SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is a serious dude with a serious vision. He made a fortune as a co-founder of PayPal and promptly put it all at risk by investing in an electric-car startup, a space-travel startup, and — just to hedge his bets — a solar-installation startup.
Not your average CEO. And even by the standards of not-average CEOs, practically a rock star. Musk is no stranger to the red carpet. Sometimes it's Musk alone. Sometimes it's Musk with an attractive woman on his arm. (Who is sometimes his mom!) Sometimes it's Musk in a group.
Musk lives in Los Angeles — he's actually the 24th richest guy in town, at a cool $2b billion, according to the L.A. Business Journal — and seems to have more than a little bit of Hollywood in him. After all, the guy has had a hand not just in blasting rockets at the International Space Station but in producing four movies.
Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Tesla
SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks onstage during the debut of the Model X electric vehicle in Los Angeles. Steve Jobs had the black turtleneck. Musk has the black velvet dinner jacket.
SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk, hit a home run last week by launching the first commercial mission to service the International Space Station. This has led some to ask if Musk might be the "next Steve Jobs" — a technological and cultural visionary who unites people across a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.
It's a tempting question to ask. I've seen it pop up on Quora, the startup question-and-answer site where I've been spending a lot of time lately hanging out and...well, answering questions (just not yet ones about whether Musk is the new Jobs). It's cropped up since Jobs' death last year and has been discussed more recently in the context of what the two men have in common.
A few months back, in connection with an article I wrote for Pasadena magazine about Musk's other company, Tesla Motors, I asked him what he thought. He was gracious, praising Jobs, but also careful to make a distinction about what he does (sorry, no link):
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LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13: Marti Eulberg (L) and Ciara attend Vanity Fair & Fisker Automotive Toast Dreamworks Pictures Golden Globes Best Drama Nominations 'The Help' And 'War Horse' at Cecconi's Restaurant on January 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
I don't really think this is good news. Fisker Automotive, the startup electric carmaker, is really starting to huff and puff just as rival Tesla Motors is preparing to blast off. Founder Henrik Fisker has handed over the leadership reins to Tom LaSorda, a veteran of Detroit and specifically of Chrysler. But LaSorda labored at Chrysler during the automaker's failed marriage to Germany's Daimler. And when Daimler dumped Chrysler in to the arms of private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, LaSorda was content to play second banana to what I consider one of the least effective CEOs every to grace the Motor City, Robert Nardelli, who previously had caused all manner of problems for Home Depot.
It should be pointed out that Fisker only current vehicle, the Karma, isn't even a pure EV. It's a plug-in hyrbrid, with a drivetrain similar to the Chevy Volt. Unlike the Volt, which sells for roughly $41,000 (before tax credits of up to $7,500), the Karma goes for $103,000. A cheaper model, dubbed "Nina," is on the drawing board, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, Fisker lost the $529 million Department of Energy loan guarantee it need to move forward on the vehicle.