Elon Musk is an atypical CEO.
Elon Musk is an atypical billionaire.
Elon Musk is a visionary in search of influence.
Within a week, the richest man in the world is on the verge of gaining a level of influence as the world has rarely seen.
Musk, whose net worth was recently estimated at $265 billion by the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, is far from leading the luxurious life one might expect. Musk had pledged in 2020 to get rid of "almost all physical possessions'" including mansions in California.
"I am selling almost all physical possessions. Will own no house," the mogul posted on Twitter on May 1, 2020.
He has since moved to Austin, where he lived in a studio-sized apartment he rents from his rocket company, SpaceX.
"My primary home is literally a ~$50k house in Boca Chica / Starbase that I rent from SpaceX. It’s kinda awesome though," Musk, who once had a $100 million real estate portfolio, said last June. "Only house I own is the events house in the Bay Area. If I sold it, the house would see less use, unless bought by a big family, which might happen some day."
Musk has often explained that his choice of a frugal life comes from the fact that he wants to finance his mission to bring humans to Mars as well as to save humanity from pollution.
"Working on sustainable energy for Earth with Tesla & protecting future of consciousness by making life multiplanetary with SpaceX. Also, AI risk mitigation with Neuralink & fixing traffic with Boring," the tech tycoon said last year.
A Man On a Mission
Musk is a man on a mission. He seems to be competing for the title of visionary of the century.
This quest has just found its full meaning during this first week of April. As of April 4, Musk announced that he has taken a stake of more than 9% in Twitter (TWTR) - Get Free Report, which makes him the largest shareholder of the microblogging platform, his favorite social network.
It is on the platform, which was also former President Donald Trump's favorite communications channel, that Musk built his public persona.
It is on Twitter that he communicates with the outside, updating about the products of his companies, Tesla, SpaceX, Boring Co. and Neuralink.
And it is on Twitter that Musk attacks, mocks and responds to his detractors. On the social network, the executive does not hesitate to respond to users who challenge him or ask him questions on various subjects. Nor does he shy from elaborating on his state of mind there.
He uses the platform as a financial adviser. Musk -- like many politicians -- seems to fully understand the power of direct interactions with people.
He could have acquired control of Twitter without denting his fortune much. But Musk seems less interested in owning and running the site than in disrupting it. Last month, he gained millions of followers/fans on the social network (he currently has nearly 81 million followers there).
Such a legion of fans and admirers allows him to extend his notoriety and influence beyond Silicon Valley, the business community and the automotive and space industries. Not owning Twitter also gives the impression that it is not a tool for his personal propaganda and promotion.
On April 7, Musk inaugurated the Tesla factory in Austin, the fourth production site for the manufacturer of premium electric vehicles. Musk told the audience that the factory is the largest manufacturing plant in the history of the world by volume.
"You could fit 194 billion hamsters in this building," he joked. For another point of comparison, he said you could fit 3 Pentagon buildings inside.
Tesla will begin by making its Model Y vehicles at the plant and that annual production is designed to reach 500,000 vehicles. That's necessary "in order to make a big difference to transition the world to sustainable technology as quickly as possible."
Launching Space Tourism
Musk wants to complete the disruption of the auto industry. Musk recently announced that he is working on part 3 of what he calls his master plan dedicated to revolutionizing transportation.
On April 8, SpaceX, Elon Musk's aerospace company, successfully launched a crew of four astronauts in the first all-private mission to the International Space Station. The company's Dragon spacecraft launched atop a Falcon 9 booster from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The roughly 10-day mission is being conducted by the Houston-based commercial aerospace company Axiom Space.
This is SpaceX’s first private charter flight to the orbiting lab after two years of carrying astronauts there for NASA.
Depending on the success of Ax-1, NASA's tourist mission could be the first in a long series of missions to the orbital outpost before it is decommissioned in 2031.
In just one crazy week, the richest man in the world seems to have extended his power and influence even further.