Yesterday, Elon Musk gave an interview as part of the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit. During the interview he announced that he had moved to Texas where two of his current projects are taking up most of his time.
Musk was pretty diplomatic about the reasons for his move but there’s no question he was suggesting California is in danger of taking its own past success for granted. “Tesla and Space X obviously have massive operations in California,” Musk said. He continued, “In fact, it’s worth noting that Tesla is the last company still manufacturing cars in California. Space X is the last aerospace company still doing significant manufacturing in California.
“There used to be over a dozen car plants in California and California used to be the center of aerospace manufacturing. My companies are the last two left…That’s a very important point to make.
“For myself, yes, I have moved to Texas. We’ve got the Starship development here in south Texas…and then we’ve got the big [Tesla] factory development just outside of Austin.”
Pressed on why he made the move, Musk said it’s really about what’s driving the use of his time but he also turned back to a comparison with California.
“California is great. There are a lot of things that are really great about California,” he said. But he added, “There is something that happens when…if a team has been winning for too long, they do tend to get a little complacent, a little entitled and then they don’t win the championship anymore.” “So California’s been winning for a long time and I think they’re taking it for granted a little bit,” he said.
So far, Texas is not taking Musk for granted:
— Jay Hartzell (@JCHartzell) December 9, 2020
Welcome to Texas! @elonmusk
Texas loves jobs & we’re very glad to have you as a Texan. https://t.co/VDgTGJIF7Z
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 9, 2020
Compare that to what happened earlier this year when Elon Musk had to sue Alameda County and volunteer to be arrested so his Tesla factory could reopen. Here was the response he got from one California congresswoman and Musk’s reply:
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020
I guess he really did get the message. Now he’s gone and still warning his companies are the last of their kind in the state. Take the hint, California!
Musk had some other interesting things to say in the interview. His take on governments as monopolies with poor customer service was interesting. “The reason I think the government is often the worst at responding to the customer, being the people, is that they are a monopoly that can’t go bankrupt…So if you want to complain about the DMV, what the alternative?” he said.
He then said this lesson about the harm caused by monopolies applied to everything. “How many candy companies are there? Big Candy is consolidated into like three companies or something…So, when’s the last time there was some good candy? What’s the forcing function for a new candy bar? I haven’t seen one in ages,” he said.
He then returned to talking about the government. “In the limit, government is simply the largest corporation…Government is simply…the ultimate corporation with a monopoly,” he said.
Later in the discussion, Musk applied his ideas about feedback loops and what makes companies successful to himself. He said that he generally found when he was spending a lot of time in meetings looking at Power Point presentations, things went badly. When he spent time on the factory floor or talking to customers or just thinking about what he liked about his cars, that’s when he was more successful.
Asked if having the CEO on the factory floor suggested to his employees that he didn’t trust them he rejected that idea. “I find that if I am engrossed in the details of the issues, this does not result in them feeling worse but feeling better,” he said. “Do you want the general in some ivory tower or on the front lines…Nobody bleeds for the prince in the palace. Get out there on the goddamn front lines and show them that you care and that you’re not just in some plush office somewhere.”
Update: Space X’s test of Starship seemed to be going really well until the very last moments when it righted itself and attempted to and on the launch pad. But it looks like it came in a bit too fast and exploded when it hit the ground.