Updated December 15, 2017
As a founder of PayPal, and current CEO of Tesla & SpaceX, Elon Musk is one of the most innovative business people in the world. These hand picked quotes do an excellent job of highlighting his thought on business & innovation, as well as his sheer determination.
Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom with your favorite quote. Enjoy!
"My proceeds from PayPal were $180M. I put $100M in SpaceX, $70M in Tesla, and $10M in SolarCity. I had to borrow money for rent."
"Whatever the thing is you're trying to create, [ask] what would be the utility delta compared to the current state of the art, times how many people it would affect? So that’s why I think something that makes a big difference, but affects a small to moderate number of people is great, as is something that makes a small difference but affects a vast number of people. The area under the curve would be roughly similar for those two things. So it's really about trying to be useful." (Sep, 2016 | Source)
“Optimism, pessimism, f*** that; we’re going to make it happen. As God as my bloody witness, I’m hell-bent on making it work.”
“Talent is extremely important. It’s like a sports team, the team that has the best individual player will often win, but then there’s a multiplier from how those players work together and the strategy they employ.”
“Don’t be afraid of new arenas”
"As much as possible, avoid hiring MBAs. MBA programs don't teach people how to create companies."
“If somebody is doing something that’s useful to the rest of society I think that’s a good thing. Like it doesn’t have to change the world. If you’re doing something that has high value to people, and frankly even if it’s a littlegame or some improvement in photo sharing or something, if it does a small amount of good for a large number of people that’s fine. Stuff doesn’t need to change the world just to be good.” (Sep, 2016 | Source)
"So there's really two main dimensions along which cost optimization and making something available in the national market can be achieved. One is design iteration, going through multiple versions of something, and then the other is economies of scale. You kind of need both of those things in order to make compelling mass market product. If you look at, like, cell phones and how many design iterations have we gone through with cell phones and look at the scale at which they are made, which is enormous; and that's what enables everyone to have a supercomputer in their pocket." (June, 2016 | Source)
"Disruptive technology where you really have a big technology discontinuity... tends to come from new companies."
"It's very important to like the people you work with, otherwise life [and] your job is gonna be quite miserable."
"You have to say, 'Well, why did it succeed where others did not?’”
"You shouldn't do things differently just because they're different. They need to be... better."
"When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars people said, 'Nah, what's wrong with a horse?' That was a huge bet he made, and it worked."
"There will be continued innovation, for sure, but the great problems of the Internet have essentially been solved."
"If you're trying to create a company, it's like baking a cake. You have to have all the ingredients in the right proportion."
“What makes innovative thinking happen?... I think it's really a mindset. You have to decide.”
"Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success."
"Starting & growing a business is as much about the innovation, drive and determination of the people as the product they sell."
“I do think there is a lot of potential if you have a compelling product and people are willing to pay a premium for that.”
"I say something, and then it usually happens. Maybe not on schedule, but it usually happens." (June, 2014 | Source)
"If you're co-founder or CEO, you have to do all kinds of tasks you might not want to do... No task is too menial."
“A company... is only as good as its people and how excited they are about creating.”
“I think it is a mistake to hire huge numbers of people to get a complicated job done. Numbers will never compensate for talent in getting the right answer (two people who don’t know something are no better than one), will tend to slow down progress, and will make the task incredibly expensive."
"Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time.”
"There's a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering."
"We have essentially no patents in SpaceX… if we published patents… the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book."
"I’m actually wondering about putting in a roller coaster — like a functional roller coaster at the factory in Fremont."
"Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers." (June, 2014 | Source)
"It's okay to have all your eggs in one basket, as long as you control what happens to that basket."
"Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death."
"Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up."
"Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."
“People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It's important that people look forward to coming to work.”
"I think it's important to take as much feedback as you can from as many people as you can about whatever idea you have. You should seek negative feedback, especially from friends."
“Great companies are built on great products.”
"Company death – not succeeding with the company – causes me a lot more stress than physical danger"
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to plan to sell a company.”
"The path to the CEO’s office should not be through the CFO’s office... It needs to be through engineering and design.”
"I always invest my own money in the companies that I create."
“Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and keep questioning yourself.”
"When you want to do something new, you have to apply the physics approach. Physics is really figuring out how to discover new things that are counterintuitive, like quantum mechanics."
"I don't believe in process. In fact, when I interview a potential employee and he or she says that 'it's all about the process,' I see that as a bad sign."
"Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there."
"Any product that needs a manual to work is broken."
“You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find everything that’s wrong with it and fix it.”
"Probably the most valuable thing that the Hyperloop paper that I published has done is to spur thinking in terms of new transportation systems. So it's not just 'Oh lets have a fast train that's not even as fast as what Japan's done in the 80's' - I don't see what the point in that is." (June, 2016 | Source)
"People sometimes think technology just automatically gets better every year, but it actually doesn’t. It only gets better if smart people work like crazy to make it better. That’s how any technology actually gets better. Look at the history of civilization, many civilizations. And look at say ancient Egypt where they built all these incredible pyramids, and then they forgot basically how to build pyramids. And even hieroglyphics, they forgot how to read hieroglyphics. Or you look at Rome, and how they built these incredible road ways and aqueducts and indoor plumbing, they forgot how to do all of those things. And there are many such examples in history, so I think you should always bear in mind that entropy is not on your side.” (Sep, 2016 | Source)"
Cover photo from Steve Jurvetson