I attended Tiecon last Fri and Sat. Despite the economic uncertainty, the place was buzzing with entrepreneurs, bankers/investors, executives from hi-tech and non hi-tech companies and people with aspirations to do something different, something meaningful with their life and their careers. Keynotes from Chris Anderson, Peter Thiel, Naresh Goel were engaging. But what I found most inspiring was the keynote (more in Q&A format) from Elon Musk. It was my first time see Elon talk about his story, his motivation and all the success. Story of a person who thought about 3 problem areas while growing up, Internet, space and energy. A person who after two successes in the software business, Zip2 and Paypal decided to pursue what was still lingering in the back of his mind: space and energy.
Many of us have heard about Tesla Motors, where Elon is an early investor and chairman. Yes, Detroit and Toyota have been talking about clean cars, electric cars, hybrid cars and everything in between. What is remarkable about Tesla is the "clean" and "efficiency". Imagine a pure electric car that plugs into a regular AC outlet and costs $5 to drive 220 miles. A car in which batteries are non-toxic and completely recyclable. This kind of innovation doesn't take billions from companies with deep pockets, it takes an entrepreneur passionate about the problem and belief that there is a solution out there. Yes, the initial price is high $100K for roadster shipping in 2009 and $59K for a sedan shipping in 2010 but this is not a big problem. Volume will drive the scale and economy. Just look at how much Prius costed when it first came to market...
Then take SpaceX, a company that develops space launch vehicles that Elon founded after Paypal. Elon wanted to build a rocket that was low cost (think reusable stages) and highly reliable. Can you imagine NASA giving exclusive launch rights to one company for all its low-Earth-orbit space programs between 2010 and 2015. NASA couldn't build such a low-cost and reliable launch vehicle with billions of dollars and decades of work, SpaceX did it in 5 years.
Elon talked about his beliefs. His belief is that in next 30 years, (i) majority of energy will be produced from solar power and (ii) majority of vehicles will be electric. Just imagine the implications of combining these two. Effects on our society will be dramatic. We created three monsters: global warming and energy crisis over time and food crisis with our naiveness. I am sure all of us are looking forward to a world where these three are issues of the past.
Yes, we live in an enterprising world. We are all passionate about our companies, our ideas, our startups and successes. It was humbling to hear Elon. Here is someone with modest upbringing but big dreams, at 36 years of age has accomplished and desires to accomplish things that can change the face of our society. Amen!