Today, we know that Musk made a fortune in excess of $225 billion from Tesla’s success. What few know, though, is that Tesla was not founded by Musk, but by Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard.
It was they who in 2003 thought of naming their company in honor of the inventor Nikola Tesla. But none of them kept enough shares of the company they built to become a billionaire.
Of course, it took Musk’s funds – the money he had made from the sale of the company that we now know as PayPal – to make the vision of Eberhard and Tarpenning a reality.
But that money allowed Musk to take full control of Tesla, increasing his stake through nine rounds of funding before the company entered the stock market in 2010.
What are the true founders of Tesla doing today? Speaking to Forbes, a few months ago, Eberhard had said that he maintains a “relatively small” stake in the company. “I sold a good share of my shares a long time ago,” the 61-year-old said, explaining that he wasn’t rich when he founded Tesla and that’s why he was forced to seek funding from Musk.
The relations between the two men did not develop in the best way. Eberhard was effectively expelled from Tesla in 2007, when he sold much of his shares. In 2009, he filed a lawsuit against Musk for his removal from the company and for slander, before reaching a settlement, the terms of which were not known.
“When I was kicked out of Tesla I had no money – I mean I didn’t have any money at all,” Eberhard said. In addition, due to the contract he had signed with Tesla, he could not get a job elsewhere for a year.
Of Tesla’s team of five starting partners, Forbes estimates that only one is a billionaire, in addition to Elon Musk. The reason for the former head of technology of the automotive industry, JB Straubel, who left the company in 2019. He is currently CEO and co-founder of battery recycling startup Redwood Materials.
Engineer Ian Wright, who is listed as a co-founder of Tesla, after joining forces with Eberhard and Tarpenning a few months after the company was created, left in 2004 to build another electrification business. He sold his stake many years ago, since as he says, he could never have imagined that the company would come to be worth 1 trillion. dollars.
However, Eberhard says he is pleased with Tesla’s success. “Whatever my opinion of Musk, I’m still very happy to see the car revolution that we finally started,” he says.
Musk, on the other hand, does not hide his opinion about his former partner. “Literally the worst person I’ve worked with,” he has previously said of Eberhard.