ELON MUSK: WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT (LOGISTICAL) RESPONSIBILITY
*Originally published on Aug. 7, 2018 on BillySon.com
The next Steve Jobs, this generation’s Da Vinci, Edison, Henry Ford, the real Iron Man… The comparisons go on and on and deservedly so. He’s an anomalous talent challenging the notion of what’s possible. His propensity of altering entire industries by dissecting its fundamentals, introducing maximum efficiency through sometimes a radical new approach, and coming out on top is simply astonishing.
Seriously, who thinks of reusing supersonic rockets by having them land gently back on Earth? If that’s not impressive enough, what about having the 41 meter tall structures land on a small, mobile platform… in the middle of the ocean?! (SPACE X)
Electric cars… vanilla and slow? Okay, let’s make one that’s faster than a Ferrari, while comfortably seating four. And semi-trucks… who needs multiple truck drivers hauling multiple trailers? Let’s have one driver control multiple trailers in a train-like fashion. Oh and why burden our customers with the responsibility of driving at all times?… Let’s make the vehicles autonomous! (TESLA)
Sick and tired of traffic? Let’s start digging and fling people across tubes at 150 MPH!(BORING COMPANY)
Want to be more eco-friendly and avoid paying high electricity bills? Replace your roof shingles with ours and you’ll have your own clean, mini power plant! (SOLAR CITY)
Let’s not have artificial intelligence take over the world, Terminator style… let’s become half-terminators ourselves and stay ahead…PEW PEWW! (OPEN AI)
To summarize… Elon Musk is taking multiple big sh*ts on Moore’s Law. He is accomplishing feats that are so off the charts relative to historical progress.
This is inspiration at the highest level, but to investors, this pattern of multiple-industry involvement (curiosity at its essence) should be a risk worth considering. You see, his supernatural aptitude and his determination enables him to accomplish anything he fancies (self-taught the inner workings of rocket science). Nothing is out of reach for Elon. And because there are so many “world problems” and inefficiencies in the market, his super-sized curiosity and problem solving tendencies force him to get involved.
This can lead to a case of spreading himself out too thin. The only way Elon can compensate for this deficit is by setting up an extremely capable staff at all of his companies. The problem is, many of the feats he’s trying to accomplish are so avant-garde, so far along the Moore’s Law curve, that his companies STILL need his constant guidance. His ability to problem solve from weird angles, the willingness to shatter industry norm and apply new processes, influencing others to mimic his manic work ethic, are things he needs to be present for.
The most recent example of this can be demonstrated by the production issues of the Model 3 at Tesla:
Gayle: You didn’t expect this kind of production hell or did you? Elon: It’s worse than I thought.
“We got complacent about some of things that we felt were our core technology… we put too much new technology in the Model 3 all at once.” -Elon
“At this point I have a clear understanding of the path out of hell and I (did) not, until recently, have a clear understanding.” -Elon
Here’s the issue: people don’t see problems and solutions in the supremely efficient/logical manner that Elon does. The difference in aptitude between him and others is dramatic. Earlier in his career (and still today to some extent), he massively underestimated this disparity; he just assumed that his team would “get it”. They didn’t and prolonged delays ensued.
Under Elon’s guidance the factory went from producing roughly 2,000 units per week to over 5,000 in just four months starting April; 6,000 units are expected sometime this month. It wasn’t until he got fully involved, fully dedicated (even sleeping at the factory), that production issues were resolved. I’m sure his staff at Tesla is extremely intelligent and capable, but it takes a different breed to come in and fix “unfixable issues”.
If Elon focused on one company… one mission…, then as an investor I would sleep like a well-fed baby. Why? Because I know he’s capable of anything. Unfortunately, the variable of time exists and even for a man like Elon, it puts a limit on what he can accomplish.
When you hear of his plans to build a complex network of tunnels with The Boring Company…. his ambitions to not only send people to (f*cking) Mars, but to build a sustainable city there… his plans to send a “constellation” of 12,000 satellites to provide cheap, global internet access… his plans to develop AI to make it functional for humans…
and wait, what’s this.. he just took some time off to build a mini sub for the Thai boys trapped inside a cave?
You get the picture… he has his fingers in many different pies. I don’t think the production issues of the Model 3 (required his full and undivided attention) is that significant when you compare it to some of the hurdles he needs to overcome in the future. Again, if he focused on a few things, I would have complete confidence in his ability to execute… he is that great. But when you spread yourself across numerous endeavors, many which are monumental feats in its own right, you start to ask yourself, “how much time does he have devoted to each task?”
I never want to bet against Elon because he always seems to overcome, but not even Mr. Iron Man himself can eliminate the universe’s command to prioritize.