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Summary:

At each year’s end, Inc. magazine elects its “Entrepreneur of the Year.” Deal flow being what it was in 2007, we might have expected the honor this year to grace Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. But maybe he’s gotten too much “ink” already. Instead, the magazine’s editors have […]

20071201.gif At each year’s end, Inc. magazine elects its “Entrepreneur of the Year.” Deal flow being what it was in 2007, we might have expected the honor this year to grace Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. But maybe he’s gotten too much “ink” already. Instead, the magazine’s editors have picked Elon Musk, and it’s not a bad choice. This guy is innovative, and active. Count up his current projects:

SpaceX, which aims to be the Southwest of space exploration; electric speedster shop, Tesla Motors; and SolarCity which designs and installs solar panels. And don’t forget his original hit, Pay Pal (now eBay).

The profile of Elon is nice, but the best tidbit comes in the sidebar “10 Questions for Elon Musk”:

If you could go back in time and do one thing differently in your business, what would it be?
The whole back-in-time thing is hard for me, because I’m pretty happy with the way things are right now. I would have liked to remain as CEO of PayPal. I think it could be a $50 billion, $60 billion company.

Pretty happy!? Uh, that’s $1.5 billion-happy; the price eBay paid for PayPal in 2002. I find it hard to fathom that, given the chance, Elon might rather be suffocating inside the sclerotic halls of eBay, trying to grow PayPal — oh, … hang on, he means he wishes he’d never sold to Meg Whitman, et al. Now, that makes sense.

But, get this…

Following their interviews with Elon, Inc.’s chief, Jane Berentson, in her Editor’s Letter, actually likens the serial entrepreneur to Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, a man “doomed to live the same day over and over again until he finally ‘gets it.'” She writes:

Musk, too, has had the opportunity to start over–and he’s taking advantage of it completely. After his first two companies were clipped short of the possibilities he saw for them, he made sure his next three…would be allowed to grow to their fullest potential.

Elon’s current investors might not be thrilled to hear their Man-of-the-Year still pines for his ‘first foundling,’ though we’re sure they’ll be very thrilled to know he intends (this time!?) to make sure their investments grow to their “fullest potential.” ($1.5 billion, $1 5.billion….) More important, we thought it worth sharing with Found|READers a comforting truth that is revealed here:

Even the most successful, even iconic, entrepreneurs have difficulty “letting go.” In a way, we all want to be the King, not just Rich, of our startup domains.

The reporter, Max Chafkin asks some other silly, but fun questions of Elon. Like, if he were a dictator for a day, what would he change first? Most people I know who’ve worked for (or with) Musk-the-Maverick would say this query ought not to be phrased in the hypothetical. But I just love Elon’s response:

If you were made dictator for a day, what’s the first change you’d make?

I’d make it much less advantageous to be a lawyer.

And Elon actually confesses to his dislike of firing people — which is really hard to believe if you put any credit in his street reputation.

But, there are many more serious business lessons to be learned here. Read the rest of his Q&A with Inc., and the full cover story on Elon here. Oh, and, not surprising at all, Inc. also named Marc Andreessen their blogger of the year. No doubt about why. Congrats Marc!

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  1. Tesla’s Transmission Delays, $40 MM In New Cash – GigaOM Friday, December 21, 2007

    [...] snags and will launch a public beta of its car next year. Maybe that’s why chairman Elon Musk wants his old job back. Tesla is also raising $40 million from existing investors to keep racing ahead. The full story and [...]

  2. links for 2007-12-22 | stuart henshall Saturday, December 22, 2007

    [...] Inc.’s Man of 2007, Elon, wants his old job back! I just love this story. Elon Musk founded PayPal and he wants it back. Clearly figures it hasn’t grown fast enough. Still he’s forging ahead with other neat new ventures into space, automobiles and solar. You have to like this. (tags: elonmusk paypal spacex tesla solar) [...]

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    [...] But things haven’t gone well, at all, at Tesla. Product delays, 3 CEOs, turmoil. We have friends who’ve worked for, been fired from, or invested in the company. None of them has ever seemed very happy. This may explain why, when Inc. magazine named founder Elon Musk Entrepreneur of the Year in December, Elon let it slip in the interview that, at moments, he longs for the days at PayPal. [...]

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