A few years back, I attended AllThingsD conference where I heard Elon Musk explain how he wants to protect the human race from a possible extinction by making it possible to move to Mars. Elon is very convincing when he explains that our risk of extinction is much higher than when dinosaurs were alive and someone had to do something about it. Now that is ambition. Watch the video if you have not.
The leaders of the technology and entertainment industry who gathered south of Los Angeles at AllThingsD all agreed that Elon Musk was the new Steve Jobs in how he inspires us all.
In fact it is the first time I feel so much that everything I have done in my entrepreneur projects for the last fifteen years is irrelevant.
There are many bright minds in Silicon Valley focusing on small things, like the next instant messaging or picture mobile app.
There are also hundreds of venture capitalists ready to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at them hoping some of them get acquired for more than a billion dollars (Instagram, Tumblr…) or go public. Pebble even managed to raise more than ten million dollars without any investor or dilution for a connected watch on Kickstarter.
That’s what I used to look at as inspiring success (and of course, it is and huge respect for the entrepreneurs and investors who achieved them), until today.
Elon Musk completely changed my vision of ambition. In just a few years he managed to be successful at three extremely ambitious projects that others have failed at or even given up investing in: solar, electric cars and… space. How many solar companies failed before Elon’s Solarcity became successful? Same with Electric Cars, Elon says he got into that business because no one wanted to invest in electric cars anymore. I kept the best for the end, Space, of course. It was quite something to listen to Elon explain that starting a space rocket business was very easy as there was way too much waste in the rockets production cost that made them too expensive. Elon “simply” looked at the cost of all the parts of a rocket and noticed that it was many times lower than the price of the assembled rocket plus labor cost, something was wrong. He launched , reduced the rockets production price and now even the Nasa became a customer.
Elon did it three times: crazy ambitious projects where he bet his entire net worth and they all became or are on track to be profitable despite their craziness. Elon has a very unique way of combining a vision of future customers, science, profitability and extremely difficult problems to solve. In the past it was scientists paid by governments who were conquering space, now it’s Elon Musk and Richard Branson. What’s even more amazing is that even though they’re ambitious, Elon’s businesses are profitable or will soon be. Elon explained in details how everyone thought he was going to fail on his first two electric cars, and he did not. “Someone one day will notice there is a trend” Elon said, talking about making electric cars possible and profitable.
Who would have invested and financed SpaceX at the beginning? What private investor would have financed a project to send humans to Mars? Not many, if any. I actually know a few super successful entrepreneur friends such as Reid Hoffman, Niklas Zennstrom or Pierre Omidyar who I know love ambitious projects that can take over the World, I am sure they would listen.
I have never seen as much ambition as Elon. Again, he bet his entire net worth many times to pursue his dreams and now he wants to send us to Mars during his lifetime and he is ready to again bet his billions on it. I love it, I am blown away by Elon’s ambition and style.
I would also like to bet all I have on a crazy ambitious project that no one would ever finance but me. It does not matter anyway as we can all live with less, a lot less.
Was it Steve Jobs who said “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do” or did he quote someone else?
Based in San Francisco, Loic Le Meur is the Chief Executive Officer of Leade.rs – and the Co-Founder of LeWeb, Europe’s largest annual tech conference. Loic was formerly the CEO of Seesmic, a Senior Vice President with Six Apart and a Board Member for Boursorama and Meetic. Follow him on LinkedIn, where he is an Influencer.