10 years of Elon Musk
Elon Musk. Musk has a billionaire sized reputation mutation. Whatever you think of Elon? Musk we need him to succeed. Jury selection began Tuesday in a defamation trial against billionaire Elon. Musk to thanks for not lightness. Place was on fire. You're welcome. December was a big month for e Lan spacex launched and landed another rocket. Alon was in court because of a defamation case against him and he made a point of driving around Los Angeles in his newly announced Tesla cyber truck while onlookers got he got a lot of attention and these days. That kind of feels normal. Elon Musk's MR controversy and Mr Future. ALL IN ONE TECH BILLIONAIRE PACKAGE BUT ten years ago most people had never heard of him. It's not that he wasn't involved in major deals back in the ninety s or in the two thousands is just that he wasn't Ilan as as we know him today arguably the twenty tens were the decade that Ilan became Milan. And so today on the show. We're taking a look at the human who wants to start start colony on Mars bill machine to control computers with just your brain and who thinks we probably live in simulation. I'm Ariel Jim. Ross this is reset Lisboa Plateau deputy editor at the verge and reporter on the. Musk beat how did he long become the person he is today. Can you tell me a little bit about his childhood. Oh Yeah I could definitely tell you about his childhood. So he's he's born in South Africa his parents split. He stays with his dad after the divorce. His Dad by all accounts counts is not a great guy and so he has kind of this rough home life and he's not doing that well with his peers at school either. What do you mean by that at one point? He was beaten so badly by his schoolmates that he was hospitalized. I mean. He was bullied so he grows up in South Africa. I mean he now lives in the. US How did he end up there. I moved to Canada and then he moved to the US and in both cases it had to do with going to school. He went to college essentially and his family is actually actually Canadian right. I think his mother might be Canadian. Sorry I like plugging that in. Their people should know so i. He goes to Canada Canada and I think he's at Queen's University which is in Ontario and from there he moves on to the University of Pennsylvania. where I think. He got dual degrees in economics. Physics all right and at this point is he already thinking up businesses that he wants to Creator you know whereas whereas my net yeah I mean so. There's I mean the economics degree suggests to me that he's already thinking about business but there's also some anecdotes in leave ANZUS biography about him like hosting parties where he didn't necessarily drink but he sold people drink. Cups made a bunch of money that way so it seems like you know this is something that he's he's been thinking about from the jump so anyway he he leaves Penn in Nineteen ninety-five and gets accepted it into a PhD program at Stanford University in California in physics. But as he's going out there you may remember around this time. There's the internet boom and so he's in this program for. I think like two days like literally. Today that's before he drops out uh-huh decides to launch his first company which is called Zip to okay. What's too so it was sort of an early? The attempt to get newspapers online. Believe it or not but anyway This gets acquired by Compaq for something like three hundred million dollars. There's in nineteen ninety nine and with this money must goes on to co found x dot com an online financial service and a payment company. What exactly was launched vision for that company? It was one of the first online banks as far as I can tell. Musk wanted to challenge the banking industry he wanted to disrupt banking so this is an ATM. We're going to do is transformed traditional banking industry. I do not fit the picture of a banker. Raising fifty million dollars is a matter of making a series of phone calls and the money is there you know. It wasn't a a small scope type of deal that musk was working on. But what happens is x dot com winds the merging with infinity. which is the startup by guy? Peter Thiel you might hurt him anyway. conformity has a money. Transfer Service called. Pay Pal. They this is where there's some friction Because you know you on mosque really has this idea for an extensive banking service US and he. He wants x dot com to be something much bigger than that. And there's sort of a fight about branding because he wants the branding for pay pal to be. I pay pal brought to you by acts and pretty much everybody else is like people like and recognize. Pay Pal they don't know what acts is Let's just let's just make it pay pal so at this point. It must doesn't like the fact that that the company that he was working on the name is getting a raced. Yeah I mean basically. It's a sort of a question of scope right like do you want to focus on these online payments or do you want to do something much bigger and must get pushed out so that they can narrow the scope and focus on these online payments. And I from the former. CFO OF PAP- house at something like it would have killed the company if you had stayed on as CEO for six more months must got kicked out of pay pal. Essentially is what you're saying. I mean he was still on the board but yes he was he was fired as a CEO. How do you think that impacted him? I think that getting kicked out had a pay pal was a formative experience for him because it seems to speak to the way that he controls his other companies. There's a bunch of anecdotes of him. I'm talking about how much he doesn't like public companies. Because you can't really control things and you can't really have a long-term vision and I think that after his experience at pay pal it must decided okay like I need to be in charge of my own companies in such a way that I can't be removed like this again. How was Elon? Musk perceived at that point like who was he in the world of of business in the world of tech I think he was sort of perceived in the way that most executives are perceived. which is you know you're known within your own circle but you're not necessarily a household name so he is not the guy that we know today? No He's definitely not and you can see. There are some mm early interviews with him where people are talking to him. He's like doesn't have the same kind of media savvy he later develops and it's like seeing A Proto Yulon. Musk ask a lot of the stuff that we see later is already there But it hasn't quite developed. Do you have an example of of guests his media media clumsiness at the time I'm I'm thinking of a specific interview and I wish I could remember. There's one with him and his then wife and they're you know talking about how their life hasn't really been changed that much by this money except that they bought a nice car and its him showing off his car Which is called McLaren F one? It's a million dollars for a car. It's it's It's Oh yes yes I know exactly what interview you're talking about. This is actually a pretty famous interview. Where where he just seems like kind of I don't know he hasn't doesn't fully settled into his new life? He's a little bit awkward. He just seems like he's also beaming right. He's really proud of this car. He's thrilled thrilled out of his mind. Nine completely. It's actually pretty well but just three years ago. I was showering and the at the Y.. And Sleeping on the office floor and now obviously GonNa Millionaire car and quite a few creature comforts. Okay so I'm glad you actually brought up his wife and everything so musk also got married in two thousand for for the first time right to just steam. Yes and there are some anecdotes that surfaced serviced when they eventually divorced and one of the most striking ones happens on their wedding night and they're they're taking their first dance and he whispers in her ear. I am the alpha in in this relationship. What do you think that reveals about a mosque a deep well of insecurity? I mean I can't imagine saying that to a romantic partner on your wedding night of all things or ever but I also think it speaks to some of the stuff. We were talking about a little earlier about how he needs to constantly be in control. And what is that phrase if not you know. I'm in control and as the two of them are getting divorced. I'm GonNa Watch the exact phrasing so this is a paraphrase but you know she says something about not being happy in the relationship and he says something like if you were my employees. Yeah I would have fired you what that story indicates to me. One is not just his desire for control but also a misogynistic streak yeah. There's you know I'm trying to think about how to phrase this because there's certainly a streak of misogyny Nia among his fans It's something that especially women reporters who cover Elon. Musk counter a lot. I personally told that I must be quote unquote obsessed with them but there is this sort of culture that he comes from that is not especially women. Friendly like Silicon Valley of that period is not especially women friendly and it's still well not women friendly now so there is kind of a casual misogyny and a lot of the areas in which he's operating And like that's true of aerospace. That's true of cars. That's true of software These are all extremely dude turf places where dudes tended to defend their turf. So how exactly did things end between paypal and the other co-founders and Elon. Musk so Pay Pal goes public in two thousand two and after a couple of months is bought by Ebay and I think must get something like one hundred and sixty five million dollars out of this transaction the overall transaction is something like one point five billion okay. So what's the pay pal money. He does chew things first of all. He founds a rocket company. Space Exploration Technologies SPACEX. You found that in two thousand and two but the other thing that he does is he invests in this a car. Companies Company was making electric cars. He's the series investor Fester for Tesla Inc And that takes place in two thousand four and later Must becomes credited as a CO founder of Tesla after the break picks up speed this is recent and what if all you're breaking news alerts had voice. What would that sounds like? It would sound like today. Explain its Daily News podcast from vox. I'm Sean Ramos Grim every day my team and I take one essential news story politics two movies sports science and we break it down into twenty minute episodes perfect for your ride. Home subscribed today explained on Apple Apple podcasts. Or wherever you listen from stitcher and vox media podcast network. Liz Lepanto deputy editor at the verge. You recently published an article that was entitled the decade in Salon. Why did you choose to look at this period? Meaning the twenty tens of his career. This is sort of the decade were Elon. Musk is the figure we know him now emerges so you know if you remember twenty ten. He's still basically best best known for getting fired from paypal one of his companies Tesla had built its first car the roadster and that was in two thousand eight but he goes through this period of personal difficulty. where he and SPACEX and Tesla all nearly go bankrupt in two thousand eight through the result of the financial crisis and then in two thousand ten? These these significant things happen. The first is that SPACEX launches the first version of the Falcon nine which is their course. Rocket with Y'all off of the Falcon nine. The second is that Tesla Goes public you raise two hundred sixty million dollars from Mariah Peo- about three hundred twenty seven. The third is that Tesla takes occupancy of their very first factory in Fremont California. We have a very big sign And we're GONNA raise the curtain on the sign. Take Awhile and from two thousand ten the peace. Only really accelerates because those three things it of setup everything that happens in the next decade or so so if I were to ask you to sort of give me like a quick run through of the last decade aide in e Lan like what are the major points. I'm taking a deep breath because I'm GonNa like it's going to be a lot in two thousand ten. There's this launch and then in two thousand twelve SPACEX becomes the first private company ever to dock at hat the International Space Station and then by two thousand fifteen spacex is flown. Something like seven missions to the space station and then around in two thousand fifteen things start to get more interesting so spacex lands. Its first rocket. You mean like Lanza rocket on right. Yeah Yeah talking about one hundred seventy two three of those. He won't be that. Republicans the idea that reusable rockets would be a cost cutting measure and the metaphor that spacex tends to us. Why would you throw an airplane away after one flight? Why would we do this with rockets? And there's been some questions about whether that is a reasonable cost. Cutting measure in part because refurbishing a rocket is pretty expensive expensive too but yeah in two thousand fifteen. He lands a rocket the first stage and people were like. Oh that's a big deal. Yeah okay okay. He's serious and then he starts landing them so routinely that people begin to take it for granted that space x can just land their rockets now. Meanwhile Tesla is also ramping up significantly. Battling right because what fun would it be. If one of these companies was chill Tesla's public in June. Two thousand ten then they you start building more cars. So you see the Model S. launches in November twenty twelve and then the first deliveries for the Model X.. Happened in September. Two Thousand Fifteen and and there are some delays in production one of the consistent things about dealing with Elon. Musk is that his timelines are almost always to optimistic but nonetheless these these cars are are are out in the world and people are pretty excited about them. I don't know if you've ever spoken to a tesla owner but I have and they tend to be very enthusiastic about their cars. Well I've had a few weeks to get to new my new cheap tesla and so far Ilan Walk you really out of this thing. So they're also planning around this time for the model three which is the relatively affordable tesla the mass market electric car. And there's some questions about how that will that that will happen. Because as twenty fifteen the Fremont factory had delivered fewer than fifty one thousand cars total. So there's some questions about how he's going to get these ambitious plans for the model three done but at this point like Tesla Tesla's cruising along you know Things are working out. The cars are going people are excited. Work begins on the model. Three and Yulon must decide the thing they should do is they should turn the factory into a quote alien dreadnought an the alien dreadnought. Yeah what is that supposed to mean the the idea. Is that I think that it's supposed to be sci fi right like that. It's a you know you walk into it. There are no people involved and it's just This this machine that builds the machine so the theme of sci-fi just keeps coming back all the time with Yo yeah we ah no point. Are we ever going to lose touch with science fiction. So you know at this point spacex tax and Tesla are both pretty iconic companies in their own right and so the to kind of come together during this initial Falcon heavy launch in two thousand eighteen. Because the payload that they descended into orbit is Elon Musk's Tesla roadster and. It's this you know this cherry red car very striking against the black background of space uh-huh and it's got a dummy in it in a spacesuit and they've nicknamed him Starman I'm sorry he put a dummy in the Tesla roadster that they launched in space. Yeah also cameras so that they could livestream dummy. This was Elon. Musk's idea doesn't sound like you loan musk's idea So it kind of feels like Ilan became more of a public figure in this last decade from your perspective. Why do people people care about him as a personality to some degree? That's always the question of any celebrity. But it seems like. He particularly appeals to a group of people who also Love sci-fi I who are very interested in cars and rockets I would say part of it also. Is that Elon. Musk doesn't dream small and I think that there are people. Oh who find that really inspiring. They want people to dream big. They like that. He's dreaming big and they they want to encourage more of that in our society and then I would also also say on top of those. Two things His sort of story of being the underdog who then went on to you know Oh dominate space and to you know create. Tesla is a story that I think a lot of people who may be have had some some difficulty in their early life might find inspiring a relatable and it can be maybe a kind of wish fulfilment story for people who are going through something difficult it is also extremely online right. Can you tell me a little bit about his twitter Yeah I can I can tell you about is twitter. You on musk's probably to online if we're being honest about it but I don't think he's ever going to log off and like I find this weirdly endearing because I am also online too much and also on twitter too much. But he he's sometimes. It's just goofing around and like making jokes about like building. A volcano layer. At least. I hope they're jokes. And then like sometimes he's like announcing actual material information about Tesla but Every once in a while he'll just wild out and like tweet something really weird an and then the entire media industry sort of collapses around itself trying to figure out what's going on on on social media in the midst of widespread concerns Tesla might collapse. He tweeted this. We are sad to report that Tesla has gone completely and totally bankrupt so bankrupt. You can't believe it you know people are nervous and they're worried you are aware that so knowing that why would you do in April fools joke that you did. Oh 'cause because there's all this media articles saying that test is going bankrupt So I thought well I'll just do an apron that we grew up. That's not funny when people simpler nervous. I mean it's full fuel. Should lighten up. Okay he's also gotten in trouble at least a couple times because of his twitter right. Oh Yeah so obviously. Obviously there's the defamation trial which was a twitter defamation trial the suit is brought by British cave explorer over a tweet by Tesla. CEO Calling the Brit a pedophile Vernon UNSWORTH was part of a team hailed as heroes for rescuing twelve boys trapped in flooded cave in Thailand last year at the time must offer the use of a mini. The submarine Unsworth later told CNN that offer was a PR stunt. Musk lashed out at unsworth on twitter. Calling him quote Pedo Guy Meaning. Well that that was the thing that was in contention in the courtroom. Because according to Musk's lawyers this was just a meaningless insult and according to Vernon unsworth he had been called a pedophile and defamed. What exactly was at stake for Ilan in the defamation trial I think his pride more than money like the way that his attorney was characterizing the interchanges with Unsworth was that it was a fight between men? It was an argument between men. They were the he you on. Moscow's insulting assaulting Unsworth as people do and arguments This was not defamatory. And nobody would take it to be a claim that Unsworth is a pedophile. You've been covering Ilan for like half a decade decade now. So what do you think about what he's accomplished is. Is he actually moving the needle. Is he somebody that is worthy of the attention that he gets man. I really struggled with this question. And because I have come to think of lawn and much the way that I think about the weather The weather is always occurring Sometimes it's whether I like. Sometimes it's whether I don't like I don't have any real control over whether there's nothing I can do about it except you know. Wake up and check my phone. And so that's that's sort of what covering Ilan is like right Yes and now now. We have a gigantic thunderstorm to be how I think about but I will say. This Tesla demonstrated Pretty much every other automaker that was possible to make a sexy electric car that people would want to buy and there are a bunch of electric cars that are currently on the market or coming to market very shortly leap from luxury. Automakers that are moving into the space that he essentially pioneered to me. That seems like a pretty clear win. Even if Tesla just vanish from the Earth tomorrow the fact that it had demonstrated electric cars could be sexy and interesting and people would buy them like that. That is influential. And I think to you. On Musk's credit spacex sex is the probably the most important private rocket company ever. So that's a pretty big title to have. Yeah that's not. That's not a small thing. Liz You seem to take a lot of pleasure in sort of reporting on Elon. Musk related things. Why is that? He's such a character he's such a character it's there I've been thinking about this a lot. There aren't a lot of people in the business world that are that out out there and the way that Elon. Musk is there other CEOS who've had sort of like followings I'm thinking specifically of Steve Jobs who had like sort of following in the way that Elon. Musk Oscar following. But even Steve Jobs is relatively buttoned up relative to Yulon who is just like out here like tweeting Iheart anime and like in doing God knows what else. And there is like a certain amount of chaos involved and as you know Ariel. Because we've worked together I really liked chaos us. You do looking back on the life and career of Musk's so far how should people think about him. Man I I really hesitate to tell healthy blood I think about Elon. Musk part because there are some fairly intense fans and some fairly intense haters and they're all operating with the same set of facts they're just weighing the fact somewhat differently right so like people who are short Tusla are saying you know. This company isn't going to succeed because it's loaded down with debt and the CEO is highly erratic radic whereas people who are long tessler like okay. He's a little erratic that's true but also like look at what he's done so far from nothing one thing that you can't say for sure is that he has used social media in a way that no other. CEO has to connect to his fan base. And that is part of the reason there is is such an intense sort of cult of personality around him is that he has really used twitter and especially youtube to speak directly to the people who feel most inspired by him and in that sense. Like if you're looking from the perspective of liberty it's sort of savvy can at times be a double edged sword but it is definitely unusual and worth keeping an eye on. Because I don't think he's going to be the last. CEO To do it. Liz Petillo is the deputy Fud editor of the verge. Liz Thank you no thank you. Ariella was a real pleasure being here. This is recent. I'm Ariel offs. 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