Tesla's actual creators speak about 'complicated' Elon Musk

Tesla's actual creators speak about 'complicated' Elon Musk

February 8, 2021

‘I don’t know why he has to say he’s the founder’: Tesla’s actual creators hit out at Elon Musk and describe the eccentric billionaire as ‘complicated’ to work with

  • Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who set up Tesla in 2003, made the comments in an interview with CNBC on Monday,  which was filmed in 2019
  • The pair clarified that Musk was originally an investor, having put in $6.35 million into the company back in 2004 and joining its board
  • Tarpenning clarified that Musk actually became Tesla’s fourth CEO when he assumed the role in October 2008 and was its second board chair
  • Eberhard left the company in 2007 months after being ‘voted off the island’ as CEO in a what he characterized as ‘a rude way’
  • Tarpenning followed him out the door the following year, saying the company was ‘no longer fun’ without Eberhard there
  • When asked is Musk is the same person they met nearly two decades ago, Eberhard said: ‘I think Elon’s, Elon-ness has increased over the years’
  • Tarpenning added: ‘Elon is complicated. You know, he is real smart and delves into everything which can be both a positive and negative’ 

The creators of Tesla appeared to hit out at Elon Musk in a newly revealed interview, slamming claims he’s the founder of the electronic vehicle giant, when he was actually originally just an early investor.

True founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who set up Tesla in 2003, made the comments in an CNBC interview released in full on Monday, which was filmed back in 2019 for the documentary Tesla: Hell of a Ride.

When quizzed as to how they feel about billionaire Musk frequently being falsely credited as Tesla’s creator, Tarpenning responded: ‘Elon was, you know, investor in Series A. He was very supportive on the board – and then he became CEO.’

Tarpenning clarified that Musk actually became Tesla’s fourth CEO when he assumed the role in October 2008 and was the second chairman of the company’s board.

While crediting him for taking Tesla to ‘fantastic’ heights in the years since, Tarpenning said: ‘But he wasn’t the founder in the sense of he wasn’t [because] we started it.’

Eberhard then chimned in: ‘This is one thing that I found kind of fascinating about him.

‘He’s actually accomplished some amazing things in his own right; SpaceX is amazing. And he’s done some interesting things with Tesla for sure,’ he continued. ‘But I’m not sure why he has to also say that he was a founder when he wasn’t. I don’t understand that.’

‘Yeah, whatever,’ Tarpenning concurred.

The pair also described Musk as ‘complicated’ to work with, on account of his tendency to take financial and technological risks, regardless of the ‘collateral damage’ such moves may cause.  

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True founders (left to right) Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who set up Tesla in 2003, made the comments in an interview with the network released Monday

They appeared to hit out at Elon Musk in a newly revealed interview, telling CNBC ‘I don’t know why he has to say he’s the founder’

https://youtube.com/watch?v=eblPwXFb7TE%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D1

Eberhard left the company in 2007 months after being ‘voted off the island’ as CEO in a what he characterized as ‘a rude way’.  He declined to disclose further details, but said lawsuits were involved.

Tarpenning followed him out the door the following year, saying the company was ‘no longer fun’ without Eberhard there. 

The pair first met in the 1980s during a gathering for Mars Society members, a volunteer-driven space-advocacy non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the human exploration and settlement of Mars.

They reportedly bonded over their shared love of space exploration, before founding NuvoMedia in 1997, where they created the first ever e-book reader called the Rocket eBook.

They later went on to found Tesla in 2003, and met Musk a year later, who invested more than $6 million into the company and became chairman of the board.

When asked by CNBC whether the eccentric Elon Musk we know today is the same person they met nearly two decades ago, Eberhard said: ‘I think Elon’s, Elon-ness has increased over the years.

‘If you want to describe Elon Musk in a nutshell, I don’t think he would fit in a nutshell.’

Through a wry smile, Tarpenning added: ‘Elon is complicated. You know, he is real smart and delves into everything which can be both a positive and negative.

‘He [also] pushes on certain things in the development that you kind of wonder why. And sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t.’

Tarpenning continued: ‘He’s very much into risk. He’s willing to take on risks – financial risks for himself personally and technology risk – when he’s working on something new that is a little out there.

‘When it works it’s really amazing. But, of course, there’s lots of sort of collateral damage along the way.’        

When asked by whether the eccentric Elon Musk we know today is the same person they met nearly two decades ago, Eberhard said: ‘I think Elon’s, Elon-ness has increased over the years

Eberhard (pictured above in an undated photo in front of Tesla’s Roadster) left the company in 2007 months after being ‘voted off the island’ as CEO in a what he characterized as ‘a rude way’. He declined to disclose further details, but said lawsuits were involved

Eberhard and Tarpenning founded Tesla in 2003, and met Musk later the next year, who invested more than $6 million into the company and became chairman of the board

 Bitcoin jumps 10% to a record $44,000 as Tesla invests $1.5bn and says company will start accepting it as payment for cars ‘in the near future’

Elon Musk has launched a pair of potential game-changing shifts for bitcoin after Tesla announced it had invested $1.5 billion and said it will start accepting the cryptocurrency as payment for its cars in the near future.

Bitcoin’s price surged 10 percent to a record-high of $44,000 soon after Tesla’s disclosure on Monday morning. Shares of Tesla were up 1.8 percent in early morning trading off the back of the announcement.  

The announcement follows several social media posts by Musk that have sent the currency and other assets, including meme-based digital currency dogecoin, higher in recent weeks. 

It came just days after Musk, who is a well-known supporter of bitcoin, briefly changed the bio of his Twitter account, which has 46 million followers, to say ‘#bitcoin’.

Musk said a week ago that bitcoin was ‘on the verge’ of being more widely accepted among investors and in December asked if it was possible to do large transactions in the currency.   

Tesla said the decision was part of its broad investment policy as a company and was aimed at diversifying and maximizing its returns on cash. 

It said it had invested an aggregate $1.5 billion in bitcoin under the changed policy and could ‘acquire and hold digital assets from time to time or long-term’. 

As a result ‘we may invest a portion of such cash in certain alternative reserve assets including digital assets, gold bullion, gold exchange-traded funds and other assets as specified in the future.’

Their decision to create Tesla back in 2003 was an idea inspired by Eberhard’s love of sports cars, the pair said. 

‘For various reasons. I had been thinking about buying a sports car,’ Eberhard told CNBC in the interview, which was recorded in 2019. ‘I had just gotten divorced and it was what you do when you get divorced.’

Increasingly aware of growing conflicts in the Middle East in oil-rich territories, and more conscious of global warming, he said he decided against buying a car and instead began researching electric vehicles. 

While the pair had worked together in hardware and consumer electronics, neither had any experience in the automotive industry.

Amid their research, the pair found a company in Southern California called AC Propulsion that had made a handful of ‘go-kartish’ electric vehicles, but were going out of business. 

‘I reached out and actually rescued them. I invested some of my own money into the company and tried to get them to build me personally, a car. The car was a lead acid powered car and was therefore a very short range and the batteries were persnickety and dangerous,’ Eberhart said.

‘So in my conversations with them, I said, well, why don’t we consider lithium ion batteries – and that’s where it began.’

The experiment was reportedly a resounding success, but the concept car still had limitations, the pair said. 

After Eberhard and Tarpenning came up with the idea for the battery, their next hurdle, they said, was to build the car around it.

They discovered it was fairly common for automotive companies to outsource certain aspects of manufacturing, so they reached out to the English car manufacturer, Lotus, and met with them in 2002.

The following July, Tesla Motors was incorporated. The pair said they self-funded the company for a while, before reaching out to firms for investment. 

However, their lack of expertise with automotives was exposed during various meetings, making injections of cash difficult to come by.

‘And then we encountered Elon,’ Tarperning said, adding that the two men bonded with him over their shared interest in space exploration.

Their decision to create Tesla back in 2003 was an idea inspired by Eberhard’s love of sports cars, the pair said

In April 2004, Musk invested $6.35 million dollars of his own money in the Series A round to help get Tesla Motors off the ground and became chairman of the board

They then met with Musk in person in 2004, some two years after he founded SpaceX.  

‘At lot of times that we’d pitch … [people] would tell us we’re crazy,’ Erberhard said. ‘And one of the great things about Elon is … we [were] pitching to someone who is actually making rocket ships. 

‘And he got our idea, our vision right away,’ he continued. ‘[To him] it seemed like a no brainer.’

In April 2004, Musk invested $6.35 million dollars of his own money to help get Tesla Motors off the ground and became chairman of the board.

Then two years later, in 2006, Tesla unveiled the prototype of its first car, the Roadster, an all-electric sports car. The vehicle sparked widespread interest before it was even available for sale. 

But the following year, Eberhard was replaced as CEO in the summer of 2007 and left the company months later. 

Musk eventually became the CEO in October 2008, and has held the position ever since. 

Eberhard declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding his exit from Tesla, disclosing only that he was ‘voted off the island in a rude way’. 

‘It wound up up with some lawsuits and some settlements,’ he said. ‘And it’s all history now, so I can’t really talk about it.’

The following year, Tarpenning also decided to step down from the company while the final touches on the Roadster were being finalized, ahead of its official launch. 

Tarpenning also decided to step down from the company in 2008 while the final touches on the Roadster (shown above) were being finalized

Citing ongoing difficulties with the vehicle, in addition to having three kids at home, Tarperning said: ‘I’d been doing nothing but Tesla for five years. And I thought it’s going to be another five years. And Martin wasn’t there anymore – it wasn’t as much fun.

‘I thought it’s time to leave and I don’t have any regrets. It was an awesome time. The whole thing was wonderful from the beginning to the end.

‘It was the worst and the best and and it’s worked out great,’ he continued. 

Eberhard, who describes himself as an electrical engineer and inventor at heart, is currently developing a technology to make electric vehicle batteries more affordable than they are today, without sacrificing safety, power or quality.

Tarpenning, meanwhile, says he still talks to Musk occasionally. He is currently mentoring the next generation of environment minded startups, and investing in them as a venture partner with Spero. 

As of late January, Tesla is estimated to be worth more than $700 billion. 

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