[Editor's note: This piece, based on my PandoMonthly interview with Elon Musk, originally ran on Startups.co as part of an editorial collaboration with Pando aimed at sharing founders' struggles, challenges, and origin stories with millions of founders across America.]
We can quantifiably say that Elon Musk has been the best tech entrepreneur of the modern era.
Only one other one — Jim Clark– has built three companies that exited for north of $1 billion, and he needed the dot com bubble to do it. Musk has done it four times, if you count SolarCity, across different industries and in difficult financial times.
And yet, even Musk is still scrapping and fighting for investors’ respect. Witness the current flap about his plan to merge SolarCity with Tesla, which some investors criticize as a scheme for him to bail himself out.
That isn’t how Musk sees it. But he’s used to seeing the world a different way.
Back in 2012, I did an in depth on-stage interview with Musk about the earliest days of his companies, how he had the courage to build a rocket even though he’d never built any physical product before, about his unusual friendship with Peter Thiel, and about the lowest time for him: 2008. “It looked like all three companies were going to die, and I was also going through a divorce,” he recalls.
That should give every entrepreneur comfort: Even Elon Musk almost ran out of capital.
I started out asking him one question a lot of people have wondered from time to time: Is he crazy..?