Some Elon Musk Copycats Are Also Huge Winners

It is not easy to copy Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Boring Company, Hyperloop, OpenAI, Neuralink etc…). However, successful copycats of Musk companies and Musk methods are finding substantial success.

Getting Over Denial

MBA schools spend a lot of time teaching the Toyota Production System and Japan’s revolution from the 1980s and 1990s focusing on quality processes in manufacturing. It took 10-20 years for the academic studies to catch up to what was happening, understand it, and then teach it. Entirely new companies with open-minded entrepreneurs are the ones who can make really understand some important aspects to have success taking on one part of what Elon Musk is doing.

The first step for executives, financial analysts, and business people, in general, would be to start by accepting and recognizing success that should be understood and copied. This is not just in regards to Elon Musk and Tesla but recognizing that the world has been in the Big Tech Age for 20 years. People still use passive investment in index funds. The dogma was that people cannot beat the professionals for stock picking and 80% of professionals cannot beat the index funds for performance.

Tesla has outperformed the FAANG. This new investment wisdom has been adopted by millennials. However, older generations have ignored the triumph of technology and the far greater simplicity in identifiable winners.

The established carmakers (Ford, GMs, Japanese and European makers) and their executives were in denial for around ten years about Elon Musk and Tesla. The established rocket makers (ULA, Ariane) and satellite network makers have been in denial for over ten years on SpaceX.

Tesla Copycats

In 2015, Wired wrote about the attack of the Tesla Clones from China. However, the Wired article does not list Nio. Nio was formed in 2014. Nio IPOd for $1.8 billion in 2018. Nio has a $64 billion valuation. This puts Nio at the same valuation as General Motors. Nio is one of the closest copies of the Tesla business model. They are of course making electric cars and started with luxury models. They also are working on self-driving. Nio partners with Mobileye for mapping technology Road Experience Management (REM) and has a partnership with local chipmaker Tsinghua Unigroup.

Xpeng ($40 billion valuations) and Li Auto ($28 billion valuations) are also attempting to replicate the success with electric cars combined with self-driving.

Alibaba-backed Xpeng Motors has assisted-driving software, Xpilot 3.0, and should have its Navigation Guide Pilot (NGP), similar to Tesla’s NOA (Navigate on Autopilot), in early 2021. Meituan-backed Li Auto will launch similar assisted driving software in 2021. Nio rolled out NOP (Navigate on Pilot) version 2.7.0 update of its vehicle operating system Nio OS to users in October.

There are copycats on the Battery Gigafactory front. Tesla with Panasonic made the first battery gigafactory. There are now large battery factories from BYD, CATL, LG Chem, Samsung and others are being built. Tesla is making their own battery factories.

SpaceX Copycats

Rocket Labs is the only other rocket company with a currently operational reusable launch system.

Fast Following and Anticipation

Hyperloop was born with copycats, but that Elon Musk idea was specifically given away. Boring Company does not have copycats yet and people who call themselves transportation experts are dissing the idea of the Boring tunnels and transportation system.

There was also the bizarre reaction that the recent Tesla Battery day announcements were not gamechangers. There is now 15 years of an innovation track record. This is similar to the reaction that Jerry Seinfeld had when he tried to get TV networks to buy Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee. Jerry failed to get any of the networks or platforms to pick up the show. He got Acura to sponsor and then got Crackle. Jerry joked about all of the TV networks passing on his comedy show for years, despite Jerry have been co-creator of his highest ratest TV show. Jerry said what kind of resume do I need to get a show picked up?

Elon Musk is now the second richest person in the world and has consistently shown successful innovation and execution. Batteries are the core of his most important company. Not listening to Elon Musk on batteries is like ignoring the advice or a major new innovation from Jeff Bezos on eCommerce, the Google founders on internet search, Bill Gates on Operating Systems or Zuckerberg on Social Media.

SOURCES – Tesla, Wikipedia, Wired, SeekingAlpha
Written By Brian Wang,

22 thoughts on “Some Elon Musk Copycats Are Also Huge Winners”

  1. The concept of transportation in tubes has been around for centuries.
    Please give credit to an English engineer: George Medhurst who wrote a "plan for the rapid conveyance of goods and passengers upon an iron road through a tube of 30 feet in area by the power and velocity of air", back in 1812.


    An American inventor, Alfred Ely Beach, who took things beyond the page with his "Beach Pneumatic Transit" system in 1870. "A tube, a car, a revolving fan! Little more is required!" were his famous words describing his concept. Beach actually built his transit tunnel in the middle of New York City.

    Hyperloop-like concepts were also featured in early works of science fiction. One example is a tale by Jules Verne – called "An Express of the Future", which describes tubes filled with carriages whooshing along on "powerful currants of air".

    Not to minimize Hyperloop, but it is fair to give credit to engineers, inventors, writers and scientists who actually invented the original ideas and concepts. In scientific articles, it is necessary to include references to other scientists articles and previous work. It is the same with inventions.

  2. Pretty much any successful/profitable business move by a monopoly is going to be seen as potentially anti-competitive. Tends to lead to every such move being scrutinized by lawyers both internal and governmental.

    And if the politicians (or powerful regulators) decide the company is getting too powerful (i.e. more powerful than them), they will likely play the break-up card, as is now happening with social media tech companies – either the monopolies cave to government demands, or they get broken up.

    Currently it looks like the media tech companies are going to (eagerly) cave, getting new regulations that will let them continue to be profitable and create barriers to innovative new competitors.

  3. I used the word "monopolistic" – tending toward gaining (or trying to gain) a monopoly.

    Tesla's integration is moving far beyond making a lot of the parts that it assembles – charging networks, repair service (training and network authorization at least), insurance for its cars, a taxi service based on its cars, on-board entertainment, etc. Currently they sell self-driving as an product feature, but I expect them to turn it into a subscription service once it works well enough.

  4. I would like to see some entity or even the Boring Company run a tunnel 26 miles from Erie to Ontario Toronto's outer metro area under Lake Erie. Lake Erie at its max is only 100 ft deep. China has two longer and plans to build a third between ocean pts. in the North of the country which will be over twice as long. Elon Musk has dreams to use the Starship for transcontinental flts which will require launces out in the water. At this depth could be constructed in sections and laid on the base of the lake and forget digging. Seems like PA and Ohio would promote this to better join their economies with Toronto the fastest growing metro in North America.

  5. Monopolies aren't illegal. What's illegal is using their position by suppressing competition with anticompetitive conduct.

  6. The New Shepherd was actually the world's 1st reusable rocket in 2015. They like to bring this up to rub Elon's ego. Space x likes to say they are the 1st to land a rocket on a ship. I cheer for all rockets with the USA Flag on them so I enjoy them both and look forward to seeing the New Glenn take off. 2021? They will copy Space X and plan to land it on a ship with a different technique.

  7. There are very few companies you want to invest very much in (and then only a few percent of your portfolio), although there are always some. The primary things to invest in (unless you are genuinely happy with a general index fund) are industries.

    I found that my fascination with science fiction and, consequently, in following cutting edge science and tech news sites, could be monetized. It requires patience. You have to buy and hold; you cannot day trade effectively against the giant traders with their superfast communications and computers. You also want to hold for at least a year, anyway, to allow you to declare long term capital gains, rather than have it taxed as income.

    Buying into the right industries (and occasionally stocks) has let me do incredibly better than index funds, to the point where, barring the complete collapse of civilization or COVID-without-end, retirement will be a time of celebration. I am regretting not getting Tesla, and the fact I was unable to buy Amazon (or any other stock) in the late 90's when I realized where it was going. I wanted to buy SpaceX, but it is privately held.

    Still, I did double my retirement portfolio in three years. You want mutual funds that tilt towards technology, mutual fund managers with a history of weathering the bad times and making hay when the sun shines, and you do not want anything that is leveraged. This gives you the freedom to only have to sell when you are winning (unless maybe you put it all on Enron).

  8. "Part of Musk's success lies in vertical integration – something that 50
    years ago would probably have gotten his companies in hot water as

    Actually, no. Ford was vertically integrated at its Rouge Rive plant way back. Monopoly is when one company controls a too dominant market share – 'corners it' in other words. That is totally different from vertical integration.

  9. True, the raw size advantage can not be dismissed. But even at comparable diameters, it appears their TBM has better tunneling/lining speed so there have been some improvements made. If their 3rd gen TBM delivers even half the improvement Elon promises, it will be a major step change in performance. The operational ability to porpoise start/exit rather than needing a proper launch pit is their next big improvement they are trying to actualize. With higher speed and porpoising, it becomes much easier to permit/start/finish a tunnel.

  10. Musk might still own shares of each of the split-off companies, and so participate in their money-making – but he probably would not be allowed to have control over all the pieces.

    He would probably retain direct control over those he felt have the most need for innovation and rapid expansion.

  11. From what I've seen on this site, a huge part of the cost and speed advantage of Boring Company is that they use much smaller diameter tunnels. This works (apparently) for their transport because they designed the transport system to work in narrower tunnels.

    But a water tunnel? You can't redesign water to fit into a smaller pipe.

  12. Comparison of the cost of infrastructure projects, eg. per km of rail projects shows quite clearly that countries are quite happy ignoring world best practice for decades. Even if the result is a cost factor of many hundred %.

    It could be argued that this is because what some people call a "cost", other people call a "handout to my cousin who owns the construction company" or "huge vote increase among union workers".

  13. From appearances, they seem to be digging/lining faster than previous methods. If they actually have that down, along with lower costs due to other automation and operations improvements, then any major city that needs any kind of tunneling will be banging on their door. Lots of new water tunnels need to be built for instance.

  14. Solutions to traffic are openly rejected in many US cities.

    There is a belief that cities should be dense to save energy and make mass transit more practical.

    The plan is to have more congestion, not less.

  15. Copying everything that Elon Musk does and nodding yes to everything he says are both symptoms of the Chinese way. For these people the challenge is in understanding that there are still an infinite number of tweaks that can be made in our system, that everyone who chooses to see them can become the next Elon Musk, with a much higher reward than focusing on Elon Musk the person as the heavenly emperor, the only venue that they are programmed to follow for generations.

  16. Quick Elon: Which company makes money- the airplane manufacturer or the airline?

    That will determine what you should be doing.

  17. Agreed. Don't quite know what Boring is doing that is revolutionary. (apart from digging underground habitats on Mars)

  18. Part of Musk's success lies in vertical integration – something that 50 years ago would probably have gotten his companies in hot water as 'monopolistic'. But it does give those companies control over every aspect of their products, giving them the information they need to continuously innovate. But innovation vs monopolistic behavior is already falling out of favor among politicians. This could become a major threat to Tesla, especially if Musk goes into self-driving taxis and insurance.

  19. When the Boring Company demonstrates that they can provide a permanent solution to traffic problems then, instantaneously, states around the world will want it. Any Boring Company copycat who could provide a roughly equivalent solution will have more business than they could handle.

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