I watched Elon Musk‘s recent interview at “All Things Digital” (D11) and found it inspiring. Musk got his start by sort of co-founding PayPal, then he went on to found SpaceX and later he co-founded Tesla motors. That is fairly ridiculous as it stands, but then SpaceX has had unprecedented success and Tesla’s Model S is getting rave reviews. So he is a formidable business man, but what I admire most about Musk is the vision. He sees the obvious fact that we need to stop using gas powered cars at some point and so he goes and builds one (the best one). He recognizes that life on earth is fragile and wants humans to be a space faring species. So he goes and starts dramatically reducing the cost of space travel with SpaceX. I have a buddy over at SpaceX who posted that they are working on a “Mars Colonial Transporter.” Who else gets to work on such cool stuff?
It’s interesting that he is connected to Peter Thiel. Thiel is always talking about how the internet boom hasn’t lead to many physical innovations. He particularly carps about transportation not being faster. I guess he has Musk’s work in mind when makes these comments. Musk is all about transportation: space, car, and now a possible alternative to high-speed rail?! I want to jump into some sort of pod in SF and get to LA in 30 minutes. That would be awesome.
I also found it interesting that Musk recommends that young bright people forgo Silicon Valley. He says there is enough money and talent exploring digital space. Musk suggests taking those tech skills out into the world and disrupting markets where innovation has stagnated which are dominated by just a few major players. I guess that’s what he did in the aerospace and auto industries. This seems reasonable. Innovation in Silicon Valley has started to look a bit peaked. Yeah, social, mobile, local, whatever. I heard George Packer on the radio tonight pumping his new book and talking about how these startups are all about reducing friction in everyday life and that the Valley in general is out of touch with middle America. I don’t doubt that is true. Maybe the kids should heed Musk and go forth to conquer other worlds once they have learned the agile way of iterative improvement.