Gimmicks are necessary to be commercially viable.
Without bells and whistles, nothing sells.
Food without flavor doesn’t sell regardless of how supernutritious it may be.
And if it doesn’t sell, you don’t have money, and without money you can’t fund R&D on the things that matter.
Form and substance must go hand to hand.
What Elon Musk has accomplished is outstanding from a business perspective and as an engineering feat, and whoever diminishes his achievements have no idea of what they are talking about.
If you think Elon Musk is doing this for profits, you have no freaking idea of how close he was to lose it all. Hindsight is 20/20. The bets he made on impulsing the electric vehicle industry by himself, a startup competing against giant brands in century old industry dominated by petroleum lobbyists, with the added cost of educating the public to revert the overall extremely negative reputation for electric vehicles (which public consensus had the perception of being weak and slow like golf carts). Do you really think it was a no brainer to enter into that business? It was suicide.
The only thing that justifies risking his personal fortune in an endeavor like that is his principles, not profits. The likelihood of anyone succeding there was less than 1%.
And do you think that proposing to be the a private aerospace startup would be a safe no-brainer investment?
That had even less probability of succeeding.
He invented two industries at the same time, and managed to keep them afloat. That alone is remarkable.
What are the chances of being simultaneous CEO of two disruptive companies and not spontaneously combusting himself in the process? Do you know how freaking hard is to manage ONE startup?
Traditionally all these traits are flaring red flags in the VC community, and add to that the personal difficulty of being a horrible public speaker, he has no presence on stage, and he wouldn’t be able to sell a can of cola with that insecure stuttering. The likelihood of such projects succeding with all the aggregated difficulties is ZERO.
And yet he managed to make them successful becoming a serious threat in both industries he is disrupting with his revolutionary approaches. That is remarkable. And this is one of the very few times that the word “revolutionary” is not hyperbolically used.
If you can’t see that his end game is YOUR endgame, you aren’t seeing the whole picture.
PS: This type of debate reminds me the old nerd war that diminishes the accomplishments of Steve Jobs vs. Wozniak. Or those who think that Bill Gates has no merits.