July 18, 2024

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Elon Musk: If you need encouragement to start a company, don’t

2 min read

Elon Musk knows a thing or two about starting companies—but his advice for would-be entrepreneurs might not exactly inspire them.

“If you need encouragement to start a company, don’t do it,” the Tesla and SpaceX CEO warned during a Spaces conversation with ARK Investment Management CEO Cathie Wood on Thursday. “The probability of failure is very high, so you really should not if you need encouragement.”

Musk, of course, has needed little encouragement to turn his companies into juggernauts. In 2008, Wired asked Musk how he kept his optimism in the face of one rocket failure after another at SpaceX, and the billionaire’s response hinted at a level of determination that perhaps obviates the need for much encouragement.

“Optimism, pessimism, f–k that,” he replied. “We’re going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I’m hell-bent on making it work.” 

Today, of course, the company dominates the launch market, to the point where space-industry insiders worry it’s become too dominant. 

In addition to leading SpaceX, Musk is also CEO of the electric-vehicle maker Tesla, and he owns the tunnel drilling business the Boring Company, the social media platform X (formerly Twitter), the neurotechnology venture Neuralink, and the artificial-intelligence startup xAI, which is taking on OpenAI with its own AI chatbot Grok. 

Not everyone will accomplish so much, of course, but Musk downplayed his achievements somewhat. “I just have a lot of respect for anyone who works hard and, you know, builds things,” he said yesterday.  

Musk ‘can’t turn it off’

He isn’t the only high-profile founder to warn about the difficulty of launching a company of late. A few months ago, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, 60, also offered frank advice on launching a startup. Asked on the Acquired podcast what sort of company he’d think about starting if he were 30 years old, Huang replied: “I wouldn’t do it.”

“Building…

Steve Mollman

2023-12-22 12:47:19

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