If you were to ask a business owner “What’s your biggest fear?” one of the most common answers you would get is “Failure”, yet when you look at the journeys of the world’s most successful entrepreneur’s, failure seems to an essential ingredient if you want to succeed.
I came across this infographic put together by Kickresume https://blog.kickresume.com/2017/04/18/elon-musks-resume-of-failures/ it outlines all the failures that Elon Musk has had along the way. It got me digging deeper into this entrepreneur’s journey and I was surprised to discover what a rough road it has been for Elon Musk.
Kickresume said “Elon Musk’s story proves that once you’ve mastered the art of failing, success becomes the only way you can go. And he had to go through A LOT of failures and difficulties in his life.”
As you run your eye over the infographic you’ll see that Elon’s last 20 years has seen him endure many failures.
In 1995 Elon and his brother Kimbal Musk founded Global Link Information Network (Later known as Zip2) using US$28,000 of their father’s money. Global Link was an online yellow pages/google maps of sorts, that provided local businesses with the ability to be found on the internet and have directions provided to the searcher.
Ousted as CEO in his own company
In 1996, Global Link received US$3 million and officially changed name to Zip2, Elon was ousted from the role of CEO from his own company. In 1999 Zip2 was acquired by Compaq Computers.
The first PayPal product was voted as one of the top 10 worst business ideas. Although, Paypal originally was not Elon’s idea. Elon had founded X.com, an online banking company, and in 2000 decided to merge with Confinity, the company that created, developed and launched the money transfer service known as PayPal. Bill Harris, the then CEO of X.com disagreed with Elon and left the company, Elon then made the decision to terminate its other banking operations and focus on the Paypal money service despite being voted as one of the worst business ideas.
Also in 1999 Elon crashed his million dollar F1 McLaren.
By the way, Paypal was acquired by eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion!
Whilst on his honeymoon, PayPal ousted Elon, he was forced to step down as CEO of his own company again! This year also saw Elon almost die from Cerebal Malaria he contracted whilst on holiday. Elon was quoted as saying “Vacations will kill you!”
This was the year Elon Musk started to work on getting to space, now known as SpaceX, he came up with what he called “Mars Oasis”, a project to land mini greenhouses on Mars. Elon headed to Russia for a series of meetings and asked the Russians to sell him rockets to send his plants to Mars. The Russians were quick to say no. In fact, rumour has it that Elon was spat on by one of the Russian chief designers he met with.
Elon headed back to Russia in hope of sourcing rockets for his SpaceX project. This time he had recruited some industry heavyweights, including Mike Griffin, who had worked for the CIA’s venture capital arm in Q-Tel (NASA’s jet propulsion lab). But was told by the Russians, if he wanted a rocket he would have to pay US$8 million for it, Elon stormed out of that meeting as this was too expensive and on his flight back home, realised he could just make his own rockets for a lot less, he figured the raw materials were only 3% of the manufacturing costs, and hence, the thought of affordable space travel was now within reach in Elon’s mind.
Tesla was incorporated by Martin Eberhand and Marc Tarpenning.
Elon leads a series of fund raising for Tesla and joins the board as chairman.
4 years later Elon won a contract with NASA to continue his SpaceX project and launched his first rocket, which sadly, exploded.
2nd rocket launch, and 2nd explosion.
3rd rocket launch, and this time, carrying millions of dollars of NASA satellites, once again, disaster struck and the rocket had a critical failure.
Also in 2008, Top Gear portrayed the Tesla Roadster as a “Barely Running Science Experiment”. Elon later admitted that the roadster was a disaster for Tesla.
This year also saw Elon Musk take on the leadership role of CEO and Product Architect.
By December 2008, both Tesla and SpaceX were on the brink of bankruptcy!
Another Rocket Failure while landing in the ocean
Tesla model S had several problems with spontaneous battery combustion. In a six-week period, there were 3 reported Model S vehicles catch on fire. There were instances of cars combusting during test drives, in garages and accidents.
4th Rocket explosion at launch
2nd and 3rd explosions when landing on a drone ship
Model X Deliveries Delayed more than 18 months.
In an article published by Forbes Mark Rogowsky he wrote “Originally, the company blamed the delays on the need to focus on hitting delivery targets for the Model S sedan. Later, CEO Elon Musk talked about making sure the vehicle met expectations before releasing it. In short, he wanted things to be as perfect as could be. And while that’s laudable, numerous reports suggested at least some of the delay could be attributed to the Model X’s unique rear doors. Those entryways, which Tesla calls “falcon-wing doors” pivot on two hinges and are the signature feature of the vehicle.”
2016 also saw the 5th Rocket explosion at launch with Facebook’s Satellites for Africa on board worth $300 million, I am sure Mark Zuckerberg would have been a little uhappy about this!
Elon then experienced his 4th, 5th and 5th critical failures while landing on a drone ship
Despite all the failures Elon Musk has a net worth – $14.8 billion
Maybe failing is part of the masterplan for all entrepreneurs?
About the Author
Ben Fewtrell is a sought-after Business Coach, Keynote Speaker and trainer who has featured in Virgin’s Inflight Magazine and Entertainment Portal, SKY Business and “Secrets of Top Business Builders Exposed”. He is also the host of the popular Business Brain Food Podcast where he interviews leading experts on anything and everything business.