Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has once again proven his nerd culture bona fides, agreeing to donate $1 million to the Tesla Museum and build a Tesla Supercharger in the parking lot to give the site a bit more draw (probably not on his original plans for expanding into Europe).
The Oatmeal has been leading the charge for a Tesla Museum for years
If you don’t read The Oatmeal, cartoonist Matt Inman has been carrying a torch for Nikola Tesla for years, so when the site of Tesla’s laboratory went up for sale he started a crowdfunding campaign to buy the site, fix up the lab, and start a museum honoring his hero. That was a few years back, so when the museum started to have financial troubles he turned to the other Tesla and asked Musk to pony up $8 million to keep things moving (the day after he posted a glowing and hysterical review of the Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S).
Musk responded straight away that he’d “be happy to help.” Since he has already gotten this involved, hopefully he’ll also lend some of his business acumen to the Tesla Museum so that it can build a sustainable business plan as well.
Musk’s nerd cred runs deep
But if Silicon Valley execs think that well placed donations will get them the same kind of nerd cred that Musk enjoys, they’re really missing the point. It’s not just that he has gotten rich from a string of high tech companies (PayPal, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), and to a lesser extent SolarCity), it’s about consistently hitting the right notes. When Musk released designs for the Hyperloop last summer it showed that he is actively thinking about all kinds of problems that don’t impact his fortunes, even if not everyone liked the idea. Opening Tesla’s patents to competitors showed that he’s more interested in contributing to innovation and then competing on execution than hoarding bits of knowledge, which puts him in the same camp as Creative Commons and the free culture movement. The ultimate aim of SpaceX, Musk’s company that’s now competing for aerospace contracts with military industrial behemoths like Boeing, is to colonize Mars.
The point is that Musk’s decision to donate to the Tesla Museum seem less like a calculated PR move and more like the polymath getting involved in yet another cool project.