At this point, Elon Musk does not need an introduction, especially after being in the news for his interesting takeover of Twitter. Nevertheless, the tech mogul was once known for his innovative approach to science and technology. In fact, his portfolio contains an extensive list of companies he had a hand in, including PayPal. But as it stands, the public perception of the billionaire empire is less than ideal, to say the least, from his infamous rants to his questionable business decisions. One could rightfully assume that he has too much on his plate between his current five companies: SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, The Boring Company, and Twitter. But is he really overdue for a vacation, or is he one of the world’s most complex business savants?
SpaceX: A Big Step for Man
Founded in 2022 and headquartered in Hawthorne, California, the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX for short) was the first privately-owned company to launch and return a spacecraft from Earth orbit successfully. Additionally, it was one of the first to launch a crewed spacecraft and then dock it with the International Space Station (ISS). The following are just some of a long list of achievements for SpaceX:
- September 2008: The first privately-owned liquid-fueled rocket reached orbit.
- June 2009: The first developed liquid-fueled rocket put a commercial satellite in orbit.
- December 2010: They successfully launched, orbited, and retrieved a spacecraft.
- May 2012: The company sent a spacecraft to the ISS.
In More Recent Events
On February 12, 2023, the space company sent 55 Starlink internet satellites skyward, and the returning rocket landed on a ship at sea. Additionally, all satellites were successfully deployed 63 minutes post-liftoff as planned. SpaceX has greatly influenced three significant industries: Aerospace, Telecommunications, and Satellite Internet.
Unfortunately, the company has been in the headlines lately for less-than-desirable news. The company has come under fire for the steps taken to prevent Ukraine’s military from using the company’s Starlink satellite internet service to control drones in the region. But they cited misuse of the technology as it was not intended for military purposes.
Tesla: The Cars of the Future
Founded in 2003, Tesla, Inc. is an American manufacturer of electric vehicles, solar panels, and batteries for cars and home power storage. Despite not being a founder, Elon Musk contributed more than 30 million USD and served as chairman of the company starting in 2004. But it wasn’t until 2008 that Mr. Musk took over as CEO of the automotive giant. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, the company had many significant achievements under Musk, including but not limited to the following:
- May 2007: Musk managed to bring the total private financing investment for Tesla’s Series B to over 105 million USD.
- 2008: The Roadster, Tesla’s first car, went into production.
- January 2012: Tesla stopped production of the Roadster.
- June 2012: The company launched the Model S luxury sedan.
The COVID-19 pandemic boosted Tesla, Inc. In fact, the company produced 82,272 vehicles and delivered 90,891 cars in the second quarter of 2020. However, the automotive giant did come under scrutiny in recent years as it was the subject of scandalous behaviors and accusations, from Musk’s tweets to autopilot malfunctions. In fact, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against Tesla in early 2022, alleging that the company had discriminated against African American employees and disregarded years of complaints from those who claimed to have been constantly subjected to racial epithets at work.
The neurotechnology business Neuralink Corporation, known as Neuralink, is situated in Fremont, California, and creates implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). Neuralink was established by Elon Musk and a founding group of seven scientists and engineers in 2016 but made public knowledge in March 2017. Compared to his other business ventures, Neuralink is still young.
By July 2019, it had 90 workers and 158 million USD in investment, of which 100 million USD came from Elon Musk. At the time, the researchers developed a “sewing machine-like” device to insert tiny threads into the brain. It also displayed a method that uses 1,500 electrodes to read data from a lab rat. As a result, they originally planned to conduct human experimentation in 2020, but they have modified their timeline to 2023.
Musk’s statements concerning Neuralink have drawn criticism from several neuroscientists and publications, including the MIT Technology Review, which referred to some technological promises as “extremely speculative.”
The Boring Company
Elon Musk founded The Boring Company (TBC) in 2016 as an infrastructure and tunnel construction service provider in the United States. Additionally, it was established as a SpaceX subsidiary before dissolving in 2018. As of December 2018, Musk owned 90% of the equity, with SpaceX holding the remaining 6% as compensation for using SpaceX resources to launch the company.
Six projects were publicly announced, but only one was in operation. It is located inside the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) and spans 1.7 miles, connecting the LVCC West Hall to the current campus. Other TBC projects that were announced but later went dormant or were canceled are widely regarded as failures. Due to TBC’s increasing cost estimates and inactivity, proposed projects in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Baltimore were ultimately abandoned. As a result, The Wall Street Journal called TBC’s lack of action “ghosting American cities” due to its lack of response.
Beginning in early 2022, the business tycoon discussed buying Twitter, Inc., expressing his concerns about the company’s commitment to free speech and whether its moderation policies undermined democracy. According to reports, Musk had big plans for Twitter’s approach to spambots, a more lenient content moderation policy, among other modifications. After numerous commercial and legal disputes, Musk finally completed the acquisition on October 27, 2022, for 44 billion USD. Musk fired the top three Twitter executives right away. And thus began a series of seemingly-unfortunate decisions:
- He fired roughly half of the company’s 7,500 employees.
- The “blue checkmark” verification, previously only available to well-known confirmed users, was added to Twitter Blue a week after the takeover for 8 USD per month.
- Since anyone could pay to appear to be verified through Twitter Blue, numerous businesses and brands stopped running advertisements on the platform after the takeover, concerned with the increased likelihood of misinformation.
The logical conclusion would be to assume that he has bitten off more than he can chew, but is it the only one? If you really think about it, this “erratic” behavior has placed the space tycoon at the center of everyone’s attention. To quote John Mulaney when referring to the former POTUS, Donald Trump: “It’s like having a horse loose in a hospital. […] When a horse is loose in a hospital, you have to stay updated.” So, we are constantly trying to keep up with his shenanigans. Similarly, Mr. Musk has forced us to focus on him and his various companies. While stepping back is always a good idea, I don’t believe that, in this case, this behavior is fully destructive. But rather there is a method to the madness of Elon Musk.
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