Iron Man has Tony Stark. Tony Stark has Stark Industries. We might not have access to the comic book character in real life, but we do have Elon Musk. In fact, Musk was an inspiration in the Iron Man movies and even made a cameo appearance in one of the flicks. So, if there was such a thing as Musk Industries, would there be a common thread throughout its many disparate businesses?
Jaspreet Bindra tries to make sense of Musk's myriad business ventures in a recent article on LiveMint. Bindra notes, "Musk was a two-time multi-millionaire even before Tesla and SpaceX. He started and sold Zip2 to Compaq for $300 million, then founded and sold PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion. True to character, he took all the money, and started a rocket company in 2002 for 'making humanity a multiplanetary species', calling it SpaceX."
Mr. Musk also, "bought into an unknown electric car company called Tesla, to 'give birth to a whole new industry' in 2004. Somewhere along the way, he started the pithily named The Boring Company to dig tunnels under Los Angeles and other cities to solve the grinding commutes that irritated him... and [he later] started a company called Neuralink, to merge the human brain with computers or the cloud. All in a day’s work," says Bindra.
Above: In the early days of Tesla, Elon Musk explains to CNN why he's often associated with the 'Iron Man' character (YouTube: CNN Business)
So what on earth (or Mars) do these business ventures have to do with one another? Well, there's certainly some synergies with SpaceX and Tesla. But Bindra sees more than that. He notes, "A lot of analysts and experts try to figure out which business he is in—cars, solar, space, technology, or all of them. There is a school of thought saying that he is actually in the batteries business. The way I look at it (in unabashed admiration, I might add) is that Musk has positioned his efforts in the middle of two colossal industries."
And what are these colossal industries? "If you look at business history, two industries have produced the most wealth and had the biggest impact on the modern era—energy and technology. Musk plays in the intersection of both—his giga factories will be his oil fields of the future, even as technology powers every other business he starts or runs," notes Bindra.
Granted, Musk disrupts multiple business niches. But, pulling the lens back a bit, it's clear that energy and technology are at the forefront of Musk Industries (if such a thing existed). All along, he's helped move the planet rapidly into the future. “I like to be involved in things that change the world," Musk has said, and he's definitely put his money where his mouth is.