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The Two Sides of Elon Musk February 3, 2016

Posted by Peter Varhol in Uncategorized.
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I like Matthew Inman, a.k.a The Oatmeal. He can be funny, serious, inspiring, often in the same comic.  I bet he is a really good person, too.  He is a runner, a much better distance runner than I will ever be.

He extolls the praises of Elon Musk, who uses Nicola Tesla’s name as the brand of his electric car. At Inman’s urging, Musk donated a million dollars to the renovation of Tesla’s home as a museum.  Of course, Musk also sponsors things like SpaceX and the Hyperloop, both visionary human endeavors.

Sounds like an unalloyed Good Guy, doesn’t it?

Well, looks can be deceiving. After longtime tech journalist and now venture capitalist Stewart Alsop criticized the Tesla in an article, Musk acted.  Alsop had an order in for a Tesla, and Musk unilaterally cancelled it.

I know (well knew, years ago) Stewart Alsop. He’s funny, engaging, smart, and literate.  He says what he means, but doesn’t engage in personal attacks.  You really can’t, in technology.

There is a great deal of debate on whether businesses can deny service to any customer. In general, we tend to make allowances to businesses for customers that are excessively demanding or unreasonable.

Alsop wasn’t being excessively demanding or unreasonable, and certainly not as a customer. And a public company such as Tesla Motors needs to be held to a higher standard, by its board of directors and investors.

Many successful businessmen have an element of ruthlessness about them; it’s one of the things that makes them successful.  But this is not ruthless; this is petty.

So I see this as a failure of Elon Musk and Tesla Motors. The investors, of course, are already beating up on the company, but for other reasons.

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