Why is Elon Musk an entrepreneur?


Elon Musk, the South African born American business person is/was the CEO or chairman of many prominent companies such as Tesla Inc., OpenAI, Neuralink, Zip2, X.com, PayPal etc. Therefore, he can be considered as an entrepreneur in all respects. At the same time, he has opened another company called Space exploration technologies or SpaceX in 2002. The purpose of this company is to reduce space transportation costs and to make colonies on Mars (Chang, 2016). Now the question is whether a person doing business on Mars can be considered as an entrepreneur or not. Theoretically, it is possible to consider Elon Musk as an entrepreneur even if he stops all his other businesses and concentrate only on the business in mars.

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As per the arguments of Richard Cantillon’s economic entrepreneurship theory an entrepreneur is a person who is capable of taking risks for driving economic growth and progress. This theory states that an entrepreneur should be a person who is concentrating purely on economic features of human action. Ethical and political concerns should not haunt such a person (Rothbard, 1995). Elon Musk is taking a risk by starting a business on Mars. The success and failure of this business are unpredictable. Nobody knows how many people will be interested in this business and how many customers Elon Musk will for his Mars project. Therefore, the risk in this business is enormous. The second point is the ethical concern of doing business on Mars. The question is whether Elon Musk has any moral right to take control of Mars or not. Mars is an unoccupied territory at present as per the knowledge available on earth. Therefore, there is nothing wrong in allowing Elon Musk to take control over mars, if possible. In short, the economic entrepreneurship theory fully justifies Elon Musk’s status as an entrepreneur.

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According to Peter Drucker’s opportunity-based entrepreneurship theory, an entrepreneur is a person who is capable of seeing and taking advantage of possibilities created by social, technological and cultural changes (Drucker, 1985). As mentioned by Shane and Venkataraman (2000), the entrepreneurial process begins with the discovery of opportunities. It should be noted that Elon Musk is taking advantage of the technological progress while starting his Mars project. He has every right to exploit the possibilities of modern technologies for business benefits. In fact he thought differently and started the mars project. The successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are capable of thinking differently and taking advantages of the opportunities in this world. Elon Musk expanded his business portfolios beyond the limits of the earth with the help of technology. In other words, he is exploiting the opportunity provided to him by the technology. Therefore, he is an entrepreneur based on the opportunity based entrepreneurship theory.

David McClelland’s psychological theory of entrepreneurship defines an entrepreneur as a person who possesses a need for achievement. Elon Musk is a person who is interested in achieving something all the time. He is capable of thinking beyond the limits of the earth. While nobody has dared even to think about the mars project, Musk was able to come up with a genuine mars project.

To conclude, based on the arguments of economic entrepreneurship theory, opportunity-based entrepreneurship theory, and psychological theory of entrepreneurship, Elon Musk is definitely an entrepreneur.

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  1. Chang, K. (2016). Elon Musk’s Plan: Get Humans to Mars, and Beyond. The New York Times. 27 September 2016.
  2. Drucker, P. F. (1985). Innovation and entrepreneurship. New York: Harper & Row
  3. McClelland, D. (1971). The Achievement Motive in Economic Growth, in Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.  New York: The Free Press.
  4. Rothbard, M.N. (1995). Economic Thought Before Adam Smith. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute.
  5. Shane, S. & Venkataraman, S. (2000). The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research. Academy of Management Review, 25, 217–226.
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