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The long game

The long game

The highlight of my week was watching as Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched a rocket capable of carrying a sizeable payload into space. I applaud their marvellous achievement.

For bonus points, they managed to successfully land two out of a possible three booster rockets for reuse in future launches.

To give credit where credit is due, Musk put his money where his mouth is. Not only did he spend USD$90 million on the launch, but he bet his own car on the outcome. He was either going to be the proud owner of the first sports car to drive to Mars… or the former owner of a flaming wreck!

Childhood dreams

Elon Musk had a dream of going to Mars, as most 7-year-old boys do. Unlike the rest of us, he played the long game and developed a collection of complementary businesses that generated the required income streams and technology necessary to achieve that dream. His net worth was estimated in the region of USD$20bn at the time he launched his Tesla into space.

The TOGAF Enterprise Architecture Framework can be summarised as identifying the current state, the desired future stare, and the incremental steps required to move from the former to the later.

Musk has successfully applied this approach. He identified the core components required to achieve his Mars dream, and then figured out how to make each one not just self-funding but also commercially successful. In turn each component contributes the cash flow and technology advances required to realise his strategic dream.

Playing the long game

Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, the same company that entertained me this week.

He then helped start Tesla in 2003, roughly 6 years after Toyota released the first hybrid-powered Prius. Since then Telsa has been developing a self-driving capability that will significantly reduce the time lost to traffic congestion, though at a cost of making millions of low skilled truck and taxi drivers structurally redundant.


Tesla autonomous cars and batteries. Image credit: Arthuriel.

By 2006 SpaceX had proven reliable enough for NASA to award the outsourcing contract to service the International Space Station. By 2011 NASA was comfortable enough with the service provided to decommission the space shuttle.

Also in 2006, he helped start SolarCity. The stated goal was to expedite the world from a “dig it up or burn it down” energy generation method towards a more sustainable, infinitely renewable,  solar-powered future.

In 2015 SolarCity started selling a product called Powerwall, providing a battery backup option for solar power. This used the same battery technology that powered Tesla cars, allowing a further commercialisation of the battery technology.

By 2016 SolarCity had launched a roof tile product that harvests solar energy. What would your preference be: a roofing product that generates a passive income stream, or one that depreciates at the same rate yet earns nothing? That is a no-brainer.

Great ideas sustainably pay for themselves

Telsa cars have become an iconic fashion statement, with an 18-month waiting list. Much like Apple does with iPhones, Telsa could charge whatever prices they liked and still have customers queuing around the block.

The SolarCity power generation and storage capabilities more than pay for themselves within their useful lives. This creates a win-win, as the consumer ultimately lowers their power bills and their carbon footprint.

The money from those endeavours helps fund the development of the space ships, stepping ever closer to realising Musk’s boyhood dream. To me that looks like winning, regardless of whether you appreciated the humour of sending a Tesla driven by a David Bowie loving crash test dummy to Mars.

Next Steps

  • Have a think about your dreams, and how you could “go big” to achieve them.
  • Take stock of your diversified income streams. If they don’t fund your desired lifestyle figure out a way to remedy that shortcoming!
  • If you liked this post then please share it with your friends.
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