Elon Musk, pictured in the fuselage of his Falcon 9 rocket, plans to launch satellites at a fraction of the usual cost.
I ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR I
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afraid to think really, really big
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BY MAX CHAFKIN
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atching Elon Musk at work is an exercise in controlling your urge to buy a man a drink. Make that several drinks. Musk is 36 years old, wicked smart, worth several hundred niillion dollars, and built like a tight end—thickset through the middle and well over 6 feet tall. Yet he never looks quite comfortable. Sitting in front of the oversize computer screen on his desk, he rolls back and forth in his chair, slouches and unslouches, rubs his temples, raps his fingers, and plays with his wedding ring. When he sighs, which he doesfrequently,his chest heaves, and his eyes widen, like someone confronted with news of his own death. He generally speaks in complete, precise sentences, rarely telling a joke or even cracking a smile. It's not that Musk is an unpleasant guy. He just happens to be really, really busy. Musk is CEO, majority owner, and head rocket designer at SpaceX, an aerospace start-up in El Segundo, California, that by 2011 plans to be hauling astronauts to and from the International Space Station. And that's just his day job. Musk has two more wildly ambitious start-ups in play—the electric-car maker Tesla Motors and the solar panel installer SolarCity; in both cases, he serves as chairman and controlling shareholder. In fact, the South Alrican native has been building big, ambitious companies for more than a decade. He co-founded PayPal, the online payment processor that eBay bought in 2002 for $1.5 billion, as well as Zip2, a dot-com media company that was sold for $307 million when he was just 27. Meanwhile, Musk's wife, Justine, a novelist, gave birth to triplets last year. That means Musk now has five children under the age of 4, in addition to three companies to run. Perhaps that explains why it's so rare to see Musk talk to someone on the phone without simultaneously doing something else: pecking out an e-mail, scanning in116 INC. MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2007
voices, mulling over a spreadsheet, shopping for computer equipment, fiddling with his BlackBerry. He often does several of these things at once. The only tasks that seem to command the entirety of his attention are technical discussions related to SpaceX's soon-to-be-launched rocket, the Falcon 1. andjob inter\'iews. (Musk personally vets all of SpaceX's employees, and he's in the midst of a frantic—but so far fruitless—search for a CEO for Tesia.) To get through the day. Musk relies on two stimulants: caffeine and a desire to help humanity colonize Mars. UntC he recently started cutting back on the former. Musk consumed eight cans of Diet Coke a day, as well as several large cups of coffee. "I got so freaking jacked that I seriously started to feel like I was losing my peripheral vision," be says. If he realizes how crazy this sounds, he doesn't let on. "Now, the office has caffeinefreeDietCoke."Even so. Musk frequently gets so caught up in his multitasking that it sometimes takes two or three tries at his name, uttered at full volume, to get a response. The goal of putting people on Mars is no joke. Musk believes that over the four-anda-half-hiUion-year history of planet Earth. a dozen or so events have truly mattered. Edging forward in his chair, he ticks oft a few: "There was the advent of single-celled
life, multicelled life, the development of plants, then animals," he says. "On this time scale, I'd put the extension of life to another planet slightly above the transition from life in the oceans to life on land." If there's something insane about a CEO who thinks his company's mission is more important than any accomplishment in all...
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