At the Tesla 2016 shareholders meeting in Mountain View, California on Tuesday afternoon, Elon Musk opened the proceedings with his version of the Tesla origin story — familiar to people who know the company but maybe not to the hordes of new customers who have preordered the Model 3.
Among the movements during the company’s early days was its transition to digital motor controlled-cars. Musk recalled a few early bugs.
“I remember in the early days giving a test drive to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who I’ve known for a long time. There was some bug in the system and dammit, the car would only go 10 miles an hour. It’s like, ‘look, I swear guys, it goes way faster than this,’” Musk recalled. “But they were kind enough to put a little investment into the company none the less, despite the world’s worst demo.”
It came out last year in Ashlee Vance’s biography of Musk that in 2013, Google nearly bought Tesla when it was losing money because it couldn’t convert its preorders into sales for the Model S. It never panned out because while they were negotiating the deal, Tesla sales picked up.
Musk also clarified that Tesla was “founded on two false premises,” which he outlined as:
1. “That you could modify an existing gasoline sports car to be electric — totally false.”
2. “We’d be able to use the AC [propulsion] technology that we licensed for production vehicle, also totally false.”
Musk also offered this bit of advice to people starting their own business, based off those early Tesla stumbles:
“I think the lesson here for people thinking about creating companies is that even if you company starts off based on things that are, yeah, completely untrue that you don’t know about, that what really matters is recognizing the mistakes and adapting quickly and fixing the false promises upon which the company was founded,” Musk said. “That’s what really matters for people thinking about creating companies. You‘ve got to adapt quickly. acknowledge and recognize your mistakes, and the sooner you realize that the better.”
Other tidbits from the meeting include a detail that Tesla Roadster has elements of the Porsche 911 and the McLaren F1 — Elon’s favorite cars, but we already knew that — and that “nobody had heard of the company; they thought that Tesla was a rock band,” Musk said, and after noting that most scientists thought of electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, that the rock band “is awesome and they’ve been huge supporters all along and they’ve never bugged us that we used their name or anything, so rock on, Tesla, the band.”
Watch the full shareholders meeting for Elon’s history of Tesla, which started with his friends saying this to him when he said he wanted to start an electric car company:
“How much money are you planning to lose?”