Media Spotlight: Elon Musk – Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest For a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance


In the last quarter of the 20th century, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was heralded as the Silicon Valley wild child who broke through barriers and changed entire industries. Since his death in 2011, one man above any other has been pushed into that same spotlight – and with good reason.

As Bloomberg Businessweek technology reporter Ashlee Vance notes, rather evangelically, in his book – Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future – the man with ambitions to send everyday people quite literally to the moon is a “possessed genius on the grandest quest anyone has ever concocted”.

Vance’s telling of Musk’s life story is both exhaustive and well balanced. Unlike other biographies that have tended to focus on one side of the protagonist’s tale, this book delves into the side of Musk that media reports rarely cover, showing a darker side to the billionaire on whom the Iron Man superhero character is based.

Readers are told anecdotes about such incidents as when Musk ostracised an employee for missing a company event to attend the birth of his child (although Musk allegedly denies this); or when he openly stated that any woman he was with could have no more than 10 hours a week of his time – an attitude that has resulted in three marriages, albeit twice to the same woman.

Despite such tales, Musk is universally respected for his substantial achievements and even loftier ambitions. Born and raised in South Africa before moving to study in Canada, he sold his first start-up company – which provided maps and business directories – for $22m before helping to create and launch his first mega-success – PayPal.

As Vance recounts, the $250m that Musk netted from the sale of PayPal to eBay allowed the entrepreneur to explore his interests in space exploration and green technology – eventually leading to the creation of SpaceX and Tesla. 

SpaceX, a venture designed to bring to reality the concept of retail space travel, has come close to bankrupting Musk. But readers will be impressed by the dedication he applied to the project – resorting at times to Soviet-era books on rocket science to supplement his knowledge. 

Nobler yet is the Tesla project – an environmentally friendly car manufacturer that is making huge progress. In 2013, the Tesla Model S became the first non-internal combustion engine vehicle to win the Motor Trend Car of the Year award. Thanks to Musk’s quirky eye for detail, the car’s sound system turns up to volume 11 instead of 10. If this seems a little over the top, treat it as a light-hearted reminder that Musk is not your normal billionaire.

Vance’s best achievement in this book comes from telling Elon Musk’s story simply but well. It is the account of an intelligent man and, in particular, of a determined one. Musk’s work ethic has always been intense. One observer says of him in the early days: “We all worked 20-hour days and he worked 23 hours.”

Anyone who reads this book is likely not only to marvel at the list of achievements already racked up by Musk but to be hard pressed not to wonder where his story will lead next. 

Musk is a man with huge ambition and even greater drive. The final chapter on his story is, hopefully, still years away and one can only guess at the direction it will take. 



Brokers confident they can maintain market dominance

Brokers are confident they can maintain their dominance in the mortgage market over the next year, according to a new Mortgage Strategy poll. Last month, we reported that brokers had a market share of 69 per cent in the second quarter – 30 basis points off the previous high in Q1 2008. Brokers have become […]

Pad Bamford

Analysis: Gloomy outlook for first-time buyers

Whichever way you cut it, first-time buyers are facing a tougher time than a year ago.  Figures released by the CML for May revealed year-on-year falls in terms of loan numbers, house price rises, access to high-LTV loans and deposit requirements, and while there was a monthly improvement in June, compared to 2014 there appears […]


HSBC to drop plans for Midland Bank rebrand

HSBC will decide against plans to bring back Midland Bank as part of a rebranding of its UK branches, according to reports. Chief executive Stuart Gulliver announced the bank would seek a separate identity for UK retail banks in June. Chairman Douglas Flint later told the FT the return of the Midland brand was “odds-on […]

Auto-enrolment: tips for employers

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has released advice on communications for employers, including three tips to help you with your auto-enrolment duties. 1. Allow enough time to select your pension schemeIt’s recommended that you start to prepare for auto-enrolment at least 12 months in advance of your staging date; additionally, give yourself time to choose the […]


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up