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Elon Musk re-clarifies story of Tesla’s early days and how it was founded

Credit: TED/YouTube

During his appearance at TED 2022 earlier this month, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk remarked that his condition — which he has revealed to be Asperger’s — has made him obsessed with the truth. Musk noted that his obsession with truth is what made him study physics since the field essentially attempts to understand the truth of the universe. 

This obsession with truth is perhaps the reason why Musk has been very adamant about setting the record straight when it comes to the founding days of Tesla. It has long been stated that Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning were the founders of the company, with Elon Musk coming and JB Straubel coming in months later. This is something that Musk has been keen to correct as of late. 

During his TED 2022 appearance, Musk stated that his worst business decision was probably the fact that he didn’t just start Tesla with JB Straubel. Musk stated that he didn’t invest in a company. He, Straubel, and the other individuals listed as Tesla’s founders created a company. One that became the world’s most valuable automaker with a valuation of a trillion dollars.

Musk recently reiterated these points in a set of tweets following a post from Vaibhav Sisinty, the CEO and founder of GrowthSchool. Sisinty posted a “reminder” that Musk was not the founder of Tesla, and he simply acquired the company. It did not take long before the Tesla CEO decided to correct the narrative — and provide some new insights on Tesla’s early days in the process. 

“Not even close to that. It was a shell corp with no employees, no IP, no designs, no prototype, literally nothing but a (business) plan to commercialize AC Propulsion’s T-Zero car, which was introduced to me by JB Straubel, not Eberhard. Even (the) name ‘Tesla Motors’ was owned by others!” Musk wrote

Musk stated that if one were to follow the logic adopted in the narrative that paints Eberhard and Tarpenning as the founders of Tesla, then he’d be the only “founder” of PayPal since he started the company that eventually became the online payments giant. Such an argument, Musk noted, does not hold water. 

“If filing a shell corp constitutes “founding a company,” then I’d be the only founder of PayPal, since I filed the original incorporation docs for X.com (later renamed PayPal), but that’s not what founding means. When Eberhard was fired unanimously by the board in July 2007 (for damn good reasons), no one left with him. That says it all,” Musk wrote

Musk added that ultimately, if Tesla’s supposed founder was really capable of creating a car company, he would have already done so after he was terminated. This was certainly the case with some individuals who were at one point linked to Tesla and its electric vehicle development. Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson was involved in the development of the original Model S, and Fisker Inc. founder Henrik Fisker worked on the design of Tesla’s flagship sedan at one point. 

Considering that both Rawlinson and Fisker are still active in the electric vehicle sector today, perhaps Musk’s point about Tesla’s co-founders is a fairly valid sentiment. 

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Elon Musk re-clarifies story of Tesla’s early days and how it was founded
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