By the time Elon Musk was 31, he had already made a cool $180 million from PayPal. After raising $500 million for SpaceX this week, the Tesla CEO talked about entrepreneurship with GQ and explained why he’s not like other start-up founders.
“What I’m doing at SpaceX is in a different league to people like Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos,” he told GQ. Musk credited the success of his start-ups to thinking big, and business heavyweights like Amazon founder Bezos, in Musk’s view, aren’t quite there yet. He added, “Our vehicles have around 100 times more energy than Richard Branson’s.”
Musk made a point to applaud the work of his contemporaries but wanted to drive home the message that his research is in its own category.
“What [Branson] is doing is great — in fact, I’ve bought a ticket! But there is a pretty big distinction: what he’s doing will be a really fun joyride, but there’s no path to making life multi-planetary, which is our goal. We want to put life on Mars.”
Joyride? Ouch. Especially since Branson has his own pursuits in space tourism, including his Virgin Galactic spaceflight company. In interviews, Branson has repeatedly insisted that Virgin Galactic will launch its first crewed spaceflight in 2018. Meanwhile, Musk is already predicting which form of government would be most appropriate for the earliest Martian colonies.
There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, and in this case, it often leads to collaboration. Last October, Branson announced that his Virgin Group invested in Hyperloop One in hopes of bringing Musk’s vacuum-sealed transport system to life. In fact, Branson sees himself, Musk, and Bezos as something of a trifecta in spaceflight leadership.
“You’ve got three people who are really putting a lot of time and energy into it,” he said in October. “Hopefully we’ll create some magic.”