Behind Elon’s “Stuttering” Genius

There’s no nice way of saying this so I’ll just jump into it: what Edison did Nikola Tesla was a daylight robbery. Nikola Tesla was a brilliant man, an electrical engineer and an inventor who single-handedly shaped our present more than Steve Jobs and Starbucks combined. He has invented, or patented, or conceived almost everything we use today, technology wise. He filed over 300 patents for his creations. He began hinting at the possibility of wireless communication in 1893 and I want you to stop and think about that for a second. I once visited the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia and it’s like walking into the museum of modern history.

Everyone should go to Belgrade for two reasons. One, Serbia is still considerably underdeveloped considering its potential but Belgrade is modern and vibrant and I reckon it can become the next (talking about tourism) big thing in Europe and two, because his museum is worth visiting. It is located in an elegant building in a no-account street in central Belgrade.

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Tesla Museum in Belgrade + a friend of mine waving at the camera

Tesla was an outsider. He had to fight against Edison and General Electric and this is probably the reason why Musk, a South African-born Stanford dropout, decided to name his company after Tesla.

Musk sold PayPal in 2002 and received a cool $165M in exchange and instead of doing what any other 31 year old would’ve done in his position, i.e. blow all his money away, he invested the money and created a lot of different new things including Tesla.

I had my first encounter with Tesla in 2010 and it feels like such a long time ago. I flew to London and hopped on the tube to Knightsbridge, where the first ever European Tesla Store was located (that store isn’t there anymore but there are three other stores in London) and, after being briefed, I had my first ever go with an all-electric car. Coincidentally, it was also my first ever press car.

The original Tesla Roadster S I’ve driven in London in 2010

The original Tesla Roadster S I’ve driven in London in 2010

I remember exactly what I was told by the Tesla representative I spoke with. I remember what she said because every single Tesla PR person I have ever spoken with has always told me the same thing:

“Our goal is to accelerate the transition toward sustainable mobility.”

I remember how everyone laughed at the brand, and at me for saying that the car was pretty cool and very quick, but the fact of the matter is that we’re here, 9 years later, and he was right.

The Tesla Model S is the best-selling car in Norway and one of the best-selling EVs (a market that’s growing at a fast rate) in several other countries. Sales figures are growing, and so are stock prices because, despite the inevitable ups and downs whenever Musk decides to smoke weed during live podcasts, the trend is positive. He pushed carmakers into taking EVs seriously, if nothing else, from a purely commercial point of view. And he did that by becoming a serious competitor for historic brands and by anticipating and predicting drastic changes in regulations.

Tesla is different. It is not a carmaker or a brand, it is a credo. When you talk with Tesla owners and fans it is a little bit like talking with Apple or Starbucks fans, they don’t care about the drawbacks and little foibles because they believe in the brand.

Musk did this with his unique way of expressing ideas. He speaks slowly and stutters slightly, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, garnishing his concepts with cheap jokes and a mountain of knowledge and preparation. He has a different attitude and even the way he dresses is different. He even wore custom made Nike Air Jordans to his most important presentation so far.

Elon Musk is the latest and perhaps one of the biggest superstar CEOs that revolutionized the market they dive into, for better or worse, we will see.

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