NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Elon Musk may be brilliant, intense and a visionary businessman, but don't put him on a pedestal next to Henry Ford, Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs just yet, says Ashlee Vance, author of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.
"The things he is trying to tackle are certainly as ambitious as what those corporate giants achieved and he is every bit as inventive," says Vance. "It's a matter of him getting that one consumer hit that changes people's lives. Elon hasn't done that yet, but he is getting closer."
Musk has certainly come a long way since the sale of PayPal netted him around $200 million. That windfall enabled him to take on pet projects like trying to send mice into space and even a plant to Mars until Musk eventually decided to build rockets himself with SpaceX.
As for Tesla (TSLA), Musk was looking at electric cars since his college days and finally funded the project when he had the money. Nevertheless, Musk brings more than money and knowledge to his companies, says Vance. He also brings an unmatched intensity.
"He's the most intense guy I have ever met in my life. He pushes himself really hard," says Vance. "For the employees, six-day work weeks are essentially the minimum. You had employees working over 100 hours a week in the early days of SpaceX."
Vance adds that Musk has improved as a manager since his PayPal days, and while he gets a lot out of his workers his passion can also burn them out. "Both SpaceX and Tesla have clear missions so a lot of engineers flock to those companies for that mission. That is a big reason why he can pull so much out of people and why they are willing to put in those hours."
Not that Musk doesn't play hard, too. Vance says Musk is well aware of the comparison to Tony Stark, the playboy industrialist in the Iron Man movie series.
"He checked out from Silicon Valley and went to Hollywood to hang out with directors and actors," says Vance. "He definitely enjoys that part."
Speaking of Silicon Valley, Vance says Musk is a curiosity to the rest of technology's high-profile players. They admire his independent streak and a lot of entrepreneurs say he is taking the baton from Steve Jobs.
Musk, for his part, reciprocates those feelings, but not in all cases.
"He respects some of them, but I think things like social networking don't impress him too much," says Vance.