It’s summertime and with markets quiet it’s time to look for some holiday reading. One book I can recommend is “Elon Musk” by Ashlee Vance. Published in 2015 it covers the early life of Elon and his early business ventures at Zip2, X.com/Paypal, SpaceX and Tesla.
It reveals a lot about his personality and will to revolutionise the space exploration and banking sectors. Like Bill Gates and other successful entrepreneurs he clearly has a forceful manner and does not suffer fools gladly.
The subtitle of the book is “How the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping our future”. If you want to know how to become a billionaire and the richest person in the world (roughly $250 billion at the time of writing) then this is a book well worth reading.
Elon’s career was not without its problems and failures. SpaceX rockets blew up repeatedly and technical problems with the first Tesla car delayed its public launch (over-heating batteries and breaking transmissions). But despite consuming most of his fortune from the sale of Paypal he persisted and eventually they were successful products.
The book also provides some interesting background on the VC world in Silicon Valley in the 1990s and 2000s, which I was familiar with from running a software company in the period and having an office in Los Altos.
Why was Elon so successful? He was willing to take risks and focussed on revolutionising sectors such as space exploration with low-cost launches, the banking world with internet banking and the automobile industry with electric vehicles when other people just said the goal was impossible. But he was not a one-man band and made sure he hired the best people as employees.
He could clearly be persuasive in raising capital when needed helped by the availability of funding for new ventures at the time.
In summary one of the best books on Elon Musk and a New York Times bestseller.
The latest gamble by Elon is paying $44 billion in cash for Twitter. As a user of Twitter it has always seemed to me to be an essentially simple software product that should have been low cost to develop and maintain. Since Elon Musk took the reins at Twitter as its CEO in October 2022, its workforce has dropped by 80% and reportedly hovers at around 1,300 employees, according to CNBC.
There was certainly an opportunity there to massively reduce costs. But other people have seen that also with the launch of “me-too” products that have imitated Twitter functionality. Will they be successful? I doubt it.
Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson )
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