On January 18, I had the pleasure of hearing Elon Musk speak at a Phi Beta Kappa lecture held at UCLA. As the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, he had a lot of interesting perspectives and way of thinking about his work. I could tell he was a super technical, geeky guy who knew pretty much everything about the engineering efforts in both companies as well as the high-level strategy, which I respected.
He described his three main areas of interest over time:
- Internet => PayPal
- Sustainable energy => Tesla, Solarcity
- Space exploration and multiplanetary life => SpaceX
He described his main goal for SpaceX right now as building a reusable vehicle in order to prepare for interplanetary life and exploration of stars. Right now, transport is very expensive and must be rebuilt for every mission; imagine if you had to buy a new car for every trip you made. The only way to make it economical is to have reusability.
In regards to Tesla, he thinks all vehicles and planes will go electric at some point soon. He described a 3 step strategy for the car company:
- Now: sports car
- Next year: Model S (sedan)
- Next step after: High volume, low price car
What I was most impressed with was his ability to be so involved and familiar with everything in two different ventures; I would have loved to hear from him about he manages his time and attention and how he is able to be a contributing, leading CEO of two quite massive endeavors at once. When I find myself caught in the middle of multiple attractive projects, each of which I could spend unbounded time on, I am often wondering how to best do that, and if that even makes sense (parallel versus serial entrepreneurship).
The third parallel activity he described briefly was Solarcity, which is aiming to create sustainable production of energy through solar technology; they are already apparently enjoying quite good market share. In Solarcity, he does not have a day-to-day role (which he was thankful for), as opposed to SpaceX and Tesla. Regarding Solarcity, he said that our society must have sustainable production and consumption of electricity; Tesla represents sustainable consumption, and Solarcity represents sustainable production.
Overall, it was a fun talk, especially the videos of SpaceX launches that he showed us. I could tell how proud he was of what both companies have achieved and very impressed by his track record and strategy as an entrepreneur.