Elon Musk, the owner of the SpaceX rocket business and Tesla Motors electric car operation, told delegates to the South by South West (SXSW) technology show in Austin, Texas, that both SpaceX and Tesla are alive by “the skin of their teeth” such were the financial challenges for both privately-held businesses. He was delivering a Keynote on March 11th.
He admitted that both companies were near bankruptcy in 2008, and that he gave them less than a 10 per cent chance of succeeding.
Musk said he made $180 million (€145.8m) when PayPal was acquired by eBay in 2002, and he initially put $90 million into SpaceX and Tesla, but the costs kept mounting, and that 2008 saw early versions of his Falcon rocket family failing with the impact that two days prior to the 2008 Christmas holiday that bankruptcy loomed, and he had less than $40 million of his cash remaining.
“I could put it all into one company, and the other company would definitely die, or if I split it into both SpaceX and Tesla, then they both might die,” he said. “And when you put your energy into building something, it’s your baby, so I couldn’t choose. I put the money into both, and thank goodness they both came through. SpaceX is alive by the skin of its teeth, and so is Tesla – if things had just gone a little differently, both companies would be dead,” he added.
Musk told delegates that his first Mars rocket would fly to the planet next year but warned, “People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic, so I’m trying to recalibrate to some degree here,” Musk said.