Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Ashlee Vance
In Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance provides the first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley's most audacious entrepreneur. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur's journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk's world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.         Vance uses Musk's story to explore one of the pressing questions of our time: can the nation of inventors and creators which led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk--one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history--is a contemporary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy.


Reviewed: 2018-10-06
Reviewed: 2017-09-11
Reviewed: 2016-08-15

What I learned from this book:  

Successful leaders need Vision & Execution.  Successful entrepreneurs need to have the same skills as successful leaders, but they also need balls of steel (Courage) because you need to challenge convention: To succeed in business, you can't do what everyone else is doing.  That just keeps you in the middle of the pack.  Leading the pack means that you have to do something differently that other companies are NOT doing.  

Elon Musk is a badass.  He's special b/c: He's a genius who has both knowledge depth and breadth, extremely hardworking, has balls of steel, lastly, and most lucky for us, his goal in life isn't to make a ton of money and be comfortable, it's to be one of the greatest men in history and to do that he has to do something that hugely benefits mankind.  So he's going to do that by moving us to sustainble energy and addressing global warming by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels (Tesla & Solar Power).  He also wants to maximize the chance of humanity's longterm survival by getting us on the path to eventually settle on multiple planets (SpaceX).

The vision and strategy for Tesla and SpaceX

Tesla: Oil consumption is driven by transportation (~60%) and ~80% of CO2 emissions is from transportation.  So cutting down on our reliance on our reliance on fossil fuels in transportation would greatly reduce global warming effects.

Tesla plans to produce AND set up the infrastructure for electric cars so that eventually, just about everyone is driving an electric car.  The strategy is to first produce a highly desired luxury electric car (feels futuristic, has lots of WOW features, like doors that open out and up like wings, 0 to 60 so quick it feels like a race car, full touch screen controls etc), then as they get better at manufacturing the cars, make a cheaper version, and then an even cheaper version, until they're at the level of mass-produced electric car


SpaceX: Reignite space exploration and travel by greatly reducing the cost to do so.

Strategy: The aerospace industry is extremely uncompetitive (industrial oligarchy from high barrier to entry, strong political ties, they can basically charge whatever they want), inefficient (production is basically a daisy chain of contractors that all get a slice of the pie), and technologically stagnant (tech hasn't really changed since the 1970s).  

Make space launches cheaper by being extremely cost conscious, produce as much as you can in-house, and challenge convention on all aspects.  One of their biggest technologically feats (that they're stilll working towards) is building re-usable rockets. 

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