One word, one gesture and the business world ignites. Elon Musk has become the most influential entrepreneur of his generation.
His actions are scrutinized, his words analyzed, his social media posts are read and repeated as the word of the gospel. Elon Musk has gone from being a whimsical entrepreneur to that of a visionary, even an oracle. It seems a long time ago when the founder of Tesla and SpaceX was considered an original. Now every word he says or writes has a direct consequence.
Latest example: when, a few days ago, he changed his biography on Twitter to the simple expression “#bitcoin”, the price of the cryptocurrency instantly soars by around 20%. Before that, other lucky ones saw their stock soar following a tweet from the whimsical entrepreneur: a Polish game publisher, the e-commerce platform Shopify or the small designer site Etsy, which apparently delighted Elon Musk with a hand-knitted hat for her dog.
On Sunday, the leader of Tesla and SpaceX achieved one of his latest stunts of which he has the secret by interviewing himself on Clubhouse – a new social network accessible only by invitation – the boss of the online broker Robinhood. The latter is in the hot seat for his management of the GameStop affair, a chain of video game stores whose share has recently soared and is shaking hedge funds. No one had managed to get him to speak since the scandal began. His intervention on the network blew up the course of Clubhouse Media Group, which in fact has absolutely nothing to do with the new social network. It can’t work every time.
Twitter bye bye
All of these influencing actions have one thing in common: social media and more specifically Twitter. Elon Musk sounds like an influencer who gets paid for a positive brand post, hoping to expand his community of followers. Except here and until proven otherwise, Musk is unpaid. On the other hand, the consequences of his influence are starting to be felt heavily and make people cringe. So much so that Elon Musk on Tuesday announced his intention to “withdraw for a while” from Twitter. Perhaps out of fear of potential legal consequences, or because he is slowly realizing the influence he has.
In the past, his escapades have already caused him some trouble, in particular with the American policeman of the financial markets who accused him in 2018 of having deceived investors by evoking in a tweet a possible withdrawal from the Tesla stock market. The post had forced him to step down as Tesla’s chairman of the board.
A daring that seduces
Musk has always cultivated his megalomaniac side and loves his newfound power of posting a single word to skyrocket the price of a stock. He is a showman who made social media his scene. A form of revenge for this engineer long cataloged as a geek. He owes his popularity to his daring. No tourist has been able to go to space, Elon is taking care of that. Colonize Mars? Elon is scheduled for 2024. Defining the mobility of tomorrow with Hyperloop and Tesla? It’s him again. Successes or grandiose ideas that make all budding entrepreneurs and engineers dream. Just like growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, when he was a PC and Office Technology subscriber and making his first inventions. “Papa Musk,” as the Bitcoin community calls him, is the richest man in the world, but that title clearly excites him less than the influence and power he now wields. A power which amuses him and with which he plays, but which he still has to learn to manage.