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Elon Musk

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Rocket Man
Elon Musk, pictured in the fuselage of his Falcon 9 rocket, plans to launch satellites at a fraction of the usual cost.

o

I ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR I

MUSK
Spacean entrepreneur who s not travel. ^Mnally, afraid to think really, really big
P H O T O C i R . M M I BV I l l . l . ( . R I HNBI'.RCi

^ Solar DQwer. l
BY MAX CHAFKIN

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cars.

DECEMBER2007

INC. MAGAZINE

115

atching Elon Musk at work is an exercise in controlling your urge to buy a man a drink. Make that several drinks. Musk is 36 years old, wicked smart, worth several hundred niillion dollars, and built like a tight end—thickset through the middle and well over 6 feet tall. Yet he never looks quite comfortable. Sitting in front of the oversize computer screen on his desk, he rolls back and forth in his chair, slouches and unslouches, rubs his temples, raps his fingers, and plays with his wedding ring. When he sighs, which he doesfrequently,his chest heaves, and his eyes widen, like someone confronted with news of his own death. He generally speaks in complete, precise sentences, rarely telling a joke or even cracking a smile. It's not that Musk is an unpleasant guy. He just happens to be really, really busy. Musk is CEO, majority owner, and head rocket designer at SpaceX, an aerospace start-up in El Segundo, California, that by 2011 plans to be hauling astronauts to and from the International Space Station. And that's just his day job. Musk has two more wildly ambitious start-ups in play—the electric-car maker Tesla Motors and the solar panel installer SolarCity; in both cases, he serves as chairman and controlling shareholder. In fact, the South Alrican native has been building big, ambitious companies for more than a decade. He co-founded PayPal, the online payment processor that eBay bought in 2002 for $1.5 billion, as well as Zip2, a dot-com media company that was sold for $307 million when he was just 27. Meanwhile, Musk's wife, Justine, a novelist, gave birth to triplets last year. That means Musk now has five children under the age of 4, in addition to three companies to run. Perhaps that explains why it's so rare to see Musk talk to someone on the phone without simultaneously doing something else: pecking out an e-mail, scanning in116 INC. MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2007

voices, mulling over a spreadsheet, shopping for computer equipment, fiddling with his BlackBerry. He often does several of these things at once. The only tasks that seem to command the entirety of his attention are technical discussions related to SpaceX's soon-to-be-launched rocket, the Falcon 1. andjob inter\'iews. (Musk personally vets all of SpaceX's employees, and he's in the midst of a frantic—but so far fruitless—search for a CEO for Tesia.) To get through the day. Musk relies on two stimulants: caffeine and a desire to help humanity colonize Mars. UntC he recently started cutting back on the former. Musk consumed eight cans of Diet Coke a day, as well as several large cups of coffee. "I got so freaking jacked that I seriously started to feel like I was losing my peripheral vision," be says. If he realizes how crazy this sounds, he doesn't let on. "Now, the office has caffeinefreeDietCoke."Even so. Musk frequently gets so caught up in his multitasking that it sometimes takes two or three tries at his name, uttered at full volume, to get a response. The goal of putting people on Mars is no joke. Musk believes that over the four-anda-half-hiUion-year history of planet Earth. a dozen or so events have truly mattered. Edging forward in his chair, he ticks oft a few: "There was the advent of single-celled

life, multicelled life, the development of plants, then animals," he says. "On this time scale, I'd put the extension of life to another planet slightly above the transition from life in the oceans to life on land." If there's something insane about a CEO who thinks his company's mission is more important than any accomplishment in all of Ininian history—indeed, in all offish history— there's also something irresistible. "One of Elons greatest skills is the ability to pass off his vision as a mandate from heaven," says Max Levchin, who co-tbunded PayPal with Musk. "He is very much the person who. when someone says it's impossible, shrugs and says, 'I think I can do it'"
YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD the one about the

recklessly ambitious technology entrepreneur from Silicon Valley: the maverickiconoclast-innovator with the hig idea who becomes fantastically rich and changes the world. The problem with this story is that it's generally not true. Although companies like Netscape and Google are almost always presented a.^; radically innovative start-ups. out to change the world from day one. the fact is, they began as incremental improvements, executed at opportune moments. Netscape had a slightly better version of Mosaic, a Web browser built at the Univer-

EN'IREPRHNLUK OF THH YEAR sity of Illinois. Today, Google is acknowledged as one of the world's most powerful and innovative companies. But when it launched, in 1998, it was simply a slightly better way to search the Web. Perhaps for this reason, many people who invest in start-ups tend to favor companies that are based on small, executable ideas over grand strategies like Martian colonization or the resurrection of the electric car. Small ideas, the thinking goes, have a shot at growing into the next Google. And if they don't, there's a chance that today's Google may simply acquire them for a tidy sum. "Many of the companies we back start out as little features," says Roloef Botha, a partner with Sequoia Capital who led the company's investment in YouTube, which Google bought for $1.65 billion last year. Botha, whom Musk hired in 2000 and who served a.s PayPal's CFO for three years, says that he gravitates to "nuggets," small ideas that play into big market trends. 1-lon Musk is not a nugget kind of guy He has distinguished himself by attempting things that most people who care about avoiding personal bankruptcy would not even consider. Yet his bets seem to be paying off. In March, SpaceX, into which Musk has poured $100 million, launched a rocket 180 miles above Earth. That was farther than any privately developed rocket in recent history and almost three times as tar as Burt Rutan's famed SpaceShipOne flight of 2004. (Of course, Rutan's rocket had a pilot at the controls, while Musk's was unmanned.) Meanwhile, Tesla Motors has gone from a half baked idea about a battery-powered sports car to a rare bright spot in the otherwise troubled American auto industry. This Yet the kingmakers of innovation—the academics, the investors, the bloggers— tend not to talk about Musk. They dwell on idea people like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old wunderkind whose high-concept notions about social networks have made him the hottest thing in business. Or they talk about prognosticators, people like MIT's Nicholas Negroponte, whose One Laptop per Child program has captured the imaginations of moguls, wonks, and Davos attendees everywhere. Elon Musk isn't a software geek or a selfstyled visionary He's not particularly young or brash or handsome, and he can come off as kind of a jerk. He isn't hawking new technology, and he's quite shy. Yet he just might change the world.
"ELON HERE."

Musk holds a BlackBerry to his ear as we navigate heavy traffic on Los Angeles's 105 freeway in a rented Toyota Prius. (Musk's beloved Porsche 911 Turbo is in the shop.) We'd been eating burgers at Nat's—a greasy spoon inside the Hawthorne Municipal Airport, where Musk's three-engine jet is parked—when he realized he was missing a meeting about his rocket's propellant tank. "Ihey've designed a solution, but it's not a good solution, because it's got several hundred parts," he explains hastily as he dials the oftlce. "If any of those pieces shake loose, they'll get stuck and choke the engine. And that will really suck." For all the grand visions of men on Mars, SpaceX's pitch is straightforward; The company says it will send your satellite into orbit for as little as a quarter of the going rate. This is no easy task. During its flight, which v^^s

billion to design and build. Boeing is a $61.5 billion company with more than 150,000 employees. SpaceX employs 370, it uses a converted tractor-trailer as a control room, and its CEO, a man with no prior experience with rockets, doubles as chief engineer. Yet the company has developed a competitive launch vehicle in less time and for less money than would have seemed possible. "Here, we look at every way to do something and then ask what's the minimum amount of money we need to do it—and it's approved like that," says Tom Mueller, vice president of propulsion development, or, as Mueller puts it, the "engine guy." Mueller spent 14 years at defense giant 1RW prior to joining SpaceX. From 1995 to 2000, Mueller was part of a TRW team of about 80 people that built an engine intended for the Delta IV, only to see his work abandoned when Boeing selected a competing firm as its engine supplier. Tens of millions of dollars and thousands of hours amounted to no finished product. "I can't think of anything 1 was responsible for at TRW that ever flew," he says. At SpaceX, Mueller developed a working engine with only 25 engineers. Musk's salespeople have managed to book 14 flights for customers including NASA, the Malaysian government, and MDA, a Canadian data company, charging from $7.1 million to $35 million per trip. SpaceX was cash-flowpositive in the fourth quarter of last year and is on track to reach profitability when the books close on 2007. . Amazingly, the aerospace business has reached such levels of inefficiency that you can have a profitable rocket company without having successfully launched a rocket. So far, SpaceX has completed two test launches—achieving less than ideal results. At its first launch, in 2006, the engine caught fire upon liftoff. The second rocket, launched earlier this year, made it 180 miles up but was doomed by a problem known in the rocket business as "slosh''During the abortive flight, engine vibrations caused the liquid propellants inside the fuel tank to begin sloshing around. This threw the rocket into a spin and kept the engine from running properly. Unfortunately, Musk and his engineers hadn't installed anything inside the fuel tank to slow the liquid down. About five minutes into its flight, the rocket started to wobble. Three minutes later.
DECEMBER 2007 ' INC. MAGAZINE 117

the abihty^to pass ott his yision as a manclateTrom heaven, says a former colleague. month, Tesla is to begin delivery of its first production vehicle, the Roadster, having already sold 600 at $98,000 each. Finally, SolarCity, a mere 12 months after its founding, is one of the country's largest installers of home solar panels, making the oftencumbersome process of switching to renewable energy as easy as buying a Dell. heralded as a landmark in private rocket development, Rutan's SpaceShipOne reached Mach 3, three times the speed of sound. To get to orbit, Musk needs to hit Mach 25, which requires 69 times the energy. The state-of-the-art method for accomplishing this is Boeing's Delta IV rocket, which cost the aerospace giant roughly $2.5

"Oii£ of.Elon's greatest skills is

. .

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DECEMBER 2007

BY RAIMUND KOCH

SpaceX
l.l Sci^iiiuio. (Mlifoniiii FOUNDKD; 2002
EMPLOYEES: 370 MUSK'S INVl-STMENT;

SlOOmUlion
COST PER LAUNCH:

$7.1 million to $35 million
LAUNCHES BOOKED: 14

SIZE OF FALCON 9 ROCKET: 178 feet high; 12 feet wide '7 starteti SpaceX because I wauled to help reduce the cost of space transfyortalioii so it would be feasible to establish life on another plartel. We optimize not only the lawich costs hul also the cost of developing ami rtmiufucturing the rocket. We're like a low-cost version of Boeing ami Pratl & Whitney, on top of a Southwest."

Ill !

\

\

Tesla Motors
San Carlos, Califoniiii
FOUNDED: 2003 EMPLOYEES: 300 MUSK'S INVESTMENT:

$37 million
CARS SOLD: 600 PRICE: $98,000 ZERO TO 6o: Four seconds

"Tesla is making the first real production electric car. By real, / mean that the car isn't subsidized in any way—it's valuable on its own merits. Our strat^ is to start with a high-price, low-volume car and then move down to a lower price, higher volume. Eventually were going to be a hig American car company with a half-dozen models and hundreds of thousands of cars''

Ji

- rill-: VliAR it was piunimeting back to Harth. As he pilots the Prius toward an exit ramp, Musk joins the meeting and begins speaking. He fires off a list of directives, concerns, and ideas related to the fuel tank: How many baffles are necessiiry? How can SpaceX avoid Tellon clips? What about a filter? Should the team build a model or test it with a computer simulation? Still holding the phone to his ear, Musk parks ihe Frius smack in the middle of SpaceX's overcrowded lot—at a company that adds 11 employees a month, finding a parking spot is tough—and strides off to finish the meeting. Later that afternoon, he interviews a prospective IT manager and a recent college graduate who htipes to become a launch engineer. He meets with a couple of bankers from Moigan Stanley. After that, he has an extended meeting with a tlip-flop-wearing 29-year-old who happens to be in charge of designing the rockets fins. Musk frets over the state of Tesla Motors—he has interviewed 20 candidates and still can't find a suitable CEO—and gives an interview to a writer with Photon magazine about the promise of SolarCity. There are many, many e-mails to answer.
II- SIMUI.TANEOUSLV SHFPIIRRDING three

disruptive companies sounds tough, it's business as usual for Musk. As a 12-year-old growing up in the South African city of Pretoria with divorced parents, Musk created a video game. Blaster, and sold it to a computer magazine for the ungodly sum of $5()(). About a year later, lilon and his younger brother Kimbal, who has long been Musk's closest friend and chief co conspirator, drew up plans to open an arcade near their school. "It was a very compelling proposition when you're 13 and you love video games," Musk says, letting out a rare chuckle. Tliey gave up when a city official informed them that an adults signature would be required to obtain a permit and instead sold homemade chocolates to their classmates. In his teenage years. Musk parlayed his small entrepreneurial fortune into several thousand dollars of stock market gains. lust before Elon's 16th birthday, and without telling tbeir parents, the brothers took a bus to the Canadian embassy and applied for passports, ("fheir mother, a Canadian national, now lives in Manhattan.) A year later, Elon bought a plane ticket to Canada and, over the objections of his father, left South Africa for good. Musk says he was fleeing compulsory service in the South African Defense Force, which was still repressing the country's black majorDECEMBER 2007 INC. MAGAZINE 121

ity. But he is quick to add that he'd long dreamed of coming to America. "I would have come here from any country," he says. "The U.S. is where great things are possible." When 1 ask Musk if his father ever forgave him for leaving, he answers, "I don't really care." The two seldom speak today. Musk enrolled in Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario; Kimbal joined him a year later. With almost no money, Musk worked a bevy of jobs—as an intern in Microsoft's Canadian marketing department, an intern for the Bank of Nova Scotia, and as a programmer for a video-game developer called, presciently. Rocket Science. He transferred to the University of Pennsylva122 INC. MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2007

nia on a scholarship and completed a bachelor's degree in finance and one in physics. After graduating, in 1995, he moved to Palo Alto, California, having been accepted into Stanford's physics Ph.D. program, where he planned to study a variety of energy storage device called capacitors. Something changed that summer, as Musk watched a nascent venture called Netscape Communications—founded by a kid younger than himself—quintuple in value the day it went public. "It just became clear that the Internet was going to change the worid in a major way, whereas the capacitor stuff might bear fruit, or it might not," he says. "My overarching interest was

to get involved in stuff that really mattered." Musk withdrew from Stanford after two days on campus, with the vague idea that he would start an Internet company. He had $2,000 in the bank, a car, a computer, and no friends in the Ray Area. Musk poured his energy into a company he had founded called Zip2, which in some ways was little more than an opportunistic hack. Musk persuaded Navteq, a digitalmapping company, to let him put its maps online. He then purchased a business directory on CD-ROM for a few hundred dollars, wrote a bit of software code that linked the maps to the directory, and created the Web's first yellow pages. That fall, Kimbal

that it would be quicker and easier to build the car with a single-speed transmission. Musk ordered a two-speed model so that the Roadster would be able reach a top speed of well over 100 miles per hour. Eberhard found these requests difficult to understand. "I've been successful in my career at constraining problems, at keeping them as manageable as possible," says Eberhard, who sold his previous company, ebook manutacturer NuvoMedia, to CSemstar, in 2000, for $187 million. "Elon has resisted that in a push to make the car better—but at the risk of making it more complex." Musk, I FIRST SPOKE with Musk in the fall of 2006, who several months ago demoted Eberhard back when the Tesla Roadster was still just a to president of technology and installed an pretty prototype. "I'm a Silicon Valley guy," interim CEO, ai^ues that Tesla is Musk said at the time. "I just a hit precisely because he hasn't think people from Silicon Valley sacrificed the car's performance can do anything." Musks comto meet any arbitrary near-term ment was hardly surprising: goal. "The noteworthy thing Tesla Motors, and, indeed, evabout Tesla," Musk says, "is that erything about Musk, has been it's the first electric car that is consistently packaged, presentcompetitive with a gasoline car ed, and explained as Silicon Valas a product." In other words, ley coine calling on old-line Musk's car is faster, cooler, and industries. "This is how a Silicon more fun to drive than a compaValley start-up does car design" What's your favorite part of If you were made dictator for rably priced gas guzzler. The regushed a Wired magazine writer a typical day? Coming home a day, what's the first change sult is that Tesla has collected taken out for a test drive. {Havto see my kids. you'd make? I'd make it deposits from 600 customers, ing ridden in the car, I'll admit much less advantageous to which amounts to a $30 million it's hard iiottogush.) What's the least glamorous be a lawyer. interest-free loan. Of course, But Musk's companies don't thing you do regularly in the Tesla's customers might have look much like the Internet line of duty? I do lots of What's the simplest thing you judged the car cool enough with companies Silicon Valley churns unglamorous things. I do a never learned to do? / never only a single-speed transmission out these days. Tesla Motors, like lot of e-mail. learned to play an instruor uncomfortable seats or lame SpaceX, is an ambitious gamble ment. I can whistle almost headlights. But there's also a aimed at an established market. What skill would you most anything, but 1 think it'd be cbance they would have balked Musk spurned early-stage inveslike to improve? Vie ability cool to play an instrument. and bought themselves Ferraris. tors and bankrolled the compato do things I don't like, Tesla's business plan calls ny himself; he has put in $37 1 don't likefiringpeople, Who's tbe smartest person for developing a less expensive million to date. Although Tesla and I don't like traveling you know? Why? Probably sedan, code-named White Star, has since accepted more than for a long time. Google's Larry Page. Ifyou over the next few years, as well $68 million from VCs and prilook at what Larry has done as opening a network of dealervate equity firms. Musk remains What makes for a good with Google, it's absolutely ships and service centers. The the majority shareholder. This salesperson of your product? brilliant. company is also working to go-it-alone approach represents Somebody who is really strike a deal with a major car a challenge to Silicon Valley's asdriven, really smart, and Who gives you the best manufacturer (which Musk desumptions about start-ups, acnice to work with. advice about your business? clines to name) to become a cording to John Seely Brown, My brother Kimbal Somesupplier of chassis and drive the former chief scientist at XeIf you could go back in time times I want things to be trains for a mass-market elecrox and a visiting scholar at the and do one thing differently true, even though they're tric vehicle. Meanwhile, Musk University of Southern Califorin your business, what would not, and Kimbal is good at is struggling to find a CEO. nia. "When I first heard about it be? Ihe whole back-inpointing those out. "We need someone who can the space stuff, I said, 'By God, time thing is hard for me, huild Tesla into the next great this guy is crazy,'" says Brown. because I'm pretty happy What accomplishment are car company," he says. "But that's the point." with the way things are right you most proud of? Getting When I suggest to Musk that now. I would have liked to into space was pretty cool. Musk acknowledges that the he is being reckless with his forremain as CEO of PayPal. 1 We got farther than any kind of person he is after— tune, he responds coolly "It's OK think it could be a $50 bilprivately developed liquid someone who has a start-up to have your eggs in one basket lion, $60 billion company. launch rocket. mindset but understands how

tomimes piiUing a blade out of his back. "Life is too short for long-term gnidges." Of course, it's also true that Levchin and Thiel went on to take PayPal public and make him even richer. But what Musk hasn't gotten over is the fact that the company never became more than a glorified feature, and he still believes that PayPal has the potential to become the worlds largest consumer financial services company "It has 120 million customers, and there's a high trust factor," says Musk. "There's a lot of unleveraged value there."

as long as you control what happens to that basket," he says. "The problem with the Silicon Valley financing model is that you lose control after the first investment round." Control ibr Musk means making sure that his companies don't turn into niche plays. It also means making day-to-day decisions. At Tesla, Musk has issued directives on seat cushions, the shape of the headlights, even the style of trunk on the company's forthcoming midrange sedan—an odd request given that his engineers have yet tofigureout how exactly the thing is going to be powered. The most controversial of Musk's edicts involved the transmission. Martin Eberhard, Tesla's co-founder and then-CEO, argued

QUESTIONS
FOR ELON MUSK

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DECEMBER 2007

HNTREPRFNEUR OF THE YHAR to build hundreds of thousands of automobiles—may not exist, which could torce him into the CEO role—something he says he has no interest in doing. When I ask Musk it he'd ever consider hiring a CEO to run SpaceX, he pauses for a few seconds to reflect on tbe question. "This may be presumptuous, but 1 have not met anyone who could do this," he says, before revising. ber, it won a contract to outfit eBay's headquarters with solar panels. Revenue for 2007 will exceed $23 million. SolarCity's business plan, which Musk first proposed to company co-founders (and his cousins) Lyndon and Peter Rive at the Burning Man festival several years ago, is to leave panel manutacturing—an increasingly competitive and commoditized business— adopt clean power," says Lyndon Rive. "We definitely want to be a consumer brand." A HALF HOUR'S drivc south of the SolarCity work site is another construction project, a new headquarters for SpaceX. The rocket company, which occupies five large warehouses in El Segundo, is ready for a home becomingofits grand ambitiiMis. and Musk has picked out an absurdly large one. The building, a giant shed right next to ihe Hawthorne airport, takes up 11.4 acres and once housed the factory that made the fuselage lor Boeing 747s. This fact seems to excite Musk immensely: To reclaim a factory from an old aerospace titan—Boeing, no less—is too good to be true. The place is still under construction when Musk shows me around, but you can see that it will be special. The entire company will be boused on a single open floor with low-walled cubicles. Musk's cube is dead center, right behind a place where two steel girders form a giant X. When it's finished, an engineer will be able fo walk right over to the manufacturing floor and see a rocket engine milled from a piece of stainless steel or a fuel tank formed from giant sheets of aluminum. Salespeople will be able to hear the factory workers welding, and the workers will pass by the salespeople when they arrive in the morning. Everyone will eat free meals in the cafeteria. Musk designed the building's interior. Bob Reagan, who is supposed to be in charge of SpaceX's manufacturing operation, has been detailed to duty as construction loreman. After pausing briefly to urge Reagan to make sure Scolchguard is appl ieil to f ht- new cubicles. Musk points to some glimmering metal on the ceiling. "You're never going to see ducts tike that anywhere else," he says, grinning. "Look at those contours," As we stroll onto what will become the factory floor, he again looks up. "Those are 60-foot ceilings with catwalks," be says. He pauses to marvel at the number and then adds, "If there were people walking up there, they'd be tiny." During the visit. Musk is in fine form, smiling, laughing, gawking—in fact, almost calm, lheres something strange and touching about a man this intent on reaching the heavens who can pause to marvel at a really high ceiling. O
Max Chafkin is an Inc, staff writer. DECEMBER 2007 INC. MAGAZINE 125

"When I first heard about the space stuff, I said,

'By God, this guy is crazy.
But that s the point.
"Well, wait, that's not true. Teff Bezos could do this, l.arry Page could do this. Bill Gates could do this. But there's just a really small list of people with the sufficient technical and business ability to do this job"
MUSK HAS TAKKN bis jet to SiUcon Valley tor

yet another Tesla CEO interview. So I'm keeping myself busy by climbing onto the roof of a two-story house in Santa Monica, California. I'm here to have a look at SolarCity, Musk's latest—and in some ways, his best—bet. The C()mpiUiy is based in an unassuming office park in Eoster City, in the heart of Silicon Valley But if you really want lo undcrsiand what Musk is up lo, ihe best place to go is a rooftop, far removed from the world of software and stock tiptions and talk of innovation. Two guys in green SolarCity T-shirts, Wade Meier and lohnny Davis, are using power wrenches to attach shiny black solar panels onto the flat roof. They work carefully: Each 5-foot-by-3-foot panel costs $950, and this house looks to be worth well over $2 million. The installation takes six days and costs $35,000, and it will save the homeowners about $250 a month on their electric bill. All over California—and before long in Arizona and Colorado—SolarCity crews in snappy green trucks and matching uniforms are signing up customers. Musk seeded the company last year with $10 million and an idea to do for solar energy what Dell did for computers. ITie company, which Musk says will probably be the highest returning of his three investments, already employs some 180 in oiliccs in Berkeley, Foster City, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Sacramento, and averages 90 installations a month. In Octo-

to the likes of BP and focus on building a retail brand. Installing solar capacity in a home or small business costs about $9 per watt, but the panels cost only $4 per watt, llie installation business, which includes surveying, planning, sales, and the actual bolting on of panels, is expensive and inefficient. "It's all mom-and-pop contractors, and they basically suck," Musk says, "None of them have put any serious eftort into boning tbe whole process—you know, squeezing out excess parts and labor—and then tbey have no economies of scale as far as buying panels en masse or establishing best practices." Accomplisbing this has meant creating what might be the new economy construction company, amid a housing downturn. Technicians like Meier and Davis—who would otherwise be making an hourly wage workingforroofers or contractors—get stock options in a company that Musk says is headed for an IPO and a nationwide expansion. They're also encouraged to try out different installation techniques—for instance, ways to drill fewer holes into a roof—and report back on theirfindings."We have all the engineers' personal cell phone numbers, and they're listening to us," says Davis, a former constniction worker. When a customer calls SolarCity's toil-free number, a salesperson uses satellite imagery to assess whether the house gets enough sunlight. Next, laptoptoting emplo)'ees are dispatched to survey the roof, work up an estimate, and produce a contract. In addition to actual installation, SolarCity processes customers' rebate applications with the state government, remotely monitors the performance of the panels, and handles any maintenance. "Our goal is to reduce the cost of solar so that everyone can…...

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