Podcast | Inside Look from Ashlee Vance on Musk Bio

It’s been a couple of weeks reading this monument to entrepreneurial vision, also known as the Elon Musk biography, and it doesn’t disappoint. How can it? It has action, life lessons, money, private jets, women, science, business acumen, science fiction, drama, cars, rockets, coups, winning, losing, divorce, greed and Silicon Valley tales. Great read.

For those who need more insights and information on the Elon Musk empire, KQED’s Michael Krasny interviewed Ashlee Vance on Monday, June 1, and tried to peal back the layers on the “techno-utopian,” also know as Elon Musk. (Listen to the embedded audio.)


Krasny touches on a many topics in this fifty minute interview, but Vance believes that SpaceX is Elon Musk greatest achievement. Rightly so, the biography details the many unorthodox methods (not “unsound methods,” captain Kurtz) and means to lift the company “off the ground,” and how SpaceX’s in-house manufacturing model dramatically reduces rockets costs. The book reveals that SpaceX manufactures about 90 percent of its rocket components in Hawthorne, Calif., in contrast to other industry competitors, where the ratio is just the opposite.

Krasny also kicks off the interview with an odd question, to me, about philanthropy and a comparison to Steve Jobs and their collective lack of “caring.” Vance provides a great answer to the philanthropy question (to paraphrase), ‘Musk might not be Bill and Melinda Gates, as he may consider human transport to Mars as charity or feels that global warming is an existential threat to the world.’ Vance does reveal some of Musk’s generous one-off donations, such as the Nikola Tesla museum and educational institutions.

Quotes from the book:

“It was a mistake. I wanted more investors (for Tesla). But, if I had to do it again. I would take his (Musk) money. A bird in the hand, you know. We needed it.” ~ Martin Eberhard, the first CEO of Tesla Motors, on Musk getting too much power with his large investment. 

On Jeff Bezos, “He has a relentless work ethic and wants to kill everything in e-commerce. But he’s not the most fun guy, honestly.” ~ Elon Musk, “Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future”

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