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Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is a chronological biography of, well, Elon Musk.  Although I assume Elon Musk is a household name by now.  But for those who don’t know who Elon Musk is, his career highlights to this point are starting PayPal as part of the “PayPal Mafia” and selling it for $1.5 billion to eBay, and currently leading Tesla, Book review of "Elon Musk" by Ashlee VanceSpaceX, Solar City, and Hyperloop.

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance is a true founder story, focused on a man who has founded many groundbreaking companies.

  • PayPal made it possible to transfer money online.  Prior to PayPal, people had to call companies with their credit card number after placing an order, send a check, or other forms of payment that now seem archaic.
  • Tesla is developing fully electric cars.  This is a market segment that none of the big three American auto makers could successfully launch.  The closest any foreign auto maker has come is to develop a hybrid electric and internal combustion engine.  Other companies have done this, but not at the scale and success of Tesla.
  • SpaceX is developing rockets.  They are the only non-government agency to successfully design, build, launch, and land something into space.  SpaceX is able to do this so efficiently and inexpensively, governments now hire them to get payload into space.  As a young company, they are able to do this better than NASA, which has been around for over half a century.
  • Solar City is making home solar and power storage.  Although a division of Tesla where Elon Musk is an investor and advisor, Solar City is able to use much of the same technology developed for Tesla.  They are making home power storage more attainable for the masses with their efficient solar panels and storage systems.
  • Hyperloop conceived and is developing a mode of high speed transportation through underground tubes.  If it proves successful, Hyperloop could be as revolutionary as the invention of the locomotive.

What is the common theme in this companies?  Elon Musk is able to visualize beyond technologies that we currently use.  Starting a new company has risks.  It is even more risky when the market hasn’t been proven.  It’s even more risky when it requires a significant financial investment.  It’s even more risky when the end goal is mass acceptance.  It’s even more risky when you are running multiple companies in parallel.

Now that you have Elon Musk’s background, what about the book?  Vance takes us through Elon Musk’s entire life, from his childhood, to moving to the United States, college, and all of the companies that he has been a part of or started.  There is much more behind Elon Musk than just the accomplishments I listed above.

To help understand Elon Musk, Vance digs into the way musk thinks, his personality, and what drives him.  You get to understand the man behind the public successes.

Although the book makes you want to go out and build something of value, that is not the book’s intent.  Vance wants you to walk away knowing Elon Musk, and what makes him tick.  It makes you excited for the future that Elon musk envisions.

The title Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future doesn’t do the book justice.  This is a great read that gets into so much more than the title describes.