Nikola Founder on Tesla's Elon Musk: Competition 'Brings Good Results'

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Nikola is officially a public company under the ticker NKLA.

This means that there are two public companies named after the famous engineer--Nikola and Tesla. 

So, how will Nikola distinguish itself from Tesla?

Nikola executive chairman and founder Trevor Milton joined TheStreet to talk about his company and why--despite being compared to Tesla CEO Elon Musk--the two are different.

Watch the full video above.

Video Transcript:

Katherine Ross:
Now, it can't be lost on investors and yourself that we now have Tesla and Nikola both as two separate public companies, how do you plan on distinguishing yourself from Tesla going forward?

Trevor Milton:
Yeah, I mean it's, it's kinda cool that, uh, that the greatest engineer the world has ever seen, which is Nikola Tesla, the gu- the Croatian-Serbian engineer. It's amazing that the two companies are making more disruption around the world, Tesla and also Nikola, are both named after him, Nikola Tesla, and I think that's like one of the coolest things in the world. And, eh, the world knows that we're really the experts in heavy-duty transportation, um, and electrification, and the world knows that Tesla's really focused on the, uh, electrification and home residential storage of, of battery and energy. Um, so I, I think it's easy enough for people to distinguish, but it's also a really awesome story to think about where that name came from.

Katherine Ross:
I was scrolling through your Twitter feed and I saw a couple of investors ask you about your battery, and how it compares to Tesla, so for the average investor who's watching this interview right now can you break down the differences between the two?

Trevor Milton:
Yeah, so I mean the current batteries right now between Tesla and Nikola there's not that much difference. We have about, we might have five or 10% more energy density then they do, but honestly, it's not really that important, everyone has batteries now around the world that's really not that cool. Um, when you get into really big batteries it becomes more complex, and that's what Nikola does, we do humongous batteries, and that's taken a lot of work to get those to work. Um, Tesla's working on new battery technology, it's supposed to remove a lot of the expensive materials out of the, out of the battery. With Nikola we've done the same thing, but i- honestly these big battery companies like LG, Samsung and, and Panasonic, they're all gonna be cutting edge leading of battery tech. So there's ... W- We, we innovate technology, and then we hand it off to those guys to commercialize it.

Trevor Milton:
So I don't think it's a ... the batteries only one part, the real big one is your full vertical integration, and that's what sets Nikola apart from Tesla is we own all the energy all of our vehicles consume, or most of our vehicles consume, and, uh, that's really, we're vertically integrated, it's a key to Nikola success.

Katherine Ross:
I've seen a lot of articles that interviewed you or covered you ahead of the IPO, a lot of them said that you share a lot of characteristics with Elon Musk. I'm curious to know what your thoughts are, do you agree with that?

Trevor Milton:
I mean, uh, I'm, I'm definitely a, I'm definitely a lot different than him, but I mean I ... Most entrepreneurs, whether you look at, you know, Steve Jobs or any of these guys that have really created a company from the ground up, they're all very similar in personality because it takes someone a little bit crazy to be able to, um, go out on a limb, risk everything in your life, get criticized by everyone, raise capital, protect your company, build a business model that works, fight the political landscape and still come out ahead. It's damn near and nearly impossible to do, and it takes a specific personality. So a lot of us that found, that like built multi-billion dollar companies were very similar in some ways but were very different in others.

Trevor Milton:
And, uh, I have, I have no beef with, with Elon, I think he's a cool cat. I don't know him personally, um, uh, you know, but we're, we're definitely his competitor, so, you know, that's one thing to keep in mind is, uh, is, is competition brings good results bu- uh, from everybody.

You can follow Katherine Ross on Twitter at @byKatherineRoss.

Read more from Katherine Ross here.

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