Elon Musk is a magnet for accolades. With all the high praise for the Tesla and SpaceX chief executive, it can blur together and become trite. But one of the more interesting appraisals of Musk comes from his cousin, Lyndon R. Rive, who is the chief executive of SolarCity. (Musk is the chairman of SolarCity’s board and its largest shareholder.)
Rive was in Washington Friday for Bloomberg’s The Year Ahead: 2015 conference and he explained to me why he’s made a habit of comparing Musk to the Keanu Reeves character:
If you’ve not seen the Matrix, watch the Matrix. Elon is Neo. He sees these zeroes and ones. And he just has a different look at the entire world. And he has this rare gift where he’s super intelligent when it comes to engineering and to learning complexity and challenges but he also understands business and consumer need. And that’s very rare.
Often you have your crazy scientist who doesn’t understand business. And sometimes they may understand business, but they don’t understand consumer and the importance of customer service, making sure the product is perfect, just everything about delivering a great service to a consumer.
Elon has an appreciation for the entire scope. When you have that type of appreciation you can really do amazing things, which is what he’s doing. He’s going to colonize Mars before we die. He’s created a car company in the U.S. when everyone thought it would fail. He’s the largest shareholder of SolarCity, he’s creating a new energy company. So he truly is an individual person. …
To do what Elon does requires a massive sacrifice. Like a massive massive personal sacrifice of time. …
He’s working to make humanity a better place. So it tears him — if he’s not working — he’s not accelerating that outcome. So he makes a massive personal sacrifice. He works 90 hours a week. Every single week he’s always working to make the world a better place. And that comes at a toll. He’s willing to make that sacrifice because he’s so smart that no one else can do it. So he has to do it.