Text transcription (literal):
I am still at Chania in Crete, and I will talk to you about Elon Musk; the most ambitious entrepreneur on earth. Compared to him, Steve Jobs is a novice.
I just read his biography called “Elon Musk” by Ashlee Vance, a journalist. It has not yet been translated into French, but I strongly recommend that you read it in English.
Originally, he’s a South African. He was born in South Africa; and very quickly he realized that South Africa would be like a prison for him. And he began to dream of going to the United States to get into business.
So, he went to Canada first. He became Canadian thanks to his mother who was Canadian. Next, he went to the United States.
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Elon lived in relative poverty. He did odd jobs in Canada.
He then started a business that was sort of the ancestor of Google Map in the mid-90s. It was a business that allowed other businesses to put themselves on maps so that people could find them easily.
He sold this business for several tens of millions of dollars. With this money, he created a company that at the time was called X; the goal of which was to make it possible for people to send money by email smoothly, without hassle.
“Good ideas are always crazy until they are not.” Quote from Elon Musk’s biography
That company then changed its name to PayPal, the company that everyone knows today. PayPal was then sold to eBay in 2001 for a tidy sum of $1.3 billion.
This transaction made Elon Musk extremely wealthy because he personally received several hundred million dollars.
Moreover, he was not the only one to have benefited from this transaction or from the PayPal experience since the entire PayPal team, which was present in the company just before this sale to eBay, has become known in Silicon Valley under the PayPal clique name.
There are so many team members who went on to create many of the internet’s success stories. For example, we have co-founder, Peter Thiel, who created Palantir; which is not really well known to the general public. But which is a company valued at over $1 billion and which is very famous in the field of IT security.
We have the co-founder of YouTube who came from PayPal. Plenty of businesses today are used by hundreds of millions of people and are often valued at at least several hundred million dollars.
If you are from PayPal and have a business valued at only a few hundred million dollars, then you are part of the PayPal loser club.
When Elon Musk became super rich after this transaction with PayPal, he did not do like what most people would have done. He didn’t buy himself a cruise ship, a helicopter to go and enjoy life and spend all his money in casinos. He decided to take on two of the most difficult and important sectors in the world today because he is someone who, from a very young age, has not only been a genius, but who has a big vision concerning the future of humanity.
When he realized that there were not many people who were willing to do what had to be done to ensure the survival of humanity and further develop, he thought to himself that it was he who was going to do it.
The two sectors in which he has personally invested himself and in which he has invested his money are energy; in particular renewable energy; and the conquest of space.
Elon Musk is convinced that to ensure the survival of humanity, we must replace most of the energy we use today with renewable energy. And he is also convinced that we must absolutely leave the cradle of humanity by colonizing Mars.
“As his ex-wife, Justine, said, ‘He does whatever he wants and he’s relentless about it. This is Elon’s world, and we all live in it’.” Quote from Elon Musk’s biography
So, he co-founded two companies which are still relatively unknown to the general public; but which will be brought to the forefront in the years to come: Tesla and SpaceX. And then he also created a company called Solarcity.
Tesla’s goal is to mass-produce electric cars with a range of over 500 kilometers at a very affordable price, at the same price as gasoline-powered cars, but which are much cheaper, and are extremely practical in use so that the use of the electric car really becomes a mass phenomenon.
It is not easy. In fact, he created the first profitable automobile company in American history since 1925. Before, lots of people had tried to start an automobile business in America without success. Chrysler was the last. Beyond that, he managed to make it a profitable electric vehicle company because all the cars Tesla sells are electric without any exceptions.
A SpaceX spacecraft
So, as it is very difficult to master the tools and all the processes necessary to make a mass-produced car, from the start, he had an approach where first, he started by producing a luxury car, really for rich people since the car costed over $100,000 in small quantities.
Next, he made a slightly cheaper top-of-the-line sedan – I think it was $80,000 for the Model X – to further expand his product line.
And the step after is a car less than $ 50,000 that will allow many more people to take advantage of this technology.
It was a phenomenal success. All the Hollywood stars, the great entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley have snatched up these cars, which have completely revolutionized the way we perceive electric vehicles.
If you type Tesla cars in Google or Tesla car in Google image to see what it looks like, it’s awesome.
They are magnificent, stunning sports cars that are fully electric, have a range of over 400 kilometers, and have unmatched comfort and equipment.
Car manufacturers are still wondering what happened: how could there be an outsider like that who came out of nowhere, who had no experience in this field and who, suddenly, has created cars that are able to compete and even make most other cars seem utterly lame.
Tesla’s Model X won tremendous awards in 2012. It was voted the best car of the year by several serious magazines in the United States. This was also somewhat the catalyst for these cars.
You should also know that Tesla is building charging stations all over the United States and around the world. Today, when you buy a Tesla, you have free lifetime recharges at these stations. It’s quite impressive, quite incredible.
And there is on-board equipment today that makes a lot of people consider Tesla cars as computers on wheels. In fact, Tesla owners are extremely happy because the cars are regularly updated via 3G automatically. Sometimes you get up in the morning and find that your car has a new function.
“If the rules are such that you cannot progress, you have to go against the rules.” Quote from Elon Musk’s biography
For example, some of the Teslas today are able to drive themselves on highways and have a whole bunch of other similar features.
Elon Musk is revolutionizing a tremendously important industry that usually isn’t exactly an industry Silicon Valley companies are getting into.
It shows you the ambition of this person. In 10 years, there will undoubtedly be a lot of people with Teslas.
It also pushes other manufacturers to embark on electric production since Elon Musk’s vision is 20-30 years from now, most of the vehicle fleet, i.e., more than 90% is made up of electric vehicles, and that there are charging stations everywhere.
I’ll let you imagine the chaos that will cause not only in the automotive industry; but also in the oil industry.
And he doesn’t stop there since he also bought a solar panel manufacturing company. He has the vision to make solar panels become so affordable that everyone will have them in their own home, and what coupled with Tesla’s extraordinarily capable batteries, will make everyone have solar panels on their house with an extremely capable battery.
He did a presentation at TED recently to unveil the Tesla Home Battery Model, and it’s amazing. It’s a bit like the iPhone of batteries.
It is such a designer battery that you can hang it on the wall; and it looks nice in your home. It has a capacity that allows you to use a solar panel very efficiently or to simply save money. For example, by storing electricity during the off-peak periods of the night and by reusing it during non-off-peak periods.
Around the same time as he created Tesla, he created the SpaceX company.
The stated goal of SpaceX is to simply colonize Mars. For him, that means putting a million people there, no less.
There are a whole bunch of steps to get there. Obviously, it’s not going to happen overnight. And the very first step is to make the cost of space launches much more accessible than it is today.
So, he embarked into an extremely difficult sector: the marketing of satellites in space; which requires extremely significant investments; in which those involved are supported by states.
In particular, we have Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which are subsidized by the United States. We have Arianespace, which is subsidized by countries of the European Union and Canada and a few other external countries. We have Russia.
These are extremely significant organizations with enormous budgets, which have an extremely robust research and development sector.
“I just see it like, ‘what grades do I need to get to where I want to go?’” Quote from Elon Musk’s biography
Today, Elon Musk and his team managed to create a rocket, Falcon, a tribute to the Millennium Falcon from Stars Wars, which reduced the average cost of a launch from $300 million to $90 million, and which is in the process of introducing a major innovation, which will be able to recover the first stage of this rocket.
A rocket has several stages. First, you have the first stage that fires away, let’s say, to be able to put a satellite into orbit. Getting to a certain altitude, the first stage becomes detached. Then, the second stage takes over.
Today for all rockets, when the first stage detaches; it either burns in the atmosphere, or it crashes to the ground or in the ocean. In any case, we can’t get it back.
Here, SpaceX has developed a technology that allows; if there is fuel left in the first stage, which happens in most flights; to conduct a controlled descent and land it precisely on a platform.
They haven’t managed to retrieve the first stage yet; but on the last attempt, the stage just landed on the platform. So, it had extremely good accuracy. There’s just one little thing that didn’t go well at the last moment and it fell.
However, most specialists agree in that, Elon Musk and SpaceX will manage to recover the first stage which will further lower the cost of launches.
And it wasn’t without trouble considering the success did not come overnight. You should know that there were 4 test flights of the Falcon 1 rocket; which is a less powerful version of the one used today, and that the first three were failures.
The fourth was the launch of last resort because the whole operation was largely funded by Elon Musk with the money he had earned through PayPal and several other investors.
The last launch worked. At that time, he managed to land a contract with NASA of more than a billion dollars to go and refuel the space station.
Today, the space and international station are supplied both by the Russians with their Progress cargo ship and by the Dragon capsules, which are sent by SpaceX. That is to say, Elon Musk succeeded in creating the very first private space company in history to not only successfully send charges into orbit, but also to land a contract with a large organization for the supply of the space station.
SpaceX is considered to be a major player in the conquest of space, and it is also a player that is completely disrupting the industry because it has launching costs so low that everyone is totally freaking out.
Same, it’s exactly like Tesla. The key players are wondering how this guy could have come along in such a short time with something that is so obviously superior to what exists.
And in particular, Arianespace began to become a little afraid and asked for grants to be able to develop a research program in order to recover, too, the first stage of the Ariane launchers.
So, the next step for SpaceX is to create a rocket that is capable of sending men into space.
“I’d rather play video games, create software, and read books than trying to get an A if there is no point in getting an A.” Quote from Elon Musk’s biography
It should be noted that the United States no longer has any means in 2015 to send men into space by themselves since 2011 and the shutdown of the space shuttle. Which nonetheless hurts a bit American pride and also their technical capacity.
When they recently imposed financial sanctions on Russia in relation to what they were doing in Ukraine, the Russian defense minister said: we saw that the United States put sanctions on our space program, suddenly, one wonders how they will get to their international space station, they will maybe use a trampoline.
Since today, the only means of access for Americans to space, especially the space station, is to use Russian rockets.
SpaceX is an actor who is significantly shaking things up in a very traditional market in which there are state actors that very few people ultimately believed possible. And beyond that, it is today a major strategic challenge for the United States.
Elon Musk is an entrepreneur who is still rather unknown to the general public; but who is going to become increasingly more famous. I even think one day that he will even overshadow Steve Jobs.
That’s why I wanted to tell you about him because he’s arguably the most ambitious entrepreneur on the planet today. And he is truly a role model for all of us entrepreneurs; not only both for his ambition and his ability to achieve what many people think is impossible; but also for his ethics and the way he uses his money and time.
He is really the archetype of the entrepreneur who is there certainly to make money; but above all to bring value; and who is not shy about making a lot of money because he uses that money to accomplish his vision; to accomplish his mission, and ultimately to bring value to the world and to himself.
Elon Musk is that kind of entrepreneur who strongly contradicts Thomas Piketty; the French economist who wrote “Capital in the 21Ist Century”.
Piketty is the typical French economist who lambasts inequalities; who thinks that we absolutely must take the majority of the money from the rich; who rejoiced when Hollande implemented his 75% tax on wages above one million euros.
When you look at “Capital in the 21st Century”, you say to yourself: there is no way that Thomas Piketty has ever heard of Elon Musk. You get the impression that he has this vision that millionaires, billionaires, are people who, once they’ve made a fortune, spend their time in casinos with a woman in each arm and blow all their money on their cars.
When you look at most American entrepreneurs, especially American billionaires, already there are more than half who have not inherited their fortune and who have built their fortunes with their brains and their hands.
Most are in this process of adding value, whether through a grandiose vision; and sometimes not so grandiose, one can simply get rich by providing value through one’s products; and that may be enough. But there are entrepreneurs like Elon Musk who have a vision that goes far beyond. The same goes for the co-founders of Google, the same for Bill Gates who, today; it is incredible the good he can bring with all his philanthropic actions, etc.
“They would build a Ferrari for every launch, when a Honda Accord could do the job.” Quote from Elon Musk’s biography
So, Elon Musk, he’s an entrepreneur whose existence I spoke about with you because maybe you haven’t heard of him. It is even likely. And he’s a role model that we can all look up to not only with admiration; but also by thinking that he is a fascinating role model to follow for life in general.
I too, like him, don’t want to be shy about making money. I have a vision and there are things that people think is impossible, and I’m going to achieve them regardless.
Obviously, the problem is that when you look at this kind of life you say to yourself: I remember that time; just before I had discovered the life of Elon Musk, when I thought I was ambitious; but in fact, compared to him, I am nothing at all.
Sometimes also, we have to realize with humility our place in the order of things and take advantage of it already to expand our range of possibilities a little bit in order to try to go beyond what we believe possible for ourselves, and then, to be more motivated to accomplish what we want to accomplish.
You can also check out my article on Elon Musk’s biography.
Here is a video I created for my YouTube channel in which I explain how SpaceX will influence the internet 🙂: