Dare to dream: like Elon Musk and Harry Ferguson

Elon Musk

ELON Musk has become one of the most significant technical pioneers and creative entrepreneurs of his generation. His electric car company Tesla is currently valued at $32billion with yearly revenues at $4bn. And he still owns 30 per cent of the company.

Between Tesla and SpaceX, his spacecraft company, Musk has been incredibly busy over the last decade. He has been such an entrepreneurial tech force, it is worth taking a look at is track-record to learn from his endeavour.

Born in South Africa in 1971, he split his time between his home country and Canada, his mother's country of birth. He moved to Canada to study at age 19, at Queen's University in Ontario.

In 1995 he formed his first tech company, Zip2, an online Yellow Pages, at age 24. Having an eye for a deal, he sold Zip2 and started another company that would eventually turn into PayPal. He then sold PayPal to eBay for $1.5bn and used his profits to start investing in other companies. He always had it in his head that his businesses would be world-changing.

Musk was the second entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley (the first one was James H Clark) who managed to create three companies with the market cap of more than $1 billion – PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors – a truly remarkable achievement.

Why has Elon Musk become so successful?

The most important factor behind his success is his ability to know when to take a calculated risk. For example, when Tesla was on the brink of failure, he invested nearly all of his cash into the company. After the release of the Tesla Model-S, the calculated risk has paid off many times over.

We could all learn a lot from Musk's ability to figure out when to put his money where his mouth is.

His mantra is “constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself”. Though you may not always like what you hear, you and your company will be better off for it. He likes to employ people smarter than himself so they can do all the hard thinking for him and have the answers in advance of his meeting with them.

Elon Musk is the 21st-century industrialist, who brings the most fantastic ideas into life. His life story shows that all the success he achieved thanks to his perseverance, hard work and, of course, thanks to his absolute faith in his projects.

What can companies here in Northern Ireland learn from Elon Musk?

In a strange way we had the 20th century version of Elon Musk, when you consider Harry Ferguson. An engineer and inventor, Ferguson is noted for his role in the development of the modern agricultural tractor and for being the first person in Britain or Ireland to build and fly his own airplane. He also developed the first four-wheel drive Formula One car, called the Ferguson P99. Today his name lives on in the Massey Ferguson company.

Encouraging more young scientists to take risks like Elon Musk in our businesses will surely create some of the future global trends and yes it is entirely possible in a small geography like Northern Ireland. We need more belief in our capabilities and we need to all dream a bit more.

:: Patrick McAliskey is managing director Novosco, an indigenous managed cloud company with offices in Belfast, Dublin and Manchester. It employs 140 people and works for leading organisations across the UK and Ireland, including many of Northern Ireland's top companies, UK health trusts, councils and other organisations. It has been ranked one of the top companies to work for in the UK 2016 by The Sunday Times.


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