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Source: Johannes on Unsplash.

A Short History on Elon Musk’s Genius

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Elon definitely had smarts.

In a recent podcast, he went over how he and his brother were essentially the first people to take local businesses and put them on the internet.

At a time when nobody was doing this.

Remember, during that time, people didn’t think the internet was going anywhere.

Paul Krugman — infamously — said in 1998 that the internet wouldn’t be more important than fax machines.

Source: Twitter

Elon was born in 1971, which means he was in California around 1990.

He created Zip2 in 1995.

By 1999, Compaq purchased it for $305 million.

Here is the interesting part. The dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, and people lost about $5 trillion by 2002.

The internet recovered and surpassed that by the end of the decade. People who believed in the internet were right, but their timing was wrong.

So Elon accidentally had great timing. But that doesn’t make his software for Zip2 less impressive. He was actually one of the founders for importing local businesses to the internet in a clever way that slow internet speeds of that time period could capture.

He was taking big projects and converting them into clever format.

Coincidentally, Roy Fieldings’ dissertation about Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures was paramount in equipping developers with the first web APIs.

In other words, the infrastructure of the internet was being developed.

This was already Elon’s playground.

EBay had their API by the end of 2000. Salesforce launched early that year. Amazon Web Services literally saved Amazon from going extinct in 2002–2003. Today, Amazon Web Services is the most profitable business component of the Amazon enterprise. Talk about luck.

Elon hopped in on that infrastructure race. He envisioned an internet bank, enabling transaction speeds unknown before. He was seeing the progress internet speeds were making. He saw how fast computers were improving.

He developed He was fighting to become the sole merchant processor on eBay at the time. Coincidentally, Confinity was also fighting to become that merchant processor.

EBay also purchased its own money transfer service, Billpoint.

Somewhere along the way, Elon realized that the only way forward would be to run eBay’s resources dry. and Confinity merged, eventually renaming themselves as PayPal.

Billpoint failed. In under two years, eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion. At the time, eBay was only worth about $4 billion.

Elon is a genius in more ways than one. His timing might be accidental, but he is a master at improvisation. His ability to maneuver is uncanny.

He’s taken whatever money he had and pumped it into what people know him for today:

  1. SpaceX
  2. Tesla

He has stated in podcasts that he also has a small investment in Square. He has an investment and founding rights in OpenAI, among other things.

Since joining Tesla, Elon had the CEO ousted because he had lied about production numbers and manufacturing costs for the Tesla Roadster.

After the failed launch of about 200 roadsters, which Elon has admitted were terrible, the company took a quantum leap to a market cap of $150 billion.

The only automaker today that is larger than them is Toyota. Elon’s fleet of Teslas is improving the autopilot system every single day.

The cars he builds are getting smarter.

The designs are getting better.

The list of fears that a lot of Tesla detractors had is dwindling pretty quickly.

Criticisms used to include:

  1. Charging an electric car would be a hassle.
  2. Charging and electric car would take forever.
  3. There is no network for chargers.
  4. An electric car couldn’t be a sports car.
  5. An electric car would be too heavy and couldn’t handle well.
  6. Internal combustion is always going to be more cost-effective and convenient.
  7. Replacing the battery is going to be very expensive.
  8. It won’t accelerate well.

Today, there isn’t a car equivalent to the original Model S released in 2012. It’s almost a decade later and automakers are only now beginning to realize that the switch to full electric is feasible. Almost every single thing on that list has been checked off.

Elon pooled nearly all his money into Tesla. He was 98% of the initial funding.

He’s as much a genius in technology as he is a genius in hiring people smarter than him.

Some of the greatest people in software engineering work for him under the autopilot wing of the company.

He scooped up Peter Bannon, a chip architecture genius from Apple.

This guy basically created the chips that go into all the Model 3s today for the full self-driving.

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Source: Tesla Autonomy Day

They used to be outsourced to Nvidia. Now they do all the chip-making themselves.

If it isn’t Elon that’s the genius, then he sure has the vision paired with hiring the right people. I think Tesla has some of the smartest engineers and software developers in the world.

Elon probably owes a bit of his success to luck, but I think if Zip2 had flopped, he would have easily found something else to do that would have been just as successful.

He’s a genius in more ways than one. His story and history speak for themselves.

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UC Berkeley, mathematics. Los Angeles. Long-time runner. Top writer on Quora, 100M+ total content views. New to Medium. Inquiries:

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