A Deep Dive into Elon Musk’s Investments: The Makings of a Billionaire

Key Highlights

Career History
  • After dropping out of Stanford in 1995, Musk started Zip2 with his brother Kimbal using $28,000 borrowed from their father. In 1999 it sold to Compaq for $307 million, with Musk earning $22 million.
  • Musk invested $10 million of his Zip2 proceeds into founding X.com, one of the first attempts at online banking. It later merged with Peter Thiel’s Confinity and became PayPal in 2000. After IPOing in 2002 it was sold to eBay the same year, Musk made $180 million from the sale.
  • Post-PayPal, Musk invested all of his proceeds into his new projects: SpaceX ($100 million), Tesla ($70 million) and SolarCity ($10 million). By 2008, he was almost penniless and living on $200 thousand monthly loans from his friends after a $20 million divorce.
  • By 2017, his fortunes had changed and his net worth had risen to $16 billion; just six years earlier, it was only $68 million.
Goes All-In with His Businesses
  • After being outmaneuvered in the boardroom at Zip2 and PayPal, Musk began to take more of an iron grip with managing his companies. At Tesla in 2007, he converted $8 million of preference stock to weaker common stock just to oust its CEO.
  • Aside from small angel investments, he avoided cashing out of his businesses at opportunistic or exit stage moments and maintained large ownership percentages. His proceeds from Tesla’s IPO were only $15 million.
  • Musk has personally borrowed over $620 million that he has used to purchase more stock in his companies. In 2013, he drew down a personal loan to buy stock and help Tesla pay off one of its own loans.
Creates Ecosystems around Himself
  • Investing within his network has provided Musk with a successful angel investing record. He made a $90 million return from DeepMind and only one of his investments has been a total loss: Halcyon Molecular in 2012.
  • Over his career, he has been involved in four businesses with his brother Kimbal and two with his cousin, Lyndon Rive.
  • His businesses regularly cross paths and transact with each other. SpaceX has purchased over $250 million of SolarCity’s bonds and Musk has personally bought $65 million. These kinds of links were a worry for investors during the Tesla and SolarCity merger.
Creative Financing Methods
  • By 2015, Musk’s businesses and their customers had benefited from $4.9 billion in savings from government subsidies. The benefit split between the two was 70% and 30% respectively.
  • Within the aforementioned benefits were $517 million in Zero Emission Vehicle credit allowances that Tesla sold to rival automotive producers. This allowed Tesla to boost revenue at opportune times.
  • A $1.6 billion contract from NASA in 2008 helped stave off bankruptcy at SpaceX.
Polarizing Opinions
  • Musk’s hands-on and all-encompassing roles have led to cries of poor corporate governance within his businesses. This issue was raised by a group of Tesla shareholders in a 2017 letter to him.
  • Capitol Hill lawmakers have also raised concerns about federal money paid to SpaceX being used to inadvertently prop up SolarCity.
  • He will only float SpaceX once regular travel to Mars has commenced (its first trip is planned for 2020). He has discovered that the public markets carry more pressure and scrutiny.

Read More »


How Artificial Intelligence Is Disrupting Finance

Key Highlights

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Is Exploding
  • The widespread adoption of AI across industries is predicted to drive global revenues of $12.5 billion in 2017 and $47 billion in 2020 with a CAGR of 55.1% from 2016 to 2020.
  • The industries that will invest the most in these technologies are banking and retail, followed by healthcare and manufacturing.
  • Economists designate general purpose technologies (GPT) as those important enough to spur protracted economic growth and societal advancements. For example, electricity is a GPT. A recent Harvard Business Review article designates AI as the most important GPT of our era.
Risk Management
  • PayPal has been able to boost security by leveraging deep learning technology. PayPal’s fraud is relatively low at 0.32% of revenue, a figure far better than the 1.32% average that merchants see.
  • While a linear model can consume 20-30 variables, deep-learning technology can command thousands of data points.
AI Trading
  • For years, investment management companies have relied on computers to make trades. Around 9% of all funds, managing $197 billion, rely on large statistical models built by data scientists.
  • However, these models are often static, require human intervention, and don’t perform as well when the market changes. Therefore, funds are increasingly migrating towards true artificial intelligence models that analyze large volumes of data and continue to improve themselves.
  • In 2000, Goldman Sachs’ US cash equities trading desk in its New York headquarters employed600 traders. Today, it has two equity traders, with machines doing the rest.
  • For investors, robo-advice can offer up to 70% in cost savings in certain services.
  • Some established investment firms are buying existing robo-advisors, such as Invesco’s acquisition of Jemstep and Blackrock’s purchase of FutureAdvisor. Others are even creating their own robo-advisors, such as FidelityGo and Schwab’s Intelligent Advisory.
  • 77% of wealth management clients trust their financial advisors and 81% indicate that face-to-face interaction is important.
Insurance Underwriting and Claims
  • PWC report predicts that AI will have automated a considerable amount of underwriting by 2020, especially in mature markets where data is available.
  • In a 2013 Oxford study analyzing over 700 professions to determine which were most susceptible to computerization, insurance underwriters were included in the top five most susceptible.
  • Underwriting may leverage not only machine learning but also wearable technology and deep learning facial analysis technology.

Read More »

Experts’ Corner: Pitch Deck Tips for Fundraising Success

Experts’ Corner is a series of articles sharing practical tips and solutions that our experts have gained over years of on-the-job experience. It aims to elevate our readers’ day-to-day execution and performance.

Fundraising, for companies at any stage, is undoubtedly a challenging process. According to a recent study, an average series seed raise requires contact with 58 investors, 40 investor meetings and over 12 weeks to close a round. Even for seasoned entrepreneurs and startups already with market traction, a compelling pitch and accompanying pitch deck are still necessary. Despite variance around stylistic delivery and aesthetics, you might be relieved to hear that the infamous pitch deck boils down to a formula. In fact, there are a number of topics and slides that investors actually expect—all of which will be discussed in this article.

The following piece is meant to serve as a guide for creating effective, successful investor decks. It focuses on the creation of the deck itself, instead of the delivery of the pitch. While there is no ultimate one-size-fits-all format for investor decks, we will share a set of widely-accepted guidelines along with corresponding pitch deck examples.

Read More »

Amazon vs. Walmart: Bezos Goes for the Jugular with Whole Foods Acquisition

Key Highlights

  • On Friday, June 16, Amazon announced it was acquiring Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion, the largest acquisition in the online retailer’s history.
  • Just a few hours later, Walmart announced the completion of its $310 million acquisition of the men’s apparel direct-to-consumer retailer Bonobos.
  • Whole Foods’ prime real estate allows Amazon to finally get into last-mile delivery, something the online retailer has historically struggled to do. Whole Foods has a 456-store footprint in the US, Canada, and the UK, mostly in upmarket, urban areas.
  • The significant implications of the Amazon/Whole Foods deal for the grocery and retail spaces explain why many retailers’ stocks took a big hit after the news (down 5-10%).
  • Walmart is pushing a strategy to buy vertically integrated companies because of higher gross profit margins. Whole Foods has some private label, but it accounts for only around 15% of revenues.
  • Groceries is an important category – a recent report by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) found that US grocery sales could grow five-fold over the course of the next decade, with spending estimated at more than $100 billion by 2025.
  • The FMI survey highlighted how 69% of shoppers valued the store’s reputation when choosing which store to buy groceries at, making Whole Foods’ brand an important asset for Amazon to leverage.
  • Walmart is the nation’s largest seller of groceries, selling over $170 billion last year, and the category is a key driver of store traffic and customer loyalty. Walmart has invested and tested in click-and-collect programs, stand-alone grocery pick-up sites, and even testing of an automated kiosk for 24-hour pick-up.
  • Many voice concerns that not only do Walmart and Bonobos customers not overlap, but that Walmart’s acquisition may in fact push several away.

Read More »

Power Pivot for Excel Tutorial: Top Use Cases and Examples

Every financial analyst is a whiz with Excel. However, as storage becomes cheaper, our organizations are accumulating more data. And ever-more data makes it harder to work with Excel—we either reach the 1,048,576 row hard limit, or the document slows to a crawl trying to process everything.

Often, the decision is whether to lose some of the carefully curated details, or to work in a tediously slow workbook. Sometimes, we have to get creative in order to combine two large datasets. We resort to using convoluted formulas and waiting forever for the calculations to be resolved.

Fortunately, you no longer have to make these decisions. Excel’s Power Pivot functionality provides a way to extract, combine, and analyze large datasets. Despite the fact that it was released with Excel 2010, most financial analysts I meet still do not know how to use Power Pivot, and many do not know it even exists.

In this article, I will show you how to use Power Pivot to overcome common Excel issues, and take a look at additional key advantages of the software using some examples. This Power Pivot for Excel tutorial is meant to serve as a guide to what you can achieve with this tool, and at the end, I will explore some sample use cases where Power Pivot could prove invaluable.

Read More »

How to remove/uninstall .NET Framework 4.7 from Windows Server 2012 R2

I tried to install .NET Framework 4.7 in my test environment but some of my applications were not working properly anymore. The first step I did was to look in Programs and Features, but the “Microsoft .NET Framework 4.7” was not there. Then I searched on the Internet on how to remove it, but I couldn’t find a proper solution for my case. For non-server Windows OS, there is one, and it says that you can uninstall it from Programs and Features. But since I’m using Windows Server, that’s not applicable.

Then I started searching on my own. I clicked the “View installed updates” in Programs and Features and searched for the latest Windows update that was installed. I tried to uninstall KB3186539. Luckily, it was the .NET Framework 4.7! My applications are now working properly.

Note: If you are using a different version of Windows, the KB number might be different.

The State of Fintech in 2017

“We spent more than $9.5 billion in technology firmwide, of which approximately $3 billion is dedicated toward new initiatives. Of that amount, approximately $600 million is spent on emerging fintech solutions—which include building and improving digital and mobile services and partnering with fintech companies.”
– Jamie Dimon (CEO of JP Morgan), 2016 Letter to Shareholders

The financial services industry is increasingly acquiring the “tech” suffix as Silicon Valley takes aim at one of the world’s most profitable and highly regulated sectors. This change not only brings with it new technology, but a need to attract and develop talent that have the skillset needed to operate in this changing environment. Organizations are also grappling with how to simultaneously foster innovation and entrepreneurial risk-taking while also ensuring stability and financial prudence.

Read More »