Elon Musk on Building a Startup
Elon Musk is the visionary founder of PayPal Holdings Inc, Tesla Motors Inc, SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation), and SolarCity Corp. All of his companies are valued above a billion dollars, making his the perfect model for entrepreneurs everywhere.
Here’s what Elon Musk has to say about launching your very own billion-dollar startup.
Don’t Be Scared to Invest in Yourself
“It’s OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket.”
I’ve often heard investors, even day traders, say that entrepreneurship seems like a risky bet. “What if you fail?” they ask. “Isn’t your risk concentrated?” Well, if you invest in companies then you’re at the mercy of their success. Entrepreneurs hold greater sway over their outcomes. They take greater control over their own economic destiny.
Don’t Forget to Invest in Those Around You
“Talent is extremely important. It’s like a sports team, the team that has the best individual player will often win, but then there’s a multiplier from how those players work together and the strategy they employ.”
I doubt Elon Musk would have been able to build his extraordinary companies without any help. He understands that people are unique assets. Find the smartest and most talented hires, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful venture.
Put Aside Everything You Think You Know
“Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there.”
This is harder said than done. Elon Musk may be gifted at ignoring conventional wisdom, but few of us have that kind of mental courage. You have to strip an idea down to its first principles and rebuild it in a new way. That’s how he came up with PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX.
Build a Business to Solve Real Problems
“Going from PayPal, I thought well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity? Not from the perspective, ‘what’s the best way to make money,’ which is okay, but, it was really ‘what do I think is going to most affect the future of humanity?’”
Elon Musk is no monk—the guy has made billions through his various companies. But those firms were conceived to address real world issues, which is why they were so successful. His most valuable insight is that changing the world and making a lot of money can go hand in hand.
No Substitute for Hard Work
“Work like h—. I mean you just have to put in 80- to 100-hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour workweeks and you’re putting in 100 hour workweeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.”
Everybody wants to be rich, but few are willing to put in the work. Elon Musk is a brilliant guy, but all the intelligence in the world wouldn’t have mattered if he were lazy. All of us less brilliant than him need to work even harder for that kind of success.
Don’t Buy into Your Own Legend
“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
Let’s assume you build a fantastic business and make a lot of money. In order to stay successful, keep trying to be better. Don’t forget to keep pushing the envelope.
Success Is More Choice Than Luck
“I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.”
This one is probably the most important. Musk is basically saying that choosing success is the key ingredient for entrepreneurs. Without that choice, you’ve already limited yourself—meaning it’s unlikely these inspirational Elon Musk quotes will help you with your billion-dollar startup.
(Source for all quotations: “The 21 Most Inspirational Elon Musk Quotes,” Benzinga, March 21, 2015.)