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Was Elon a founder of Tesla?


Well-Known Member
Mar 6, 2013
San Diego
Since this was a deleted topic, yet some people were interested in it in the investor thread.

On the “is Elon a Tesla founder” question, both are right. Tesla was incorporated as a company July 1, 2003. Elon didn’t join as an investor until 2004. What Elon has said is that Tesla was a PowerPoint and three guys before he invested (and he led the initial investment round and became Chairman of the Board), and that Elon is by far the largest shareholder. To be fair to Eberhard, he had been doodling about with the concept on an electric car since at least 2001, and had invested $500k in AC Propulsion to keep that company afloat.

From a purely technical perspective Eberhard is right. I would bet if you looked at those early cap tables, Elon did not get founder’s shares, he bought his shares. No doubt he was then given options as chairman (and of course later by being CEO, and he led the bailout round in late 2008).

From Elon’s perspective, Tesla wouldn’t have gone anywhere if he hadn’t invested since they weren’t getting much traction from VCs. But who knows, maybe they could have found a different VC in the semi-investment winter of 2004 to pony up. $7M. We’ll never know.

Another wrinkle. Elon independently had been funding JB to build a battery pack in his garage. When Elon invested $6.5M into Tesla, he brought JB over and JB became a Tesla employee. In a way, it was a merger since JB’s prototype battery pack, which Elon had independedly funded, was crucial to Tesla.

So, yeah, both are right.

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