The Elon Musk Business Model Canvas

Among an overwhelmingly large number of other brilliant insights from his extensive dossier on Neuralink, Tim Urban takes a stab at breaking down Elon Musk’s company formula into the following format:

Most companies don’t make it past the red box at the bottom: markets have a demand, a company supplies that demand, rinse, and repeat. And repeat.

Great companies today take things a step further by reinvesting revenue into research and development towards a much larger goal or vision.

The best companies invest in solving problems no one else has solved yet, overcoming some technological limitation that will “ignite an industry.”

The steam engine that ignited the industrial revolution.

Electricity that ignited the telecommunications revolution.

The integrated circuit that ignited the computer revolution.

An affordable electric car that ignites the sustainable energy revolution.

Reusable rockets that ignite the space travel revolution.

And high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to integrate humans and AI.

By Tim’s observation, the value Elon’s companies aim to provide customers revolves around reduced existential risk and the chance of a good future. He’s building companies for the species. That’s pretty cool and something any responsible human should strive to do. Tim proposes that Elon starts from that large cause—from the green circle on the right—and works his way left in his formula to come up with the goal, industry innovation, company innovation, and finally the sustainable business model.

No matter what your company builds or sells, it’s worth the exercise to see how you might be able to connect the dots between your current sustainable business model and an increased chance of a good future for the species. Whether you sell software, scrubs, breakfast burritos, or your own talents, no matter; think far outside the box to figure out how YOU might be able to innovate to make the world a better place. Nobility of the cause aside, finding and striking the match that ignites an industry would put you in a pretty sweet spot to lead new markets and make tons of money.

If you’re a CEO or high level executive, you’d be a fool to ignore this exercise. Carve out an hour or two this weekend or next week to fill this out.

For reference, Tim filled out the following canvases for Elon’s companies:

The Tesla Formula

The SpaceX Formula

The Neuralink Formula