TLA Book Club: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Welcome back to The Lead Agency’s Book Club! As part of our series of five-minute book reviews, head of data insights Antony Neill looks at Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.

Our growing collection of titles on business, leadership, tech, marketing and more has been introduced to help people learn and grow both in and outside of their roles as part of our ongoing commitment to support and encourage self-improvement throughout the business.

1. What was the book about?

It is a biography of technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, covering his childhood in South Africa all the way to up to his current standing as owner of three of the world’s most forward-facing, innovative companies – Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity. It delves, in some detail, into the various legal and political battles that Musk has had in driving his ventures to become what they are today, including his fight for control of PayPal (of which he was also a founder) and a number of scrapes with bankruptcy at both Tesla and SpaceX.

The book paints Musk as a ruthless visionary that will do anything it takes to deliver what he thinks is important – in this case, the sustainability of the human race, delivered through clean energy and space exploration. His ultimate goal is for humans to colonise Mars, which he recognises may come after his time on the planet, yet is committed to doing everything he can to make it happen anyway.

2. What were the key takeaways/learnings?

The way that Musk runs his businesses is both inspiring and a little terrifying. Both Tesla and SpaceX entered their respective industries as very small fish in very big ponds; Tesla faced competition from established automotive brands with global presence, while SpaceX sought to compete directly with Lockheed Martin, Boeing and even NASA itself. Despite the odds being stacked against them, Musk insisted that each company should do 90% of their manufacturing in the USA and drive cost efficiencies from home. As a result of a constant drive to do things faster and cheaper, using an MVP approach on a very large scale, Tesla was able to produce revolutionary battery technology at volume, and SpaceX was able to manufacture a space-faring rocket for the ISS at 10% of the cost of its competitors! The main learning here is: conventional wisdom is not always correct, and pushing in the right areas can deliver amazing results. Cost and quality don’t have to be trade-offs.

3. Who would enjoy reading it?

Anybody with an active interest in technology, the technology business, silicon valley politics or the future of the human race!

What have you read lately? Let us know what has inspired you and we’ll add it to the TLA library.