ᐈ Tesla had 4 co-founders besides Elon Musk: what happened to them? 🚗

Tesla had 4 co-founders besides Elon Musk: what happened to them?

There are up to 5 recognized co-founders of Tesla, although Musk was not part of what would be the original Tesla.

Contrary to what many people think, Elon Musk did not found Tesla as such, although he does have —and surely he has earned it— the right to be recognized as a co-founder for legal and representation purposes.

The original Tesla (Tesla Motors, not Tesla, Inc.), was founded by two people who are almost unknown today, to whom three more were added, including Musk, shortly after it began. The short story is this: The company was created as Tesla Motors on July 1, 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, two people we'll get to know more about shortly. Eberhard and Tarpenning served as CEO and CFO, respectively.

Ian Wright was the third Tesla employee and joined a few months later. In February 2004, the company raised $7.5 million in funding, $6.5 million of which  was put up by a young Elon Musk, who had received $100 million from the sale of his stake in PayPal two years ago. years before.

Musk became the chairman of the board of directors and the largest shareholder of Tesla as soon as he arrived. JB Straubel, the other big name besides Musk associated with Tesla, joined Tesla in May 2004 as CTO.

Today, these five men are considered co-founders for legal purposes after an agreement between Eberhard and Tesla in September 2009.

Nobody can deny that Tesla would not be what it is without Musk, nor Musk without Tesla. But here's the story of the other people who fell under the radar in creating a brand that has arguably changed the auto industry.

Elon Musk, from investor to fourth CEO of Tesla

Tesla had 4 co-founders besides Elon Musk: what happened to them?

Years and a half ago Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, the original founders, recalled in a documentary for CNBC  their early stages and what it was like to build and deliver the first Tesla Roadster vehicles. Also, what it took to convince the world that electric cars could be as attractive as luxury sports cars, and how they brought Elon Musk on board.

Eberhard and Tarpenning first met Musk at a meeting of members of the Mars Society, a well-known non-profit organization that, since the late 1980s, has brought together people interested in the future of possible human life on the Red Planet. and space exploration, from experts to simple amateurs. Musk belonged to her since before founding SpaceX.

Eberhard, an electrical engineer by training, already commented at the beginning of his Tesla that he wanted to make a car company focused on technology. He did not end very well with Tesla, leaving the company and carrying out the lawsuit that ended the agreement that gave permission for up to 5 co-founders, although he assured that he continued to support the Tesla project. He is currently working on technology that will make electric vehicle batteries more affordable than current ones, without sacrificing safety, power or quality.

Tarpenning, a computer engineer for his part, acknowledged in the aforementioned interview that he still speaks with Musk from time to time. He left Tesla just as they were developing the Model S.

Tarpenning now works by advising and investing in environmentally minded start-ups as a partner in the Spero Ventures fund. Both came out well covered financially, although, of course, their fortune could have been much greater if they held a greater number of shares due to the evolution of Tesla on the stock market during the last two years.

The Tesla Motors before Tesla Inc: an origin born from the electronic book

Both Eberhard and Tarpenning grew up in California. They met when Tarpenning went to visit the Wyse Technologies company for research, where Eberhard was working at the time.

In 1997, Eberhard and Tarpenning co-founded NuvoMedia, an electronic book company that produced the Rocket eBook, one of the first electronic books. After just three years, they sold their company for $187 million.

For his next project, with that money, Eberhard wanted to create "a car manufacturer that was also a technology company". And so, on July 1, 2003, he teamed up again with Tarpenning to launch Tesla Motors.

The departure of the original founders

In August 2007, Eberhard was relegated from the CEO position. During that time, Elon Musk, who was already the largest shareholder by far, pushed for more capital to enter the company. “There was no discussion. I couldn't hear what they said. I couldn't defend myself. I felt totally abandoned, ”says Eberhard, who sued because the Board of Directors in which the decision was made to relegate him was held without his presence, something required.

As a middle way, Tesla, with Musk already making decisions, appointed Eberhard chief technology officer. That didn't go well. Eberhard ended up leaving in early 2008.

Tesla had 4 co-founders besides Elon Musk: what happened to them?

Tarpenning left the company shortly thereafter, and with the original founders gone, Musk became the CEO of Tesla, a position he holds to this day.

"I think Elon's Elonity has increased over the years", said Martin Eberhard in that documentary, with a certain irony and surely without reason.

Musk's take on this story is also clear. He defends that he did found Tesla. And, at least technically and considering the current situation, he is right. Tesla Inc. abrogated Tesla Motors already with Musk and Straubel inside.

Last month, following a tweet recalling this story and singling out Musk as misleading about his founder status, Musk tweeted: “Not even close. [Tesla Motors] It was a shell company with no employees, no intellectual property, no designs, no prototypes, literally nothing more than a (business) plan to market AC Propulsion's T-Zero car, presented to me by JB Straubel, not Eberhard. Even the name 'Tesla Motors' was owned by others”. Musk wrote.

Musk claimed that if the logic adopted in the narrative that paints Eberhard and Tarpenning as the founders of Tesla were followed, then he would be the only "founder" of PayPal, since he launched the company that went on to become the mobile giant. online payments. Such an argument, Musk noted, does not hold water.

The present of the other two co-founders is better known. Straubel left Tesla in 2019 to focus on his company Redwood Materials, dedicated to recycling batteries and electronic waste. For his part, Ian Wright has prospered with WrightSpeed, a company that adds electric modules to trucks and, for example, works for fleets of garbage collection services, adding electric mileage to trucks that were previously purely combustion.