“Elon Musk” by Ashlee Vance

Of course, I had heard of Elon Musk but I didn’t know much about him. I knew vaguely about the Tesla car and his space endeavors but not much else. It was only recently when we heard that he had put in a bid to buy Twitter for $ 44 billion that I became more curious and wondered who this man was. I knew that he had -and still was – creating big waves in the world of business. My son bought this book by Ashlee Vance for me, titled, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and The Quest for a Fantastic Future”. This was first published by Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins, in 2015 and soon became a best seller. I understand that over 2 million copies of this book have been sold.

Musk has been described as being the most daring entrepreneur of our time, as also being ” a modern alloy of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs”. You can’t think of many entrepreneurs- if at all any- who have taken the high risks that he has.

Vance details the life of Elon Musk through the stories of some of his biggest and best known business ventures such as Tesla and SpaceX. The book traces Musk’s childhood in South Africa where he was born in 1971. Reading about the difficult childhood he had makes you admire the man who is today reputedly the richest individual in the world. He went to Canada for his matriculation, then crossed over to the United States, where he was always aiming to live and work. He got his BA and MS from the University of Pennsylvania, then moved to California to pursue his dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

His first venture – a web software company called Zip2 was initially on shaky grounds but grew till it was acquired by Compaq for $307 million in 1999. Musk’s entrepreneurial journey had taken off- far better than he had imagined. After that came X.com and Space X, Tesla, SolarCity and other business ventures- each of which were incredibly daring and different in thought and business approach.

Naturally, life was not a bed of roses. The book covers his initial struggles and the difficulties he faced -in considerable detail. It takes you through the highs and lows in what was for Musk something like a high risk high reward roller coaster ride. What I liked best about Vance’ s book was his relentless endeavor to try to understand the enigmatic and maverick like Musk as an individual. We know from childhood he was quite different from most others. His experiences -then and later -fashioned his personality and life style. It determined the characteristics that set him apart from most other business leaders of his times.

In this book, we get to understand the very futuristic ideas Musk had and backed to the hilt. All his businesses had this aspect in common. They charted a new path. They dared to experiment and cope with expensive failures.

Ashlee Vance is a leading writer in the technology space with extensive knowledge of the world of start ups centered around Silicon Valley. Tony Fadell, creator of the iPad and the IPhone, now CEO of Nest Labs writes: ” Ashlee Vance offers a clear-eyed look at a man who has played the underdog again and again- challenging old thinking and changing the world. I dare anyone to read this book and not be inspired to set their sights a little higher.”

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, this book is for you. It gives you deep insights into the life and mind of a man, whom you cannot help admiring.

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