Katelyn Fossett: Why do you assume Elon Musk purchased Twitter?
Ashlee Vance: Properly, it’s a little bit of a thriller. It doesn’t slot in with the issues he’s been engaged on for the final 20 years. He’s positively been extra atoms than bits, and has largely ridiculed a few of the extra consumer-oriented and entertainment-oriented providers. He’s all the time had a go at Fb specifically.
Over the previous few years, it has develop into clear that he wields Twitter otherwise than some other businessperson or determine of his stature. It’s develop into this device that’s used for his firms but in addition for his model — that may be a horrible approach to put it, however you already know, his persona. And he appears to have fallen in love with the service.
I’ve no inside information of this, however my guess is that he was going to hitch the Twitter board, and the attorneys there have been most likely attempting to place some restrictions on him and Elon doesn’t like restrictions. And so he simply determined, “ what? I’ll simply purchase the factor.” So I believe there’s a bit of caprice to all of this.
Fossett: Do you assume that he expects to make cash off of it?
Vance: To me, it doesn’t appear like the best enterprise.
It’s an organization that makes cash generally, loses cash different instances. It positively has this outsized impression on the world, nevertheless it’s nonetheless laborious to determine the way it makes a ton of cash, and he’s paying a rare sum of money for it. Should you learn what he says, he doesn’t care in regards to the economics. He simply thinks it’s vital totally free speech and all that. So I don’t know if he expects to make cash out of it. However Elon has a reasonably distinctive capacity to make cash out of issues which might be which might be both struggling or different folks have by no means managed to make cash from earlier than.
Fossett: Persons are involved that he’ll run the corporate just like the troll-in-chief that he’s been on the platform already and simply sow chaos. However I’m questioning how that squares with what we learn about how he runs firms already. Do we’ve got any proof to counsel that after he’s within the driver’s seat, he’ll run the corporate extra like a traditional CEO would?
Vance: Properly, there’s nothing very typical about Elon, so I doubt it is going to fall into that class. At Twitter, I do know there are numerous workers there who do work very laborious on all of the content material moderation. However my general impression of Twitter is that has 7,000 workers who, on the entire, don’t appear to do an entire lot of something. It’s a service that’s barely modified during the last decade. And if you already know something about Elon, not working laborious is normally not tolerated at his firms. So my general intestine feeling tells me that lots of people will get fired.
However past that, I believe the best way Elon principally manages his firms, there’s normally somebody very excessive up on the firms who handles extra of the day-to-day operations. Should you have a look at SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell is the president. She’s been wonderful; she’s helped construct this monumental, tremendously profitable enterprise. Elon tends to place his concentrate on what he calls the “essential path,” which is just like the one most urgent problem that’s stopping any certainly one of his firms from attaining their targets at a given time. So I might assume that Twitter goes to comply with that sample. As an illustration, if he decides the edit button [Ed. Note: Musk polled followers on whether they wanted an edit button, a popular request of users, after Twitter announced he was joining the board of directors. Critics worry it could be used to spread false information after tweets have been widely circulated.] is form of the essential path — most urgent rapid downside — he’s going to place all of his power into coping with that. If it’s the moderation stuff, you already know, he would put his focus there. I’ve hassle imagining that he’s going to be down within the weeds on day-to-day operations of Twitter.
Fossett: I assume what I’m asking is, for example, on the edit button … these sorts of issues might have damaging social ramifications if they’re used to unfold disinformation. However they is also dangerous for the corporate. Does he hearken to advisers about considerations like that?
Vance: He’ll hearken to folks, however Elon goes to do what he desires to do. And he normally goes together with his intuitions, for higher or worse. It really works out fairly effectively for him on the entire. The one different a part of that is that in the event that they’re non-public, he has nearly no fiduciary responsibility proper now to anybody besides himself.
Fossett: Do you assume that he’ll let Trump again on?
Vance: Properly, it’s laborious for me to mind-read, however if you happen to have a look at what he’s saying about free speech and censorship, all of the alerts would appear to point he’d be fairly loath to ban folks from that platform, particularly somebody that lots of people wish to hear from. So my prevailing guess could be that Trump would get again on.
Fossett: What do we actually learn about Elon Musk’s politics? Is there something coherent there?
Vance: Not quite a bit. Traditionally, he was fairly apolitical. I believe he serves the political celebration of Elon Musk firstly. It’s actually humorous. There’s been an enormous evolution in pondering … Folks form of overlook that between SpaceX and Tesla, Elon and his firms have been fairly detested by the fitting for many of their early existence, till fairly lately. Even when Mitt Romney was operating for president, throughout a debate, he referred to as Tesla a loser. There was this concept that Elon was within the pocket of the left and the greenies and all that.
Elon was additionally apolitical within the sense that he would usually donate to political candidates on both facet simply as long as it was serving to SpaceX, for probably the most half, or Tesla. And so he was doing what was good for Elon. I believe on social points, this isn’t a man who’s a gun toting pro-life, hardcore Republican. I believe in his inside core, he leans extra left on points like that. However clearly, during the last 3 to 4 years, he’s been tweeting every kind of stuff that the fitting would determine with. And I believe over time, he’s develop into slightly extra fiscally conservative and identifies extra with conventional conservative pushes. However on the finish of the day, I nonetheless assume it’s all of the political celebration of Elon.
Fossett: What’s his relationship with official Washington and lawmakers there?
Vance: SpaceX might be the corporate the place this performs out probably the most. They’re competing in opposition to very giant navy contractors for probably the most half. So he discovered himself normally on the mistaken finish of Republicans who benefited from donations from these firms and fought on their behalf. So for a very long time, SpaceX was seen as — lower than Tesla, which was a pure right-left problem — however SpaceX was this upstart difficult navy contracts and incumbents. After which over time, House X has actually ramped up its lobbying and the corporate’s performed extraordinarily effectively. And so now you’re seen as a little bit of a buffoon if you happen to’re not behind them. SpaceX is sort of in the USA’ nationwide curiosity now. So he has deep ties to Washington. I imply, the nation is determined by SpaceX to place up astronauts and navy satellites.
Tesla nonetheless been extra of a counterpuncher, regardless of its success. The massive automakers are clearly sort of favored by Biden over Tesla. And clearly, oil and fuel get extra advantages than Tesla. So it’s nonetheless extra of an underdog.
Fossett: Do you assume that proudly owning Twitter will change that relationship in any respect? Are you able to see that being a complicating consider these relationships?
Vance: That’s query. I imply, if you happen to simply have a look at the early tackle all this, it will appear to be the fitting is worked up in regards to the prospect of him shopping for this firm, and that may maybe earn him extra favors from the fitting. I actually don’t think about that proudly owning Twitter would have all that a lot impact on what’s already been happening with SpaceX and Tesla.
I imply, you’ve obtained to recollect, one of many smartest issues Elon’s ever performed is he’s obtained big factories in California, in Texas. He’s obtained a giant enterprise in Florida, New York. , so he’s put these huge, huge manufacturing operations within the greatest states which have each Republicans and Democrats and all these jobs concerned. So I believe everybody just about in every single place desires to be within the enterprise of Elon Musk. It’s not like he has to go begging for lots of favors at this level.
Fossett: You talked with him quite a bit on your guide and a bit since. What stunned you about him?
Vance: I believe the best approach to clarify Elon to some folks is that he’s the world’s greatest danger taker. He has a tolerance for danger that I don’t even assume these folks can wrap their head round as a result of we’re not likely wired that approach. He’s keen to do this stuff that he thinks are vital on a stage that’s simply past comprehension for most individuals. He’s simply probably the most persistent particular person on the planet and is keen to see all the pieces by way of to the top. I believe that’s one facet of him.
I believe the opposite facet is — he lets his humorousness out on Twitter — however I believe folks take him simply approach too critically. , he’s obtained this he’s obtained this British sarcastic, dry humorousness and I believe folks take him far more critically that he takes himself on some of these things. It tends to get blown out of proportion. I believe the world is slightly bit a recreation to Elon, and he’s sort of simply messing round and taking part in it. And a few of that is simply to have enjoyable. That’s possibly not nice for everyone else, however I believe that’s what he’s doing.
Fossett: Does he care about being appreciated?
Vance: I believe, like all people, he likes to be appreciated, I believe. He’s gone by way of a reasonably large transformation. This was a man who was sort of a loner. Rising up, he was not within the in-crowd. Just about the alternative; he was bullied. And when he was first operating early firms like Zip2 and PayPal, he wasn’t all that beloved throughout the firms and has had a reasonably robust street of it since. And I believe as issues have gotten higher and higher at his firms and he’s gone from being this form of shy particular person with self-confidence … I believe these shackles have come off and he relishes his superstar and the adoration that he’s obtained.
One a part of that is straightforward to elucidate, which is that he likes to be appreciated, and he’s being appreciated on a close to spiritual stage, and I’m certain that may get in anyone’s head. I believe the opposite half is fairly mercenary and calculating, which is that he’s ready to make use of this monumental pulpit and adoration to get what he desires for his firms in a approach that some other CEO would simply dream of. [Twitter] is an unbelievable device for him in a variety of methods. Tesla’s by no means spent $1 on promoting. In the meantime, the auto business is the world’s largest spender on adverts. Elon can problem a tweet that generates extra press than Ford should purchase in a complete 12 months. So I believe a variety of it comes right down to that.