Elon Musk: “I didn’t think SpaceX or Tesla would work”

Harriet Green
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Elon Musk unveils SpaceX's new Dragon V2 spacecraft last month (Source: Getty)

Billionaire tech titan Elon Musk - the brain behind Tesla electric cars, a project to colonise Mars and Hyperloop - has more ideas in a year than most people in a lifetime.

But speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, the serial entrepreneur admitted that he hasn’t always had faith that things will come off, saying that he thought neither SpaceX nor Tesla would succeed.

In 2008, things weren’t going well for the PayPal founder. SpaceX launches had failed, and Tesla had supply chain and design issues, with popular sentiment that the firm would collapse.

Unlike the unwavering belief systems many entrepreneurs hold, Musk is a lot more reticent when it comes to banking on the future. He didn’t even have high hopes for the internet, explaining that, back in 2005, nobody had made any money out of it: "Our initial goals were really quite modest; would we be able to afford enough to eat?"

But when asked why he decided to do the work he does - it’s usually governments that cover and fund such heavyweight tech and innovation projects - Musk says he didn’t intend to start a rocket company, but it bothered him that people had “lost the will” to realise the fantasies of comics and sci-fi films. He waited for something to happen, he said, and no-one initiated it.

Will he create a Mars base in his lifetime? “That depends how long I live.”

There is, of course, a caveat to Musk’s plans - of the economic variety. Despite his $2.7bn (£1.6bn) fortune, Hyperloop - the concept for a “fifth mode of transport” that could ping people between cities at nearly the speed of sound - and colonising Mars could leave Musk broke. But does he care if he loses his money working on them? “I don’t, I really don’t.”

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