadays – think of Yelp combined with Google Maps – but at the time, even the fanatics had not dreamed of such a service, “reports Ashlee Vance.
But now, management and human resources are not the strength of Musk. If he wanted to be a leader, people could hardly imagine him in the CEO costume. Determined, he had decided to prove to everyone that they were wrong.
After the sale of Zip2, Musk had gained confidence, “he had tamed Silicon Valley, he was one of those that everyone wanted to be at the time: a millionaire dot com.”
Before the advent of PayPal, two startups, X.com and Confinity were engaged in fierce competition for the conquest of the payments industry via the web and email. This rivalry was for Musk a great opportunity. PayPal was in its infancy and its cash at bay because of the premiums paid to new customers.
After the merger of X.com and Confinity under the PayPal banner, Musk is disembarked from the CEO position by its board of directors. “In June 2001, Elon’s influence on the company evaporated rapidly. Musk rarely leaves an unpunished affront. But in all this ordeal, he showed incredible restraint.
The episode PayPal was good and bad for Musk who pocketed $ 250 million, when in 2012, eBay offers to buy the company. But in the aftermath of the sale, his reputation as a leader had clearly been undermined. His nest egg in his pocket, he still expected to realize his wildest dreams.
The revenge of the electric car
Tesla has not only become one of the stars of modern American industry, but it has also wiped out its closest rivals. “Fisker Automotive filed for bankruptcy and was bought by a Chinese equipment manufacturer in 2014. […] Better Place, another start-up that had attracted even more superlatives than Fisker and Tesla combined, raised nearly $ 1 billion for build electric cars and battery exchange stations. It went bankrupt in 2013 without having produced almost anything. The electric car was not the Eldorado or the most popular sector of venture capital. But in the tide of new builders, Tesla’s strength and specificity lay in “its determination to achieve its uncompromising vision, its determination to fulfill Musk’s demands,” says Ashlee Vance.
The unified field theory of Elon Musk
On the occasion of the Burning Man festival, accompanied by his two cousins, the Rives brothers, Elon Musk begins to consider the opportunities of the solar industry, but it was during the Solar Power International conference that they put their finger on this what could their business model really look like? First and foremost, the purchase of solar panels had to be made more accessible, even for the general public.
In 2006, the Rives brothers launched Solar City. Six years later, the company was the first solar panel installer in the United States. “SolarCity, like Elon’s other initiatives, was not so much a business opportunity as a worldview. […] SolarCity was also a crucial piece of what might be called Musk’s unified field theory. All companies of this one are interconnected in the short and medium term. Tesla manufactures batteries that SolarCity can sell to its customers. SolarCity provides solar panels for charging stations where Tesla drivers can get their supplies for free, etc.
SolarCity has bought a new research and development laboratory near the Tesla plant in Silicon Valley, and Tesla is continuing to build its Gigafactory in Nevada, with a network of superchargers that has saved nearly 15 million liters of water. essence to the group. Elon Musk continually reinvents himself, like his cartoon character, in a Simpson episode entitled “The Musk Who Fell to Earth”. His whimsical projects have become his engine, his addiction “to the point that he can not help but announce devices like hyperloop and the space internet”. Hard and distant in appearance, he nurtures a sincere concern for the future of the human species according to Ashlee Vance, “without always admitting the desires and needs of individuals. And it could be that it is exactly the type of person who can make spatial Internet happen. “