Is Elon Musk A Real Life Tony Stark? [Infographic]

Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and electric car company Tesla, has recently made headlines again after the first commercial space launch successfully completed its journey to the International Space Station last month.

SpaceX, the company behind the groundbreaking space mission, is another venture of the ambitious entrepreneur. Musk’s plans don’t stop there, though, as he intends to make it to Mars with the help of filmmaker James Cameron.

Does he sound like a billionaire playboy on a mission to save the human race? Check out the infographic below to find out just how close to Musk is to being a real life Tony Stark.

Elon Musk: The Real Life Tony Stark

Created by:


Corey Cummings

Corey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received degrees in English and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Chicago and enjoys alternately obsessing over video games that aren't out yet and crazy gadgets he can't afford.

What others say about : Is Elon Musk A Real Life Tony Stark? [Infographic]..


 @EliRegalado I agree. I think I saw the comparison of the two on reddit a month ago and thought the it was brilliant! The designer did the concept justice!

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Including ‘taught self to program at age 10’ with ‘started company that sends people to space’ is a bit like including ‘learned to walk at age 3’ with ‘won seven superbowls in a row’.
Additionally, trumpeting Tesla’s “10,000 orders” as an impressive statistic belies the author’s lack of business experience. I’m no Tony Stark, but I’m an entrepreneur, and I know enough to know that 10,000 orders is a meaningless statistic. If you need 150,000 orders to break even, or you lose $10,000 on each order, the number indicates failure, not success.
Beyond that, I could argue that while Mr. Musk spent $50m to generate $1000m of orders, I spent $50,000 to generate $7,000,000 in the same time period; my 140x earnings ratio certainly outdoes Elon’s 20x ratio – but what does that mean vs. our respective relationship to each other or to Tony Stark? That’s right, absolutely nothing.
Also, implying that the ‘cost to develop a real life iron man suit’ would be $100m is almost unbelievably absurd. For one thing, as envisioned in the movies, the suit violates the laws of conservation of mass and energy six ways from Sunday. Even assuming the wildly stratospheric difficulties in even the most basic of implied technologies (the power supply comes immediately to mind, as does a shell material that manages to survive impacts of hundreds of Gs), circumventing the most fundamental laws of physics is probably going to cost a bit more than developing Forza 3.
For that matter, the original of the recent movies depicting the talented Mr. Stark undoubtedly cost significantly more than the putative cost of a suspension-of-disbelief-stretching robot suit.
Oh, one other thing – I got a chuckle out of the infographic’s trumpeting our man’s quitting grad school after two days before signing off with, “Created by:” – a service which Musk could undoubtedly have done without.


Oh, and for the zero people who will ever read this – the manner in which Musk’s assessment of a 60% success likelihood for SpaceX implies that the author wishes to impart a feeling of hot-blooded, never-say-die boldness.
Unfortunately, depending on (or perhaps regardless of) your definition of ‘success’ (sending something into orbit or ‘remaining a going concern that stays in the black with its original business model’? those things are not the same), predicting a 60% chance of success is almost reckless.
Of course, according to the graphic, he subsequently went broke and had to crash at his buddies’ bachelor pads, subsisting on Coronas and day-old Chinese takeout (or something along those lines). If he truly had to ‘depend on loans from friends’ to survive on a personal level, his behavior almost defies belief. If you want your enterprise to succeed, leaving yourself unable to survive independently should the business fail (at least, at this level) indicates either overwhelming arrogance or terminal foolhardiness.
Given that either of those qualities would need to be combined with nearly supernatural luck in order to allow Mr. Musk to achieve what he has, I have a feeling that the infographic’s melodramatic portrayal of events is somewhat wide of the mark.


 @perisoft It sounds like someone is drinking some haterade here- while I can appreciate you criticizing what was meant to be a fun infographic with reality, (I am pretty sure no one thinks a real Iron Man suit is in the offing) Elon Musk is a gigantic success- it is impressive you generated $7M on $50K, yes.
Let me ask you this- did your products/service change the world or contribute to changing the world in any significant way?  I am not saying every person with their business needs to (or even wants to) change the world, but in addition to being an entrepreneur, Elon Musk is also a dreamer with ambitions far beyond just making money.  He almost went broke because he truly believed an electric car was feasible and could change the automotive industry- but beyond that, and what truly makes me admire the man, is Space X.  
I don’t know Elon Musk but I would bet big that he really isn’t so interested in making a fortune so much as he is interested in advancing space travel.  When I was a little kid, my hero was Neil Armstrong and I dreamed of growing up and being an Astronaut.  As time went on, I got disillusioned with the dream because all NASA seemed to be doing was sending up the Space Shuttle to do experiments.  No bold missions to Mars, no missions pushing to see how far humanity can truly go-
Through Space X, Elon Musk has built A PRIVATE SPACE COMPANY.  This is amazing on many different levels- especially to every person who grew up wishing they could travel to space, and he isn’t done.  He managed to balance the dream (space exploration) with actually turning a profit to keep the dream alive.  He secured a $1B contract with NASA to resupply the space station which allows him to pour even more money into further developing Space X.  Next up is mining asteroids for their resources which will provide raw material to build manufacturing facilities in NEO (Near Earth Orbit) and truly move human space exploration beyond constantly having to spend gigantic sums of money just to escape Earth’s gravity.
The people that made the infographic were clearly trying to drive traffic to their site by making a cool infographic…so what? your posts are full of criticism and anger and reads like Elon Musk killed your dog or something.  ‘Iron Man’ is fantasy- just like the NYT article calculating how much monetary damage would have been done to Manhattan if the ‘Avengers’ movie was real- its fantasy, not real life yet you launch into a diatribe attacking the science behind it.  I don’t think anyone really thinks its real-
What IS real is Space X which is doing more to advance human space exploration (along with Virgin Intergalactic, Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin and others) than government ever will.  And all those space companies I just named were ALL started by entrepreneurs that generated vast wealth and turned that money into advancing humanity beyond Earth.  True, space exploration is in its infancy but these entrepreneurs are the ones moving us forward, NOT government.  
So while your 140x earnings is spectacular and anyone that can do so is a bonafide success, criticizing the genius of what Musk is accomplishing just sounds….small and petty.


You misread my post – or I miswrote it. It was late.
I meant no disrespect to Musk. But you misinterpreted some of what I said by 180 degrees – for instance, when I pointed out the relative earnings ratios, my point was not that I’ve done better than Musk, but specifically the opposite – that those numbers mean nothing. I actually wrote that, too. Business success isn’t defined by the number of orders you get; it’s a meaningless statistic, like saying someone ate 50 hotdogs. Great – did he eat them in an hour, or over a year? One is meaningless, the other is out of the ordinary. But even then, the fact that it’s out of the ordinary tells little – did he do it as part of a competition which he takes part in because he’s passionate about it, or did he do it because he wanted to show off, or because he’s compulsive?
And, to put the record straight, my earnings ratio is specifically *NOT* spectacular. It’s subsistence, enough to keep the lights on. That’s one of the things people don’t understand about business – cash turnover is pointless. Engaging in stratospheric (ahem) growth can be an utterly foolhardy thing to do (it can bankrupt you as suppliers refuse to provide ever-increasing credit as the costs of manufacturing item N outstrip the delay in actually receiving money for it). Or it can be the only option (you have rapacious investors demanding a nine quadrillion percent sales increase every six minutes).
My point about the infographic, again, was the opposite of your interpretation – pointless comparisons and pie-in-the-sky, meaningless numbers do Musk harm, not credit. They disrespect the real magnitude of what he’s done.
Remember, the end of my post specifically said that I thought that things like the 60% number implied hubris or foolishness that can’t possibly (or are wildly unlikely to) correlate with Musk’s accomplishments.
The infographic is cool, to be sure, and it’s positive, to be sure. But being positive in a meaningless way is, really, more insulting than presenting the unvarnished truth.
My business is anything but an unqualified success. I feel (know) that I’ve made significant mistakes, and that my product deserves more than I’ve delivered to it. I’ve dealt with eye-bugging, gawking reporters who show up and act like I’m some kind of god for having learned quickbasic when I was 10. Then their articles read like I’m – well, some kind of Tony Stark – and it’s not f*cking respectful; it’s a caricature. It indicates carelessness, an underlying (and perhaps unconscious) lack of interest on the part of the reporter, and are delivered by someone who’s starstruck by an utter non-star.
So, their article compares me favorably with Musk, when in reality, the sales ratios and numbers and age-of-first-computer-use and “wants to go to mars” are utterly meaningless. No sh*t? Ambitious entrepreneur is ambitious!
In the end, neither presentation is favorable; in fact, one adulatory article managed to make me look like an utter arrogant prick: In reality, the reporter was trying to get me to say what a wonderful programmer I am, as if that meant that it was a herculean accomplishment to develop the hardware control software I have. Really it’s duck soup. Implying that I’m some kind of John Carmack (of DOOM and Quake fame) based on that is absurd. I don’t deserve that comparison.
So I told him that he shouldn’t be impressed with my ability to program – that’s neither here nor there. Many, many, many people are better than I am. I said that the real difficulty in a project such as mine is not programming but knowing *what to program*, knowing the end goal; my unimpressive ability to implement it isn’t worth mentioning. The difficulty is not in doing but in knowing what to do.
This ended up in the article, using carefully chopped quotes, as my saying that my amazing programming skills are nothing compared to my supernatural, effortless ability to determine the correct course of action.
Oh, I looked really impressive all right. But it was an absurd lie, like saying that Musk can make an Iron Man suit for a hundred million. Anyone who read it would think I’m an ignorant, arrogant jerk, even though it was meant to be complimentary.
Look, the point here is that I was trying to say that wild, glistening-eyed adulation is actually insulting. You want to know what I’m proud of in my business? It’s working with my dad, with few resources, and coming up with a device that stomps the hell out of the best that anyone in the industry can do. It’s seeing forum threads on competition costing ten times as much saying, “No, you want THESE guys. They’re the ones to beat.” My dad and I *did that*, by driving passion into what we did for years and years, and making silk purses from sows’ ears and lubricating the lot with blood squeezed from a pit of stones.
And I’m particularly proud that we sold out product with the unvarnished truth, too – we pointed out its flaws to the best extent we could. Unlike our competitors, we don’t charge a hundred bucks an hour for phone support, have 10x markups on spares, or charge for software upgrades. We put the safety of our customers ahead of anything else, and absorb the loss if the market won’t take it.
We do business as we hope our partners do with us, not as our competitors do.
And we do what we do because we bloody well love it, because I can go, “Hell, yeah!”.
And you asked if I’ve made any lives better? Well, I’ve done military work that, hopefully, will help prevent road accidents out in the dirt in Afghanistan and Iraq – road accidents that comprise one of the largest percentages of death even compared to IEDs or ground battles.
I know that, even though most of my business is propping up marketing efforts or helping people have a good time, at least some of it is going to help a 19 year old kid keep the humvee carrying his buddies out of the muck. If I save a few guys or even a few legs, then to hell with the number of orders and the multipliers and the whole rest of it. I can sleep happier for that.
I tell reporters these things, and in article after article, what I get is often humiliating overstatement of unimportant technical skill. It does me no credit, nor does it to Musk, who, if his full story was told, would probably read more like mine than the originally-avarice-filled Tony Stark.
You want to tell the story of an entrepreneur? Tell the story of why, not how; tell the story of who, not what; tell the story of process, not result.
Tell the stories of failure, not success.
Perhaps the late-night frustration inhibited my ability to articulate then when I have (criminally verbosely) to some extent here, but try to consider my words then in the context of those here. They were much less negative than you think – largely, and ironically, due to the glossy, romanticized finish slathered on entrepreneurdom by the press. Faulty compliments aren’t positive, and while I’m sure that the author’s heart was in the right place, I just can’t pretend that I think the result’s content matches its Photoshop prowess.


Oh, and one other thing – that 60% success prediction is also meaningless without context. Was it given when the concept was first hatched? If so, its confidence is beyond optimism. Or was it given just prior to the first successful flights, when the basic tech had been tested and the fundamental concepts proven over and over? In that case, it’s realistic.
I understand that an infographic is limited in scope, but that doesn’t excuse sticking in numbers that can’t possibly hold any meaning. Put in things that can be explained within the graphic, or don’t put them in. And if the subject is too complicated to be reasonably described, just don’t do the infographic.
If it were a given going in that the text is just a flip space-filler, that would be one thing. But it’s called an _info_graphic, not just a graphic. Info out of context – or worse, in misleading context – isn’t info, and that’s why I have a problem with it.

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