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Is Elon Musk actually good at business?

Elon Musk and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad business of business.

elon musk wearing a crown

There are a couple of society-busting, detrimental errors that mainstream media continues to perpetuate. They are hesitant to call attacks against the LGBTQ+ community hate crimes.

They mistake the sheer stupidity (via The Guardian) of the former President for cleverness, and they laud tech billionaire and Mega-Chad Elon Musk as some sort of Reverse Flash version of Steve Jobs or Charles Babbage.

After the success of Paypal and Tesla, the media propped Elon Musk up, even though he had nothing to little to do with the development of those products.

Sure, he helped design the Roadster (and fired one into space), but that’s not an everyday occurrence.

But being the public face of a successful company has its benefits. The main one is the perception of “good” leadership.

Business 101

AI generated image of Elon Musk surveying the Martian landscape
Image: AI-generated

But there’s a lot more to running a successful business than the appearance of leadership, as Elon Musk has found out with Twitter.

Or has he? It’s very possible that we mistake his intent to create a platform where he can prance around as a tiny king for wanting to better Twitter and turn it profitable.

Musk applied his only useful skill to Twitter the moment he was forced to purchase it: laying off staff.

And that right there is a massive failure of Business 101.

Not only firing support staff that kept the machine running but assuming that one person could be the funnel for all technical and practical decision-making.

If anything, Musk’s singular leadership of Twitter has proven that despite the successes of previous ventures, he had little to do with it.

He bought the public square because no one was listening to him, turned it into a public bathroom with no walls, and the only creatures who are enjoying it are the ones who squeee at the prospect of rolling in their own shit.

And sure, this might all be wildly inaccurate conjecture. Musk could be a low-key genius with a grand plan that is at the beginning stages of fruition, but if that’s true, he’s hiding it well.

No one is doubting his chaotic level of creativity and marketing brilliance, but it’s his business sense that needs a lot of work.

Elon Musk takes the ball, goes home

tesla in space with earth in background
Image: SpaceX

Just because one is a billionaire and makes the right investments, does not a good businessman make.

Rebranding a household name after nearly two decades? Doable, but unnecessary, especially considering how connected the world is to the bird. Elon Musk did that.

And replacing it with something as uninspired as a distressed X? That’s like when Arthur Andersen spent millions on an orange ball (via Bloomberg) while cooking the books for Enron on the side.

Putting up a giant, seizure-inducing sign in the middle of the night? Even small business owners know better. Elon Musk did that too.

Hiring a CEO then constantly undermining her marketing-speak with irrational, spur-of-the-moment decisions and directives? Bad business. Elon, again.

Constantly eroding the fundamental functionalities of the platform, even to the point of pissing off and mocking one’s own hardcore fanbois? Bad business for anyone else but Elon Musk.

Hype machinery

tesla model x driving through the new boring company tunnel in los angeles
Image: Screenshot / Twitter

At one time, the Elon Musk hype seemed real. He was looking better than mecha-Mark. Perhaps he was a tech billionaire who was going to change things for the better.

SpaceX and the Boring Company were going to change everything. But SpaceX has become a repository of explosions, and the Boring Company has become a cascade of ghost tunnels and failures (via WSJ). And Tesla cars keep crashing by themselves.

The good news for Musk is that he can absolve himself of any of that because we know damn well he wasn’t building cars, tunnels, or rockets. But as it pertains to business, it shows a track record of a lack of due diligence, trust, and unpredictable progress.

If nothing else, Musk at least gives a substantial amount of money to charities. Oh, our mistake. His own charity.

And perhaps that’s the silver lining here. No matter how shitty he appears to be at running a social media company, there’s still plenty of cash laying around to give to children’s hospitals and other altruistic ventures.

We have this weird expectation of billionaires that just because they have this volume of net worth, that equates to an equal amount of natural business sense and innovation.

It’s just not true. How many times have tech billionaires sat in front of Congress to explain themselves (to an uneducated and ignorant bunch of fuddy duddies, mind you)?

There’s a sadness to it all, in that we believe billionaires are somehow better than us at everything and that they believe it too.

Have any thoughts on this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A tech writer on the internet for over 15 years for outlets such as Forbes, Wired, TNW, and others, Curtis is exhausted, burnt out and happy to just write buying guides and the occasional review for KnowTechie, the best tech blog your mom never told you about. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Please send pitches and grainy pictures of the inside of your elbow to kevin@knowtechie.com

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