Elon Musk - Walter Isaacson ![rw-book-cover|200x400](https://readwise-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/media/reader/parsed_document_assets/91281538/cover-image-9781982181307_ZlwBq3Y.jpg) ## Metadata - Author: **Walter Isaacson** - Full Title: Elon Musk - Category: #articles ## Highlights - As a kid growing up in South Africa, Elon Musk knew pain and learned how to survive it. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hak8wqmcyc87v6qjpd9tfepm)) - Empathy did not come naturally, and he had neither the desire nor the instinct to be ingratiating ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hak9522bka0r3b7qdf4v8v02)) - If your father is always calling you a moron and idiot, maybe the only response is to turn off anything inside that would’ve opened up an emotional dimension that he didn’t have tools to deal with.” This emotional shutoff valve could make him callous, but it also made him a risk-seeking innovator. “He learned to shut down fear,” she says. “If you turn off fear, then maybe you have to turn off other things, like joy or empathy.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hak9m67t1zcbs5whzp7rvfg4)) - The PTSD from his childhood also instilled in him an aversion to contentment. “I just don’t think he knows how to savor success and smell the flowers,” says Claire Boucher, the artist known as Grimes, who is the mother of three of his other children. “I think he got conditioned in childhood that life is pain.” Musk agrees. “Adversity shaped me,” he says. “My pain threshold became very high ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hak9nhcgt8rq8jd225awz4mt)) - While other entrepreneurs struggled to develop a worldview, he developed a cosmic view. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hak9yrjb13p7r8ct30mx55w6)) - Elon wants risk for its own sake,” says Peter Thiel, who became his partner in the early days of PayPal. “He seems to enjoy it, indeed at times be addicted to it.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hak9zx91kp2588xm7t7s2etg)) ## New highlights added September 18, 2023 at 9:58 AM - Haldeman imprinted that spirit onto one of his twin girls, Elon’s mother, Maye. “I know that I can take a risk as long as I’m prepared,” she says ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hamc0bgr3x2ksypgetxaqwcj)) - Errol Musk and Maye Haldeman began dating when they were young teenagers. From the start, their relationship was filled with drama. He repeatedly proposed to her, but she didn’t trust him ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hamccafa79c2psh5b4ebtpa7)) - As a child, he says, he heard about a science fiction book by the rocket scientist Wernher von Braun called *Project Mars*, which describes a colony on the planet run by an executive known as “the Elon.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hamchz3mmem16skrs8ht5qdb)) - His parents got called in to see the principal, who told them, “We have reason to believe that Elon is retarded. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hamcpv8ha06z05s3168apyv5)) - He spent most of his time in a trance, not listening, one of his teachers explained. “He looks out of the window all the time, and when I tell him to pay attention he says, ‘The leaves are turning brown now.’ ” Errol replied that Elon was right, the leaves were turning brown ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hamcqm690jpdtaym6yj4138b)) - Ever since I was a kid, if I start to think about something hard, then all of my sensory systems turn off,” he says. “I can’t see or hear or anything. I’m using my brain to compute, not for incoming information ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hamcrqw9tabrfg98xnwjak0q)) ## New highlights added September 19, 2023 at 7:54 PM - Elon developed a reputation for being the most fearless. When the cousins went to a movie and people were making noise, he would be the one to go over and tell them to be quiet, even if they were much bigger. “It’s a big theme for him to never have his decisions guided by fear,” Peter recalls. “That was definitely present even when he was a child.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har5ezd2h6k3gbc8gttabndc)) - That lesson stuck with Musk. “I took from the book that we need to extend the scope of consciousness so that we are better able to ask the questions about the answer, which is the universe,” he says. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har72a9jhnw52s7sr4tay3jj)) - As Douglas Adams writes, “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har745f9njsxhzqn7sfb2kzt)) - “I wasn’t really going to put a lot of effort into things I thought were meaningless,” he says. “I would rather be reading or playing video games.” He got an A in the physics part of his senior certificate exams, but somewhat surprisingly, only a B in the math part. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har5nq3anr1sh9j6xjx9a36x)) - In his spare time, he liked to make small rockets and experiment with different mixtures—such as swimming-pool chlorine and brake fluid—to see what would make the biggest bang. He also learned magic tricks and how to hypnotize people, once convincing Tosca that she was a dog and getting her to eat raw bacon. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har5s1gbacqkgcfghhqygez7)) - Both the religious and the scientific explanations of existence, he says, did not address the really big questions, such as *Where did the universe come from, and why does it exist?* Physics could teach everything about the universe except why. That led to what he calls his adolescent existential crisis. “I began trying to figure out what the meaning of life and the universe was,” he says. “And I got real depressed about it, like maybe life may have no meaning.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har67hh4frd8zsm1rt4ms83z)) - One of his favorites was Robert Heinlein’s *The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress*, a novel about a lunar penal colony ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har6abzgar4p0g0gkef01cy0)) - Asimov expounds the most fundamental of these rules, dubbed the Zeroth Law: “A robot may not harm humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har6dernz3kbn8zbn7mkqh1d)) - The heroes of Asimov’s *Foundation* series of books develop a plan to send settlers to distant regions of the galaxy to preserve human consciousness in the face of an impending dark age. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har6ee3cgdwgqym6bsk2h7sn)) ## New highlights added September 20, 2023 at 9:42 AM - The difficulty of getting traveler’s checks replaced (it took weeks) was an early taste of how the financial payments system needed disruption. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01har923syjpgyxrdtwyzaw5n2)) - Nicholson, then forty-nine, and Elon had fun together solving math puzzles and weird equations. “I was interested in the philosophical side of physics and how it related to reality,” Nicholson says. “I didn’t have a lot of other people to talk to about these things.” They also discussed what had become Musk’s passion: space travel. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01harbdrjxhves2f5q7pccrjqb)) - Musk also drew another lesson from his time at Scotiabank: he did not like, nor was he good at, working for other people. It was not in his nature to be deferential or to assume that others might know more than he did. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01harbkhjhnt7s4tda38r1sm0r)) - The essence of being an engineer, he felt, was to address any problem by drilling down to the most fundamental tenets of physics ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01harbqjrnjnqqhwbrq5nmb5eq)) - I was concerned that if I didn’t study business, I would be forced to work for someone who did ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01harbr4f6jdp196drnazqqk1t)) - My goal was to engineer products by having a feel for the physics and never have to work for a boss with a business degree ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01harbrzvr728r3hfyk0y1enth)) - Instead, he fit comfortably into a crowd of geeks who liked making clever jokes involving scientific forces, playing *Dungeons & Dragons*, binging on video games, and writing computer code. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01harbx1dxpd3mf64xfs450174)) - Ren recalls that Musk focused on the three areas that would shape his career. Whether he was calibrating the force of gravity or analyzing the properties of materials, he would discuss with Ren how the laws of physics applied to building rockets. “He kept talking about making a rocket that could go to Mars,” Ren recalls. “Of course, I didn’t pay much attention, because I thought he was fantasizing.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01harc0102f0d35f7wt9a2hvtb)) - Ressi later marveled that Musk usually seemed a bit detached. “He enjoyed being around a party but not fully in it. The only thing he binged on was video games.” Despite all of their partying, he understood that Musk was fundamentally alienated and withdrawn, like an observer from a different planet trying to learn the motions of sociability. “I wish Elon knew how to be a little happier,” he says. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01harccghhs1zf96dfwgbgpzv2)) - They were impressed and wanted him to work full-time, but he needed to graduate in order to get a U.S. work visa. In addition, he came to a realization: he had a fanatic love of video games and the skills to make money creating them, but that was not the best way to spend his life. “I wanted to have more impact,” he says. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01harcmx41qkvax1vxzh4je0ay)) - He had conceived by then a life vision that he would repeat like a mantra. “I thought about the things that will truly affect humanity,” he says. “I came up with three: the internet, sustainable energy, and space travel ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hard5bh40tr71cs7n0hmyeed)) - Every time investors would come in, we showed them the tower,” Kimbal says, “and we would laugh because it made them think we were doing hardcore stuff ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hardy3emqvs9yxtpafpk3pej)) - Rich Sorkin, who had run business development for an audio equipment company, was made the CEO of Zip2. Elon was moved aside to chief technology officer. At first, he thought the change would suit him; he could focus on building the product. But he learned a lesson. “I never wanted to be a CEO,” he says, “but I learned that you could not truly be the chief technology or product officer unless you were the CEO.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hare4er63k7yqwerz6c6ffnc)) ## New highlights added September 21, 2023 at 8:56 AM - “He’s not a man who takes no for an answer,” she says. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw2m7jhxf8bxv0rjamb7ww9)) - She was impressed by his aspirations. “Unlike other ambitious people, he never talked about making money,” she says. “He assumed that he would be either wealthy or broke, but nothing in between. What interested him were the problems he wanted to solve.” His indomitable will—whether for making her date him or for building electric cars—mesmerized her. “Even when it seemed like crazy talk, you would believe him because he believed it.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw2p6s47ep07y52n965e6ny)) - They smiled and kissed. Then, as they danced, he whispered to her a reminder: “I am the alpha in this relationship.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw35jva7x0bcjy1v9qh9jd3)) - When his cousin Peter Rive visited in early 1999, he found Musk poring over books about the banking system. “I’m trying to think about what to start next,” he explained. His experience at Scotiabank had convinced him that the industry was ripe for disruption. So in March 1999, he founded X.com with a friend from the bank, Harris Fricker. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw38nt0hb3v7ds3xepdkz1x)) - At one point Musk responded with a very self-aware email. “I am by nature obsessive-compulsive,” he wrote Fricker. “What matters to me is winning, and not in a small way. God knows why… it’s probably rooted in some very disturbing psychoanalytical black hole or neural short circuit.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw3en9ex7vt51cn48kr8kn5)) - Believing that Musk needed adult supervision, Moritz convinced him to step aside the following month and allow Bill Harris, the former head of Intuit, to become CEO. In a reprise of what had happened at Zip2, Musk remained as chief product officer and board chair, maintaining his frenzied intensity. After one meeting with investors, he went down to the cafeteria, where he had set up some arcade video games. “There were several of us playing *Street Fighter* with Elon,” says Roelof Botha, the chief financial officer. “He was sweating, and you could see that he was a bundle of energy and intensity.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw3metn9cqqp7sdvbs41k8j)) - Musk was drawn to the fight with the intensity of a video-gamer. Thiel, on the contrary, liked to coolly calculate and mitigate risk. It soon became clear to both of them that the network effect—whichever company got bigger first would then grow even faster—meant that only one would survive ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw3sq4rycha2c2xkyc929xg)) - “We would own ninety percent of the merged company and you would own ten percent,” Musk replied. Levchin was not quite sure what to make of Musk. Was he serious? They had roughly equal user bases. “He had an extremely serious I’m-not-joking look on his face, but underneath there seemed to be an ironic streak,” Levchin says. As Musk later conceded, “We were playing a game.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw3vj93rsfqjten1rh59rp4)) - “So, what can this car do?” Thiel asked. “Watch this,” Musk replied, pulling into the fast lane and flooring the accelerator. The rear axle broke and the car spun around, hit an embankment, and flew in the air like a flying saucer. Parts of the body shredded. Thiel, a practicing libertarian, was not wearing a seatbelt, but he emerged unscathed. He was able to hitch a ride up to the Sequoia offices. Musk, also unhurt, stayed behind for a half-hour to have his car towed away, then joined the meeting without telling Harris what had happened. Later, Musk was able to laugh and say, “At least it showed Peter I was unafraid of risks.” Says Thiel, “Yeah, I realized he was a bit crazy.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw3ywsgqjmrnphnqnr8g6hk)) - A break came when Musk had a bonding experience with Thiel and Levchin at another lunch, this one at Il Fornaio, a white-tablecloth Italian restaurant in Palo Alto. They had waited a long time without being served, so Harris barged into the kitchen to see what dishes he could extract. Musk, Thiel, and Levchin looked at each other and exchanged glances. “Here was this extreme extrovert business-development type acting like he had an S on his chest, and the three of us are all very nerdy,” Levchin says. “We bonded over being the type of people who would never do what Bill did.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw45jdc7hmgvksy0nb6naxg)) - They agreed to a merger in which X.com would get 55 percent of the combined company, but Musk almost ruined things soon after by telling Levchin he was getting a steal. Infuriated, Levchin threatened to pull out. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw46shw4w8bm5bybxjq7pdk)) - The terms were revised once again, to basically a 50-50 merger, but with X.com as the surviving corporate entity. In March 2000, the deal was consummated, and Musk, the largest stockholder, became the chairman. A few weeks later, he joined with Levchin to force Harris out and regain the role of CEO as well. Adult supervision was no longer welcome. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw48010pvavbb8m2wdxgann)) - Musk restructured the company so that there was not a separate engineering department. Instead, engineers would team up with product managers. It was a philosophy that he would carry through to Tesla, SpaceX, and then Twitter. Separating the design of a product from its engineering was a recipe for dysfunction. Designers had to feel the immediate pain if something they devised was hard to engineer. He also had a corollary that worked well for rockets but less so for Twitter: engineers rather than the product managers should lead the team. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw4dyhj9w99mfc5pjcjpsm7)) - I think a huge part of the way he motivates people are these displays of sharpness, which people just don’t expect from him, because they mistake him for a bullshitter or goofball.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haw4qcw7getedsx51b01fq00)) ## New highlights added September 21, 2023 at 9:34 PM - Musk had married Justine eight months earlier, but he had not found time to go on a honeymoon. Fatefully, he decided to take one that September, just when his colleagues were plotting against him. He flew to Australia to attend the Olympics, with stops to meet potential investors in London and Singapore. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haxgnj8c0fyz4mxsgqr2p8nb)) ## New highlights added September 21, 2023 at 10:35 PM - For the second time in three years, Musk had been pushed out of a company. He was a visionary who didn’t play well with others. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haxjrafd6mx5z2gtbr9jr17g)) - What struck his colleagues at PayPal, in addition to his relentless and rough personal style, was his willingness, even desire, to take risks ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haxjy6xktsv8b5k8mbwgdgf2)) - Entrepreneurs are actually not risk takers,” says Roelof Botha. “They’re risk mitigators. They don’t thrive on risk, they never seek to amplify it, instead they try to figure out the controllable variables and minimize their risk.” But not Musk. “He was into amplifying risk and burning the boats so we could never retreat from it.” To Botha, Musk’s McLaren crash was like a metaphor: floor it and see how fast it goes. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haxjz3kzex95sy8t8b269cbh)) - He’s amazingly successful getting people to march across a desert,” Hoffman says. “He has a level of certainty that causes him to put all of his chips on the table.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haxk0qwj7vxjh9vnz5tshdvx)) - In order to get his pilot’s license, he needed fifty hours of training, which he crammed into two weeks. “I tend to do things very intensely,” he says ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haxkk91s86ctk5778qzrfg70)) - Later Hoffman would realize that Musk didn’t think that way. “What I didn’t appreciate is that Elon starts with a mission and later finds a way to backfill in order to make it work financially,” he says. “That’s what makes him a force of nature.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haxm1btsrj41q1hpnxzezagx)) - Ancient Egyptians learned how to build the pyramids, but then that knowledge was lost. The same happened to Rome, which built aqueducts and other wonders that were lost in the Dark Ages. Was that happening to America? “People are mistaken when they think that technology just automatically improves,” he would say in a TED Talk a few years later. “It only improves if a lot of people work very hard to make it better.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haxm4hk351v7rmqzf6hwrfye)) ## New highlights added September 22, 2023 at 10:00 AM - Faring to other planets would be, Musk believed, one of the significant advances in the story of humanity. “There are only a handful of really big milestones: single-celled life, multicellular life, differentiation of plants and animals, life extending from the oceans to land, mammals, consciousness,” he says. “On that scale, the next important step is obvious: making life multiplanetary. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haypwz40h3h5aaxz862s3cp6)) - As Max Levchin drily puts it, “One of Elon’s greatest skills is the ability to pass off his vision as a mandate from heaven.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01haypx5mn62x3jqxzec6yy994)) ## New highlights added September 22, 2023 at 7:48 PM - Musk began gathering rocket engineers for meetings at a hotel near the Los Angeles airport. “My initial thought was not to create a rocket company, but rather to have a philanthropic mission that would inspire the public and lead to more NASA funding.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hazwevr5q6r7jwh3wz4888ph)) ## New highlights added September 23, 2023 at 9:55 AM - Musk tried to recruit the two engineers who had accompanied him to Moscow. But Mike Griffin did not want to move to Los Angeles. He was working for In-Q-Tel, a CIA-funded venture firm based in the Washington, DC, area, and he was looking at a promising future in science policy ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb029hme1jvvd6n95k3cmyz4)) - SpaceX. Its goal, he said in an early presentation, was to launch its first rocket by September 2003 and to send an unmanned mission to Mars by 2010. Thus continued the tradition he had established at PayPal: setting unrealistic timelines that transformed his wild notions from being completely insane to being merely very late. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb02dzykyck0acyf8fhk744t)) - If you’re unwilling to invest in a company, he felt, you shouldn’t qualify as a founder. “You cannot ask for two years of salary in escrow and consider yourself a cofounder,” he says. “There’s got to be some combination of inspiration, perspiration, and risk to be a cofounder.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb03gh577nf4de57rhaw5k9f)) - As his team grew, Musk infused it with his tolerance for risk and reality-bending willfulness. “If you were negative or thought something couldn’t be done, you were not invited to the next meeting,” Mueller recalls. “He just wanted people who would make things happen.” It was a good way to drive people to do what they thought was impossible. But it was also a good way to become surrounded by people afraid to give you bad news or question a decision. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb03pjwn6bv62n6rt5wzmab4)) - ![](https://readwise-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/media/reader/parsed_document_assets/91281538/f0111-01-f0111-01.jpg) ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb03rj3n6rgkxbctbcafkpgg)) - At one point SpaceX needed a valve, Mueller recalls, and the supplier said it would cost $250,000. Musk declared that insane and told Mueller they should make it themselves. They were able to do so in months at a fraction of the cost ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb1694kjetsm60zp4n8hhvbx)) - After a few years, SpaceX was making in-house 70 percent of the components of its rockets. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb16gza0cpw6dfc309p1aqh4)) - There is a military specification that says it’s a requirement.’ And he’d reply, ‘Who wrote that? Why does it make sense?’ ” All requirements should be treated as recommendations, he repeatedly instructed. The only immutable ones were those decreed by the laws of physics. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb16pn4ptsefwtva99qe63ve)) - The sense of urgency was good for its own sake. It made his engineers engage in first-principles thinking. But as Mueller points out, it was also corrosive. “If you set an aggressive schedule that people think they might be able to make, they will try to put out extra effort,” he says. “But if you give them a schedule that’s physically impossible, engineers aren’t stupid. You’ve demoralized them. It’s Elon’s biggest weakness.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb16y5bvyckhqyytdgghcwgb)) - Even though we failed to meet most schedules or cost targets that Elon laid out, we still beat all of our peers,” Mueller admits. “We developed the lowest-cost, most awesome rockets in history, and we would end up feeling pretty good about it, even if Dad wasn’t always happy with us.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb170tjvdmd2h3d8ywap3qqw)) - Shotwell has a special insight that helps her when dealing with Musk. Her husband has the autism-spectrum disorder commonly called Asperger’s. “People like Elon with Asperger’s don’t take social cues and don’t naturally think about the impact of what they say on other people,” she says. “Elon understands personalities very well, but as a study, not as an emotion.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb19kx4a37aym11519jvebyv)) - A few months after she joined SpaceX in 2003, Shotwell and Musk traveled to Washington. Their goal was to win a contract from the Defense Department to launch a new breed of small tactical communications satellites, known as TacSat, that would allow commanders of ground forces to get imagery and other data quickly. They went to a Chinese restaurant near the Pentagon, and Musk broke his tooth. Embarrassed, he kept putting his hand over his mouth, until she started laughing at him. “It was the funniest thing, watching him try to hide it.” They were able to find a late-night dentist who made a temporary cap so that Musk would be presentable for their Pentagon meeting the next morning. There they sealed the contract, SpaceX’s first, for $3.5 million ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb19smte0sjds5sf4q4cgneb)) - Under those contracts, the government kept control of a project—such as building a new rocket or engine or satellite—and issued detailed specifications of what it wanted done. It would then award contracts to big companies such as Boeing or Lockheed Martin, which would be paid all of their costs plus a guaranteed profit. This approach became standard during World War II to give the government complete control over the development of weapons and to prevent the perception that contractors were war-profiteering. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb1a4v1c34dnytnksjd0eeh6)) - The problem with a cost-plus system, he argued, was that it stymied innovation. If the project went over budget, the contractor would get paid more. There was little incentive for the cozy club of cost-plus contractors to take risks, be creative, work fast, or cut costs. “Boeing and Lockheed just want their cost-plus gravy trains,” he says. “You just can’t get to Mars with that system. They have an incentive never to finish. If you never finish a cost-plus contract, then you suckle on the tit of the government forever.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb1a7ppft33mmydkxp57g0jm)) - The company risked its own capital, and it would be paid only if and when it delivered on certain milestones. This outcomes-based, fixed-price contracting allowed the private company to control, within broad parameters, how its rockets were designed and built. There was a lot of money to be made if it built a cost-efficient rocket that succeeded, and a lot of money to be lost if it failed. “It rewards results rather than waste,” Musk says. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb1a8zxkj3a10e8784khr835)) - In October 2003, Straubel attended a seminar at Stanford where Musk, who had started SpaceX the year before, was a speaker. His talk touted the need for entrepreneurial space activities ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb1akpwfef501h6kbcdq7bk5)) - The way to get a car company started was to build a high-priced car first and later move to a mass-market model ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb1atddzy1kafv41qr287k7y)) - He mentioned that encounter in an email to Musk asking for a meeting. “We would love to talk to you about Tesla Motors, particularly if you might be interested in investing,” he wrote. “I believe that you have driven AC Propulsion’s tzero car. If so, you already know that a high-performance electric car can be made. We would like to convince you that we can do so profitably.” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb1b4h0gn5kaa2rnn4kpyf9a)) ## New highlights added September 23, 2023 at 5:45 PM - One of the most important decisions that Elon Musk made about Tesla—the defining imprint that led to its success and its impact on the auto industry—was that it should make its own key components, rather than piecing together a car with hundreds of components from independent suppliers ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb1yq3g7htec0y046ps5em13)) - When producing their Rocket eBook, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning had outsourced the manufacturing process. Likewise, when it came time to make Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, they decided to cobble it together from components made by outside suppliers ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb1yvmx5mtwt1fjdnvk2tsgr)) - One issue with startups, especially those with multiple founders and funders, is who should be in charge. Sometimes the alpha male wins, as when Steve Jobs marginalized Steve Wozniak and when Bill Gates did the same to Paul Allen. At other times it’s messier, especially when different players feel that they are the founder of a company. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb270pyttp33rynt36tpgd93)) ## New highlights added September 23, 2023 at 8:14 PM - The problems began when Eberhard had a falling-out with Ian Wright, who had been part of the founding team. Their disagreements became so intense that each tried to convince Musk to fire the other. It was a tacit acknowledgment by Eberhard that Musk had the ultimate say. “Martin and Ian were telling me why the other one is a demon and needs to be thrown out,” ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb2g06b61kykxb6ntp72pqyg)) ## New highlights added September 24, 2023 at 8:58 AM - Almost any new technology initially has high unit cost before it can be optimized, and this is no less true for electric cars ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb2nb6dmqrpg88jt79zdzhqh)) ## New highlights added September 25, 2023 at 12:11 PM - As it turned out, Hollman was not at fault. When the fuel line was found, part of the B-nut was still attached, but it was corroded and had cracked in half. The sea air of Kwaj was to blame. ([View Highlight](https://read.readwise.io/read/01hb3rkstq0t281szkbnv2eq7p))