Elon Musk’s Biggest Bets That Paid Off

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Elon Musk isn’t afraid to take risks. He dropped out of his Ph.D. program at Stanford to start his first company, he entered the electric vehicle space way ahead of the curve and he plans to send humans to space on commercial flights. Fortunately for Musk, many of his risks have paid off — for one, Tesla could be on its way to a $1 trillion valuation, according to Forbes.

Here are a few of Musk’s bets that have paid off.

Last updated: Mar. 26, 2021

Bringing Electric Cars to the Mass Market

In 2006, Musk announced a plan to expand the Tesla brand from its focus on electric-powered luxury sports vehicles to include affordable cars for the mass market. Looking back on this decision during a 2018 SXSW panel, Musk noted that this was a huge risk, as the auto market was already supersaturated and a number of companies had already gone bankrupt trying to launch a mass-market electric vehicle.

“I gave […] Tesla from the beginning a probability of less than 10% likelihood to succeed,” he said during the panel, according to CNBC.

Fast forward to 2021 and Tesla has reached a $636 billion market cap, Yahoo Finance reported. Its value increased eight-fold over the course of 2020, Forbes reported, and its revenue reached $31.5 billion for the year.

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Launching a Rocket Company

In 2018, Musk tweeted that “creating a rocket company has to be one of the dumbest and hardest ways to make money” — yet he did it anyway when he founded SpaceX.

As of February, SpaceX was valued at $74 billion, CNBC reported. Morgan Stanley has described the business as “mission control” for the “emerging space economy,” and cited government contracts with NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense as being one of the main contributors to its high value.

Releasing the Cybertruck

When Musk unveiled Tesla’s electric pickup truck in 2019, it was met with mixed reviews. Its unconventional, futuristic design was certainly a risk — and many people didn’t shy away from calling it outright ugly.

But despite its critics, sales for the Cybertruck have been strong. As of February 2020, its reservation rate was outpacing that of the Tesla Model 3 and the vehicle was averaging nearly 6,000 preorders per day, Forbes reported. The number of preorders had reached 650,000 as of July 2020, Electrek reported.

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Developing Brain Chips

Although inserting chips into the human brain to cure diseases sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, Musk is betting that he can make this into a reality. He founded the startup Neuralink in 2016 with the aim of implanting wireless brain-computer interfaces into the brain to help cure neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia and spinal cord injuries.

In August 2020, Musk presented a pig that had been implanted with the device to show that she was able to function as normal, Reuters reported.

While you’ll have to wait and see if Musk’s brain chips are able to cure human ailments, the company has already had some financial success with $158 million raised in funding.

Creating the Hyperloop

Musk coined the term “hyperloop” in 2013 to describe the engineering technology that would send elevated passenger pods through tubes using magnetic fields. Musk’s idea is now being tested by Virgin Hyperloop in Nevada and this futuristic-seeming mode of transport has already gained support from state and federal governments. It has also recently been recognized as a mode of transportation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, CNBC reported.

Although we may be some years away from being able to travel this way, the company that sprouted from a Musk-written white paper is now valued in the range of $500 million to $1 billion, according to PrivCo.

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