Within the past two weeks, three different companies created by Elon Musk have parted ways with portions of their staff—although the cuts were much less severe at one of the billionaire’s offspring.
Last Friday, Musk announced in an email to workers at Tesla that the electric automaker would be laying off about 7% of its staff; the same day, Musk’s The Boring Company tunnel-building startup fired five employees for performance reasons, out of about 80 overall workers. Those moves came about a week after space exploration giant SpaceX revealed plans for about 600 layoffs, or 10% of its staff, per Reuters.
The reductions at Tesla come after a 30% employee increase during the past year, per an internal email sent by Musk and obtained by CNBC. Despite now having fewer workers, Musk also wrote that Tesla must increase both the production rate and quality of its Model 3s, saying there “isn’t any other way” to be “a viable company.” The personnel changes at The Boring Company were not part of any cost-cutting move, again according to Recode.
SpaceX recently reached a private valuation of more than $30 billion, making it one of the most valuable VC-backed companies in the US, while Tesla has been publicly traded since 2010. Musk, meanwhile, has reportedly poured more than $100 million of his own cash into The Boring Company.
Together, the three companies demonstrate the stunning depth of their founder’s ambitions, his commitment to achieving them, and the strange (sometimes juvenile, sometimes illegal) ways he will go about attempting to do so. You can probably count on one hand the number of other entrepreneurs who would devote such enormous resources to moonshots like space travel, electric cars and large-scale infrastructure. But it’s difficult to imagine Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos or one of those other billionaire few attempting to fund their goals by selling flamethrowers for the everyman, or becoming entangled in a very expensive brouhaha with the SEC because they were trying to make their pop-star girlfriend laugh at a marijuana joke.
In pure business terms, though, it perhaps makes sense that companies with such unique and far-reaching goals might be more prone than some of their peers to boom-and-bust cycles of hiring and firing. No other company has ever done what Tesla and SpaceX are trying to do, so both businesses are largely building their own road maps. That said: It’s highly unfortunate that some of the detours on those maps include people losing their jobs.