At 1310 East Grand Avenue in El Segundo, just south of Los Angeles, sits a large white building. In 2002, it housed only about a dozen people. There wasn’t even a receptionist.
Deep in this building was a small group of cubicles, staffed by about a dozen men. This tiny group had an audacious goal: sending the first humans to Mars.
Their leader was a young internet entrepreneur named Elon Musk. He had just made $180 million from the sale of PayPal. Many men in his position would buy an island and relax, or perhaps begin a career in philanthrophy. But Elon toiled away in this nondescript warehouse instead, building the future.
This is the subject of an outstanding new book I just finished called Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX.
From this tiny team, Musk built SpaceX, which now does two thirds of all commercial satellite launches in the world and owns the most powerful rocket on earth, the Falcon Heavy. That small group of employees has mushroomed to nearly 10,000.
To go so far so fast, Musk needed the best people in the business, and he focused like a laser on finding them. One engineer’s wife got a job at Google in the Bay Area, which meant he couldn’t accept Musk’s offer to work at SpaceX. Undeterred, Musk called the CEO of Google and got the engineer’s wife a transfer to Los Angeles. Sure enough, he got the engineer he wanted.
Musk went so far as to personally interview the first 3000 people SpaceX hired. Musk paid less and his company was unproven, but he excelled at inspiring people to join him to revolutionize space travel.
Even with Musk’s drive and a superb team, SpaceX faced many struggles. By 2008, they had three failed flights and barely a month’s worth of cash left. Even Elon’s considerable fortune had run dry supporting both SpaceX and Tesla. But Musk and his team stayed focused and successfully launched a rocket into orbit in the nick of time. This achievement won them a NASA contract that kept the company alive.
SpaceX questioned everything about how business is normally done in aerospace. Most companies buy parts from established suppliers, but SpaceX built almost everything itself, substantially lowering its costs. For the parts it did buy elsewhere, SpaceX ignored common practice as well. Instead of paying in 30 days, SpaceX paid in as little as 24 hours. This got their orders prioritized, which helped them move faster than other rocket companies.
Today, only one other private company, Rocket Lab, has reached orbit. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, despite all his money, has never reached orbit. Indeed, SpaceX is so dominant that customers sometimes spread around a few of their orders, just to make sure its competitors don’t all go out of business.
If I had seen Musk in that empty warehouse twenty years ago, I would never have believed what SpaceX would become. But Musk saw it, and stopped at nothing to get there.
When the first man steps on Mars, will it be Musk?
Dig into these posts for more on Elon Musk and space:
- The Lost Planet of Vulcan
- Elon Musk’s Secret Battery May Be the World’s Largest
- Tesla’s Shares Are Priced For a Future Where Tesla Makes Every Car on Earth
Photo: “SpaceX Dragon Propulsive Descent Landing Test” by NASAKennedy is marked with CC PDM 1.0
Save Money on Stuff I Use:
This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.
If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.
The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.
Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.
My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.
Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.
One thought on “Liftoff: How Elon Musk Built SpaceX”