Elon Musk vs Thomas Edison
In this new top trumps style series we’ll be taking a pair of entrepreneurs and visionaries and comparing them to set parameters. For this first edition I’ve chosen three parameters which i aim to maintain throughout the series or not depending on feedback/what i think is best. So feel free to comment
In this short read we’ll be looking at the following factors:
- Contribution to science and industry
- Effect as entrepreneurs and net worth
So beginning with the modern superstar of business and enterprise, Elon Musk.
Contribution to science and industry:
Tesla, Space X, SolarCity – Elon Musk has worked to improve electrical efficiency on a universal scale in a way reminiscent of Nicola Tesla, a natural link which binds Elon Musk and Thomas Edison. He has worked to negate climate change through efficient use of electricity and has ambitions to build a colony on Mars! What makes Elon Musk stand out in our modern time is not only his incredible vision but his drive to make it a reality, something that sets apart dreamers from entrepreneurs. If anyone today sums this up so effectively it is Elon Musk. His vision though, doesn’t stop there with ambitions to build a Hyperloop which in my opinion is as big a leap as Stephensons Rocket was from the Horse and VTOL (vertical take off and landing) technology. So naturally his contribution so far, simply in engineering terms, is profound.
Stehenson’s Rocket: the first intended passenger railway locomotive operating between Liverpool and Manchester from 1830.
Thomas Edison’s contribution is more straight forward due to the fact his life has been weighed up over many years. Thomas Edison invented (or at least brought about) the following: the phonograph (a device invented in 1877 for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound), the motion picture camera, long lasting and practical electric light bulbs. He was one of the first to apply mass production and large scale team work to invention, subsequently creating the first research lab. He was a massive contributor to mass communication/telecommunication. And built BATTERIES FOR ELECTRIC CARS! (another link to Tesla motors).
Edison’s wax cylinder phonograph, released by his company in 1905
The backgrounds of the two men were somewhat different. Elon musk was born in South Africa (land of Diamonds), growing up in Pretoria to middle class parents. His Mother was a model and dietician and his father was an electro-mechanical engineer. Elon created his first computer game aged twelve having taught himself programming from the age of ten and sold his first game Blastar to a magazine for $500. After being severely bullied to the point of hospitalization he graduated high school and moved to Canada in 1989.
Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio and grew up in Michigan. The youngest of Seven his father was the son of a loyalist refugee (the loyalist fought for Britain during the American Revolution) finding himself on the losing side he’d moved the family from Nova Scotia to Milan, Ohio where Thomas was born. Thomas Edison was a very sickly child, with hearing problems from birth due to scarlet fever (interesting considering his work with sound) though he later attributed this to ‘being struck on the ears by a train conductor when his chemical laboratory in a boxcar caught fire and he was thrown off the train in Smiths Creek, Michigan, along with his apparatus and chemicals’. He was home schooled by his mother from an early age reading R.G. Parker’s ‘School of Natural Philosophy’. As a child, to make ends meet he sold candy and vegetables and later newspapers, eventually obtaining exclusive distribution rights to sell newspapers on the road which he did employing friends. He later setup his own paper ‘The Grand Trunk Herald’ which he sold alongside the others probably giving him his great mind for the media and promotion.
As you can see the two men had very different up-bringings but one thing that stands out is they both -to an extent- were self taught. Elon with programming and Edison with science, business and whatever was in those books his mother gave him.
Their effects as entrepreneurs and business net worth.
The two entrepreneurs were making money in childhood which is often a sign (I sold forged parent signatures, I had the neatest handwriting, for 50p and ferried classmates bags around for £1 each as a school boy). Elon Musk went on to create Zip2 (which primarily provided and licensed online city guide software to newspapers) and x.com (an online financial services and e-mail payment company, with $10 million from the sale of Zip2) which eventually became Paypal. He sold his share for $165 million to Ebay in October 2002 going on to reinvest all of this into Tesla, Space X and Solarcity meaning he had to rent somewhere to live (firmly putting his money where his mouth was). Today his estimated net worth is $11.5 Billion.
Thomas Edison founded General Electric (revenue: 140.4 billion USD -2015) and 14 other companies in total. He is famous or infamous these days for his ‘Current war’ against Nicola Tesla where he fought to discredit Tesla and his superior AC (alternating) current for his DC (direct) current. A legacy which does no justice to the remarkable achievements of the man. Edison sold lightbulbs to the masses and connected the modern world to electricity, creating the cities and lifestyles we live today. As a businessman he diversified into mining and rubber and was eventually worth $12million which at the time was a colossal sum of money.
The links here between Elon Musk, Edison and Tesla are uncanny, but then they basically are evolving the same industry and operating on a level further than most imaginations dare to dream.
A lesson here is in the achievements and the link between positive effect on mankind and wealth. The larger your contribution to humanity the greater your wealth seems to be. And on that note I shall bid you all to ‘think big’ but also contemplate that the genius is translating that thinking into reality.
Further Reading – Click On Each Book For More Info!
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