Is Elon Musk the New Steve Jobs?

As of 6th April 2015:

Steve Jobs net worth = $10.2 Billion

Elon Musk  net worth = $11.7 Billion and counting

USA has a certain affinity towards successful entrepreneurs. The underdog tale, the rags to riches story never gets old in the land of opportunity. Be it a grocer turned oil tycoon J D Rockefeller or newspaper hawker turned business magnate Warren Buffet, each one is revered. Discussions on their business practices fill up ether across the lecture halls. At the same time USA has been a country that has valued inventors and genii. Be it Elbert Eisenstein, Nikolai Tesla or Von Braun, all migrated to pastures across the pond, where their intellect was realized and recognized.

While admiration of people with business acumen and inventiveness has been part and parcel of American culture, it is the fusion of the two skills that creates the heroes the country worships. A pantheon of stalwarts that houses the statue of Henry Ford among others. It is the kind of people that fit the fictional Tony Stark (Iron man) mould.

In recent times, the perch for that all American hero was occupied by Steve Jobs.  While his once colleague, Bill Gates may have pipped him in fortune but it was only Jobs who carried the X-factor to inspire the budding Americans entrepreneurs. His legend grows posthumously and his persona will undoubtedly will be the subject of many books in the future.

Steve Jobs Presentation

Iconic: Steve Jobs

Over the last decade, Elon Musk has gradually risen in stature. He became the new kid on the block for the automotive industry the when TESLA motors were launched. He soon gained a reputation for his stubbornness to break away from the norms, be it in making products differently or selling them differently. More recently, the announcement of Powerwall (a home energy storage system) has not only established a new market but also has made Musk a household name.

There are some remarkable similarities between Musk and Jobs. Both had an Engineering/ IT background. Both were inventive and both left studies for entrepreneurial pursuits. Many other parallels can be drawn following their career but eventually their path bifurcates. The way they operated after reaching the initial plateau of success was very different. The brief look at the highlights of both Jobs and Musk are presented herein.

Just when world was saturated with keypad phones, Jobs took a punt and created a touch screen phone. By that time, he was already riding on the success of his robust solid-state portable music player. In the end what he designed didn’t just swallow the whole phone market, but became an iconic product, no one could do without. Similarly, albeit scepticism around the acceptability of tablet device that was pitched merely as a more intimate laptop, the product took off.  Before launching the I-Pad, Jobs knew he could not compete with Microsoft in the PC sector and Nokia in the phone sector, so he created parallel markets.

Elon Musk pondering

Iron man: Elon Musk

Musk was the co-founder of Paypal, revolutionized the way we carryout transactions online. His second venture of an alternate market was an electric car that was head and shoulders above anything competitors had to offer.  Just when the automotive industry was licking the self-inflicted wounds of electric car fiasco (GM EV1), Musk launched the TESLA Roadster. It was not just a battery electric car, but a high end sports car. Although the Roadster did not cut it with the public at as much as the iPhone did, but this was mainly because Musk remained focused on the high end market. With price Powerwall starting from $3000, this product would create greater inroads than TESLA Roaster did.

It’s one thing to counter adversity; it’s another to counter it with style. It has to be said that one has to have deep pockets, to tread the path both men pursued.

It has to be noted that Musk’s net monitory worth may be more than Steve Jobs but bulk of his revenue came from financial services, a market where earning big money is not as hard a craft compared to the consumer product industry. Musk indeed is a more shrewd business man than Steve Jobs ever was. On the flipside this means that Jobs legacy still provides for thousands of employees whereas Musk would have a lot less people looking after his interests. If a man’s net worth is defined by the dollars he accrued than hands down Musk is a winner. If however it is the lives touched, than Jobs undoubtedly stands in the pantheon with Henry Ford. Musk meanwhile will find his bust next to Howard Hughes.

Now with Steve Jobs gone, America longs for another Tony Stark and in Elon Musk they have found one. While jobs resorted to spiritual solace through Buddhism, Musk on the contrary oozes cockiness. He may not have the same level of ingenuity as Jobs but he sure has showmanship to serenade an audience.  It is no doubt that Musk, not as reclusive as Jobs, is the new poster boy for the American spirit of progress.

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