[Why are you here?] I wanted to hear from others that had a strong philanthropic initiative. I wanted to hear what they were doing. What was successful, what was unsuccessful. So as to better inform things that I do.
[Did you learn much?] I did. One of the things that we have agreed to here is that we would not discuss the specifics of conversations because obviously if someone is talking about something that they did that wasn't successful, that is a little embarrassing, so you don't want.. [Where they are lot of confessions of failure?] There was, and as the saying goes, if you try a bunch of things you often learn more from failure than from success.
In my case, the three areas that I'm focused on are space exploration, solar energy and electric cars. I actually did create those business because I felt those were important needs that had to be solved. They were certainly not picked because I thought they were the highest return on investment. I think, intuitively that most people would agree with that. Having heard of Solyndra and other issues in solar power, that wouldn't be high on the list. Nor would car companies, given that the next youngest car company in America is 90 years old. Also, rockets are not an area where there's been a lot of commercial/private success. Very fortunately, all three seem to be doing well. I think I could have made a lot more money from, say, selling another Internet company.
[Why are people giving younger?] Well, I think part of it is that people have started becoming wealthy at an early age, and so there's been more of an opportunity to give away wealth if you've obtained it earlier in life.
[Do you think that's here to stay?] I think it is for the Internet. It's a lot harder to build wealth in other businesses where there's large physical objects that need to be made. For example, with SpaceX we've got to make these giant rockets, it's taken 10 years to get SpaceX to this point where it's of a value perhaps comparable to what we sold Paypal to eBay for after three and a half years.
[Are you still optimistic about solar?] I am, actually. I think that there's a lot of opportunity in solar. There have been, besides Solyndra, a lot of solar companies that have either seen a collapse in their market value or have died, but I think it is a very important area and it's very important that there be successes in that arena, because we have to have sustainable energy. That's why I've put my capital to work in that regard, even though it's not probably the place where it could earn the highest return.
[How is Telsa going?] I think things are going reasonably well. We're going to be in production with our sedan next month. So we'll start our first customer deliveries next month. With next technologies there does seem to be this ebb and flow of excitement about it. At first it'll seem it's not working and then it will seem like it is. So it's sort of like an upwards sloping sine wave. So long as there are companies that are driving the technology forward, as Tesla is, that sine wave will continue to be upward sloping. I think, in the next several years, we're actually going to see a huge increase in the number of electric cars. "Tesla, in the second half of this year, will produce more electric cars than it has produced in its entire lifetime to date. I feel very confident predicting that, within 20 years, the majority of new cars produced will be fully electric, and it may be closer to 10 years than 20."
[What is your short term vision for SpaceX?] Essentially, we're going to put a lot of satellites into orbit. For a wide range of customers. We'll be doing a lot of cargo resupply missions to the space station. In about three years we'll be launching astronauts. Hopefully, three or four years, but hopefully closer to three. We'll be launching our Falcon Heavy which will be the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two. In the longer term, perhaps in the 10 to 15 year time frame, I'm hopeful that we'll have a craft that can take people to Mars because the ultimate goal of SpaceX is to develop the technologies that can take humanity to Mars.
[Would you like to be on that flight?] I'd like to go to Mars, absolutely. "I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact."
Thanks for having me.