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What to Read: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

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July 01, 2016
What to Read
Victor Vesnaver

What's On the Bookshelf
Over the years, we’ve had numerous conversations with industry leaders and often one of the topics that we discuss is the latest book read. We thought it would be fun to share some of these booklover conversations with our readers. Here are what our industry leaders are reading.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
by Ashlee Vance
[Review by Victor Vesnaver, VSquared Consulting]

When HU reached out to see if I wanted to submit a review, Ashlee Vance’s 2015 best-selling biography of Elon Musk rose to the top of my pile. Vance’s methodical organization of the book provides the reader with a foundation for an understanding of the person who emigrated from South Africa to Canada and then the United States to reconnect with family and complete his formal education in physics. He describes Musk’s journey as a self-taught programmer who, with his brother conceived of, built and sold their first company in the euphoric dot-com era of the late 1990s. This served as the funding source for what would become PayPal and the springboard for SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity.

Musk’s unfailing dedication to the gargantuan missions he established for SpaceX and Tesla might be viewed by some as lunacy. On multiple occasions he has navigated the edges of personal bankruptcy in these pursuits. What escaped me until reading the book is the sheer enormity of both endeavors and Musk’s hands-on commitment to every last detail ensuring that the mission, no matter how huge, is never compromised.

Fundamental to Musk’s vision for SpaceX is the notion that humanity needs to colonize Mars. In the extreme, he believes that Mars represents an alternative landmass to the earth which is suffering from pollution, global warming and overcrowding. While Musk’s vision caters to mankind’s natural tendency to explore and the development of the ultimate failsafe, he is committed to doing what he can to resolve the earth’s problems by forcing change in the use of sustainable energy.

Vance makes the point that Musk has chosen to take on the global automobile manufacturers that have neglected to focus on electricity and new technologies as viable alternatives and may at some point eclipse current offerings. The option to pick up the mantle of change has existed for a long time but none of the automobile giants either had the foresight or the guts to mount the effort. Launching a new car model is a billion dollar effort for companies that already have the established infrastructure to design, test, produce and distribute their products. The resources and logistics necessary for a startup such as Tesla to take this on are daunting – a position Musk appears to gravitate towards.    

While the future of both SpaceX and Tesla remain unknown, it’s clear that progress is being made against all odds. This was a great book for anyone interested in innovation and the challenges faced when trying to change the world.
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